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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2727036
04/06/18 03:55 PM
04/06/18 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I am frustrated with these types of students. Are there teachers here that are not frustrated with students like the subject of this thread? A student with almost 7 years of study who ignores everything I've tried to impart to him.

This is called "expensive babysitting." Any typical piano teacher is going to have oodles of these students. I'd like to consider myself above average, but even I have to put up with these students. As long as all parties involved are content, I have no problem taking money from these people.

Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I never want to give up on a student, but I think after 10 years of music store students, it is starting to finally affect my tolerance level.

"Give up" might be the wrong word. Change your mindset about the type of service you provide.

Let's say I have 20 students in my studio. I'm okay with 18 of them being absolutely horrid at piano, with zero interest. All I need are those 2 brilliant kids who can make my job worthwhile. And at the rate it's going right now, that's the type of studio I'm going to have in three years. Almost all the beginners I teach right now are uniformly hopeless.

Also, are you able to raise your rates at the piano store? A higher paycheck may reduce the pain of dealing with deadbeat students. I recently started raising my rates (not insignificantly) to a certain portion of my students, and I'm surprised that almost all of them stayed on.


Teachers did recently get a tiny pay hike. Store gets 30 to 40% of that. You're right, AZN, those students who are committed and do the work make up for the deadbeats, but there are enough of those deadbeats to weigh down my enthusiasm when they come for a lesson. I usually do think, ok, if the family is all on board with this kid's progress, keep on doing my best.

Last edited by chasingrainbows; 04/06/18 03:55 PM.

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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Andamento] #2727039
04/06/18 04:03 PM
04/06/18 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
ChasingRainbows,

I've been thinking a lot this past week about your situation, and the various comments on this thread. (Lots of good thoughts expressed here.)

I have a few ideas for you, but may I ask you a few questions to make sure I understand first?

I'm not sure what you mean by this:

Quote
We also have the ability to drop a student, however, the store really watches retention rates, so I hesitate to drop the students that exhaust me, which, right now, would be 4 students.


Who is the "We" at the beginning of the quote? Do you mean the teachers at the store are allowed to drop students, rather than only the store owners/managers having the power to dismiss students?

Also, what do you mean by "the store really watches retention rates"? Have teachers been let go for losing or dismissing too many students? What does the store do when there are falling retention rates?

I have other questions, but will stop here for now. smile


Teachers used to be able to have meet and greets prior to accepting a student. The store is attempting to do away with meet and greets. A few teachers have insisted on continuing with the meet and greet. For me, that enables me somewhat to "weed" out potential deadbeats. Likewise, we can dismiss a student. The store would never do that. However, corporate watches our student numbers and our retention of those students. If a teacher can't show a decent retention rate (not sure what the time parameters are), the store will just stop assigning students to the teacher, or can fire the teacher.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: dogperson] #2727041
04/06/18 04:05 PM
04/06/18 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727043
04/06/18 04:09 PM
04/06/18 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.

What?? Since when? Is the teacher's name on the list of who is competing? Is the teacher performing? If not, then it's always the student who gets the acclaim or blame.

Perhaps this is indicative of part of the problem. It's fine to be a conscientious teacher who wants to improve, but there's a line one can cross that is not healthy for anyone involved. I think you may need to take a step back emotionally and let the chips fall where they may.

Ultimately, it's not your job to make sure a student learns. All you need to do is teach.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727044
04/06/18 04:09 PM
04/06/18 04:09 PM
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Gary D., thank you for sharing your expertise. You are an amazing teacher. I plan to respond within the next or so.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727068
04/06/18 06:00 PM
04/06/18 06:00 PM
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Quote
If a teacher can't show a decent retention rate (not sure what the time parameters are), the store will just stop assigning students to the teacher, or can fire the teacher.


If there are other piano teachers at the store besides yourself, how about a few student swaps between you and another teacher? Are there any other piano teachers there who are having similar problems getting their students to cooperate? It may be beneficial for each of those students to switch to another teacher at the store if they're not working well with their present instructors.

Swapping students within the store itself would not change the store's retention rate. I would hope corporate wouldn't have a problem with that, when swaps could be made in the best interests of the students (and their frustrated teachers).

Just a thought.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727085
04/06/18 07:27 PM
04/06/18 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.

I used to get very uptight about piano competitions. My heart raced as my students played their one or two pieces in front of the judges. I was more of a nervous wreck than the kids.

I still occasionally feel that way, for a select few students that I tend to care more about. Otherwise, the best thing is to feel neutral about these competitions. Most of the time the judges are idiots, anyway.

There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere. And then came the actual competition; the student had a memory lapse the size of Delaware. Two of the three judges cared about "note perfect" performances and wrote very critical comments about not being ready for competitions. Gee. I'd rather not get into the blame game. Nobody wins.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2727127
04/07/18 12:40 AM
04/07/18 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano


There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere.

Did you do a memory test? Did you make this student play his competition piece starting at multiple starting points?


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: dogperson] #2727129
04/07/18 01:03 AM
04/07/18 01:03 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could

I don't believe a lot of what people say, though in many cases I do believe that THEY believe the things they say.

I certainly give myself credit when students do well with me, just as I always gave good teachers credit for being good teachers for me. I think that's fair.

I don't feel any blame or sense of failure when students don't try. Some just want to be given knowledge, no work, nor responsibility. These are the "Groundhog Day" students. Every week is a repeat. Nothing happens in between lessons.

But I do take responsibility for "missing the boat". There are situations in which I most definitely could have done better as a teachers, with more knowledge.

An example: I have a student right now who drove me nuts for a couple years. She reversed her fingers. Every fingering was wrong. 2 was 4, 1 was 5. But I was at least 50% of the problem, because I had not noticed that she is very obviously mildly dyslexic. In desperation I made her say every finger number, for every measure, hands separate. It was torture for her, and torture for me. I didn't think it was working, but it did, eventually.

But I now know to do this with EVERY student, in the beginning. With some I can drop saying numbers very quickly, because my deal with students is that they don't have to say what they don't miss. But the moment they miss fingerings, I go right back to making them say them.

Now this gets fixed in the first month or so, with students who will have no problems. For those who have problems with fingerings, it takes longer, but no more torture as with this one girl.

The torture was because I did not check for the problem at the very beginning, and that's poor teaching, thus my responsibility to fix.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Gary D.] #2727130
04/07/18 01:13 AM
04/07/18 01:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere.

Did you do a memory test? Did you make this student play his competition piece starting at multiple starting points?

This is the kid who had a flawless memory, and he never messed up except for that one time. He literally embodied the music to such a deep degree, he probably could start from any note and play to the end. The memory lapse lasted maybe 3 seconds, enough for him to stomp his foot and let out an expletive. Then he continued as if nothing had happened.

Some judges have ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to memory lapses.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: AZNpiano] #2727144
04/07/18 03:03 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
There was this one time the student came to my house for a rehearsal right before the big competition. It was so good, I have the performance saved on video somewhere.

Did you do a memory test? Did you make this student play his competition piece starting at multiple starting points?

This is the kid who had a flawless memory, and he never messed up except for that one time. He literally embodied the music to such a deep degree, he probably could start from any note and play to the end. The memory lapse lasted maybe 3 seconds, enough for him to stomp his foot and let out an expletive. Then he continued as if nothing had happened.

Some judges have ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to memory lapses.

Some people are fools, and they are frequently chosen as judges.

You said "the size of Delaware". I would never associate a state, even a small one, as only 3 seconds long. Such memory lapses have happened to the greatest pianists on the planet. wink

I have a young student who can't memorize anything, not even a phrase. As impossible as this sounds, it's true!


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727192
04/07/18 09:29 AM
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chasingrainbows,

Good choice of screen name.

I'm seeing your frustration as very natural part of teaching and also learning to teach.

You wrote that you are an idealist and a perfectionist. If you accept all types of students in your studio, I'd suggest developing the ability to shift your sense of idealism and perfectionism from standards of musicianship (learned from your teachers) to how you reach individual students at their level of readiness.

You won't change your personality (and why? it's a great personality!) but you can change your focus, at least in your lessons, from the art of music to the art of teaching. For some students remembering to bring their music to every lesson is a big step. Work on teaching something of value to every student. It's separate from teaching musicianship. Maybe we could say it's a prerequisite. Don't give up your standard, but shift your focus as needed. Try to excel as a teacher. It will happen with small improvements over time. That shift will lessen your feelings of frustration and failure.

(OTOH, want to be a teacher? Get used to dealing with failure, and try, try, try again another day...)

I taught what was considered, at our school, a difficult, intimidating subject. I experimented with lots of different approaches and materials and would briefly explain to the students how certain approaches might work. Those "experiments" worked better than I ever hoped. For me, it was fascinating and really got me engaged with teaching all different types of students. For the students, they started thinking about how they learn and took more initiative. Why not try to invite this boy into his own learning? It might work with him.

This is just one way of looking at it. There's lots of other good perspectives here which could work equally well. Anyone who has ever taught empathizes with your OP. It's not simple.

I hope this is clear. I'm trying to keep it brief. (I need to practice before the day slips by :-)


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727197
04/07/18 10:08 AM
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Chasingrainbows, something has been niggling at me from the get-go. Your student comes in. He's supposed to play slowly enough, accurately, doing things he's been told for 5 years already. Yet once again he races sloppily through the piece like a happy speed demon. In this scenario, do you suffer through the whole thing and remind him afterward? Or do you stop him right away after the first 8 notes?

I don't usually watch reality shows but I got curious for a while about those court shows. There is one where the judge insists on instructions being followed, and it can go as follows:
judge: What colour was the car?
plaintiff: He's so unreasonable. He dashed off ...
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: As I was saying, he dashed....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: It was an old rattly car. He's so careless.....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: Red

The other person simply can't go ahead and do whatever he wants to do, because each time he's told "Stop". After a while the other person learns, "Every time I don't do as asked, I get stopped. It's easier to do the thing I'm asked to do." Would this work in that kind of situation?

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727227
04/07/18 12:32 PM
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Thoughts on fingering:

I'm friends with a contemporary composer of student piano music. She, in her straightforward way, has advised teachers to avoid being tied to printed fingerings in whatever edition a student is using.

Some fingerings will work better than others, obviously, but printed fingerings are only suggestions, not cast in stone. (And she has said that sometimes the fingerings she suggests for her pieces end up being changed by the editor by the time of publication, anyway. So what is printed may not even be the composer's intent, and might not work well with every student, given each one's unique physical characteristics.)

ChasingRainbows, how about if you said to your students who ignore fingerings, "I see you're not using the fingerings written in the music. How about you work out a fingering right now that works for your hand, and then you can use that each time you practice the piece?"

That way, you're giving the student some autonomy, but still guiding the process. You could suggest something like, "Here's one way some pianists like to finger a passage like this. What do you think?" If he comes up with something atrocious, ask, "How does that feel for your hand? What about something like this? [Suggest another fingering.] Does that feel better or worse?"

Go all the way through each piece, hands separately, letting the student write in the final decision on how to finger the piece. Letting the student be in the driver seat will make it more likely that he'll not ignore fingerings, because he's had opportunity to think through why certain fingerings do or don't make sense. Also, his own writing on the page, rather than yours or the editor's, may encourage him to observe the fingerings, rather than ignore them.

And for the students who both like to play fast and ignore fingerings, they might see the connection between using efficient fingerings and achieving more fluency. It's easier to play fast when you're not using awkward fingerings.

Or maybe do something silly, if this is up the student's alley, like writing in random, bizarre finger numbers and saying, "Can you play fast using these finger numbers?" "What's the best fingering that helps you play as fast as you like?"

Lighten the atmosphere with humor. smile

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727230
04/07/18 12:37 PM
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Perhaps the best thing for fingering is for one to buy music without any, or at least too much fingering in it, and make custom fingering up that suits the particular student, after all everyone has different hands.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727231
04/07/18 12:37 PM
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You might also slow a student down by having him play the top staff with his left hand and the bottom with his right. What fingering would you use to do it that way? you could ask.

Nothing like playing Twister at the keyboard.

Right hand on the red circle.

Left foot green.

Left hand fifth finger three octaves above Middle C.

Right hand two on bass line 1 G.

YMMV, but you'd be having fun, anyway. laugh

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: keystring] #2727741
04/09/18 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Chasingrainbows, something has been niggling at me from the get-go. Your student comes in. He's supposed to play slowly enough, accurately, doing things he's been told for 5 years already. Yet once again he races sloppily through the piece like a happy speed demon. In this scenario, do you suffer through the whole thing and remind him afterward? Or do you stop him right away after the first 8 notes?

I don't usually watch reality shows but I got curious for a while about those court shows. There is one where the judge insists on instructions being followed, and it can go as follows:
judge: What colour was the car?
plaintiff: He's so unreasonable. He dashed off ...
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: As I was saying, he dashed....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: It was an old rattly car. He's so careless.....
judge (calmly): stop (pause) What colour was the car?
plaintiff: Red

The other person simply can't go ahead and do whatever he wants to do, because each time he's told "Stop". After a while the other person learns, "Every time I don't do as asked, I get stopped. It's easier to do the thing I'm asked to do." Would this work in that kind of situation?


keystring, I'm LOL over your example - a great one and I probably know what Judge you are talking about. I tend to do the opposite of the things teachers did to me that unnerved me. One of those was teachers who picked apart every single measure so that it was impossible to relax in some form and get into playing the piece. I usually have them play the piece first (unless it's more than 5 pages long) then play it again for issues to stop and work on. I consider the first playing to be their "warm up" since the majority of my students never play prior to their lesson. So, yes, I usually suffer first.


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: Morodiene] #2727742
04/09/18 04:25 PM
04/09/18 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t know if this helps, and maybe it falls under the definition of managing expectations:

My teacher’s philosophy is that she gives the best of herself to all of her students, and then she takes no credit for their successes or their failures. It’s managed to keep her sane through over 3000 students over five decades of teaching.

I don’t know how she got to this mindset, and I don’t know if I could


dogperson, that mindset worked until i entered students into competitions. Who usually is to "blame" when a student does not do well? IMO, the teacher.

What?? Since when? Is the teacher's name on the list of who is competing? Is the teacher performing? If not, then it's always the student who gets the acclaim or blame.

Perhaps this is indicative of part of the problem. It's fine to be a conscientious teacher who wants to improve, but there's a line one can cross that is not healthy for anyone involved. I think you may need to take a step back emotionally and let the chips fall where they may.

Ultimately, it's not your job to make sure a student learns. All you need to do is teach.


In this particular event, teachers all receive performance schedules with students listed by teacher. Students who move on to the Honors Recital are also listed by teacher on the schedules. I recently heard of a parent who screamed at her child's teacher after a recital in which the student made mistakes. I'm sure there are many parents who think the teacher didn't prepare their child enough to win a competition, or award or perform well in a recital.

I believe it is my job to ensure the student learns enough to eventually not need me anymore. Isn't that the goal of teaching?


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Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727754
04/09/18 05:22 PM
04/09/18 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
keystring, I'm LOL over your example - a great one and I probably know what Judge you are talking about. I tend to do the opposite of the things teachers did to me that unnerved me. One of those was teachers who picked apart every single measure so that it was impossible to relax in some form and get into playing the piece. I usually have them play the piece first (unless it's more than 5 pages long) then play it again for issues to stop and work on. I consider the first playing to be their "warm up" since the majority of my students never play prior to their lesson. So, yes, I usually suffer first.

lol - I loved it myself.

Thinking: You don't want to be intimidating the way your teacher was, but this isn't working either. Your routine right now means that your student gets to rush through at least once, and in a way he's getting free rein. What if you establish a new routine with this student, and explain why. Something like: you want some kind of warm-up for him, but it can't be a piece because of what he does. When he does start a piece, then before he starts, perhaps one of the things you want him to start doing (play slowly, maybe with counting, at a tempo that you set) - and if he starts to race, you stop him and get him to start again. Might that put the ball back into your court? Maybe - if he does play this way, that you point out how clean it now sounds - how much better - so he has an incentive.

Re: Students that exhaust my energy [Re: chasingrainbows] #2727764
04/09/18 05:44 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
1000 Post Club Member
chasingrainbows  Offline OP
1000 Post Club Member
C

Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,916
USA
Keystring, I will do exactly that at his lesson tomorrow. Thanks! BTW, he actually played really well at his last lesson (after email sent to Dad). Tempo was even, not too fast, no mistakes, almost every note articulation followed. I was elated and he agreed that it was the best he had ever played that particular piece. It was a good lesson.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
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