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When do you "Fire" a student?

Posted By: pianoheart

When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/21/15 04:53 AM

Do you dismiss students? Why or why not?
What are some guidelines you use when you dismiss a student?
Posted By: Nikolas

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/21/15 05:42 AM

When I can't stand them anymore! grin

I talk to the parents and explain the reasons for doing so... I will try to give them a chance or two, but if they won't be corrected to what I consider to be a valid way of acting in a piano studio, then they're out!
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/21/15 06:43 AM

I did. When I used to work two jobs, I could afford to dismiss students just like that. There was one girl who NEVER practiced piano, and her progress was slower than a snail. I fired her.

Right now I work just one job, so financially it's more difficult for me to let anyone go. That's why I've been holding onto a bunch of really really REALLY bad students. I just got two more students who, just a few years ago, I wouldn't have accepted into my studio.
Posted By: bzpiano

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/21/15 08:32 PM

I have this in my policy:
Dismissal of Piano Lessons by Teacher:
Repeated failure to attend or prepare for lessons.
Nonpayment of tuition fees or invoices.
Not Showing as Contracted at State Convention
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/21/15 09:34 PM

Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
I have this in my policy:
Dismissal of Piano Lessons by Teacher:
Repeated failure to attend or prepare for lessons.
Nonpayment of tuition fees or invoices.
Not Showing as Contracted at State Convention

Ezpiano, all your points make sense except for the last one. I literally don't understand what you mean.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 12:02 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
I have this in my policy:
Dismissal of Piano Lessons by Teacher:
Repeated failure to attend or prepare for lessons.
Nonpayment of tuition fees or invoices.
Not Showing as Contracted at State Convention

Ezpiano, all your points make sense except for the last one. I literally don't understand what you mean.

That last clause is a uniquely MTAC problem. If students don't show up to Convention program as registered, then the TEACHER gets slammed. However, since it costs $30 to play, it's doubtful that students will just pull a no-show at one of these Convention recitals.

I don't have such a clause in my studio policy.
Posted By: chasingrainbows

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 01:50 AM

I may add such a clause in my policy! I usually let a student go if

They are continually rude during lessons
Consistently do not prepare for lessons and/or leave music home
Do not show interest in making progress
and of course,
failure to pay on time
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 01:52 AM

I assume that a student who is taking lessons in order to learn how to play the piano well can opt out of these recitals. It would be a shame to dismiss a student who is practising diligently and progressing well, because of an event that has nothing to do with learning to play.
Posted By: hreichgott

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 04:39 AM

I've never fired a student.
But there have been several conversations along the lines of "This doesn't seem to be working, let's discuss how we should proceed." From non-payment to non-practice to no-shows to behavioral issues to simply being too young for lessons. Sometimes those conversations end with a decision to stop lessons. Sometimes the family meets me halfway and makes it work. I've discovered I never know for sure which students are really invested and which ones are disengaged, or where they'll be a year later... they can change so fast, especially kids.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 05:11 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
I assume that a student who is taking lessons in order to learn how to play the piano well can opt out of these recitals. It would be a shame to dismiss a student who is practising diligently and progressing well, because of an event that has nothing to do with learning to play.

Ah, but it does. Students learn a lot about music and piano at these recitals. A common error adult students make is that learning to play piano is just a matter of hitting the right key at the right time. Life's not so simple. Have you ever heard the expression, "I played it better at home?" Teachers hear this all the time and inwardly groan. No, you didn't play it better at home, you just weren't listening! Playing in recitals focus your attention like nothing else will.

PS This isn't a personal criticism, just an observation on your point.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 05:12 AM

I should add that this afternoon, my students all played in our chapter's Sonatina Festival. Guess what, "Yikes, I didn't really practice those problem areas enough."
Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 05:16 AM

Back OT, I haven't "fired" any students that I recall. Mostly, I let them make the discovery that piano isn't their forte. [Linked Image]
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 05:22 AM

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I should add that this afternoon, my students all played in our chapter's Sonatina Festival. Guess what, "Yikes, I didn't really practice those problem areas enough."

I've been tempted to "fire" several students after those events.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 10:56 AM

Well, a post here was deleted while I was writing a reply...

I think John extrapolated the MTAC Convention recitals to stand for ALL studio recitals in which students are forced to perform, and that extrapolation led to some misunderstanding of the situation being discussed, namely, the firing of a student over a no-show at a Convention recital.
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 11:52 AM

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted by keystring
I assume that a student who is taking lessons in order to learn how to play the piano well can opt out of these recitals. It would be a shame to dismiss a student who is practising diligently and progressing well, because of an event that has nothing to do with learning to play.

Ah, but it does. Students learn a lot about music and piano at these recitals. ....

John, my post was above all about the idea that a teacher would fire a student if the student does not attend these particular recitals. Not because the student doesn't practice or doesn't progress - the recitals appeared to be the reason. To kick a student out of a studio is a drastic measure, and I can imagine that it can be traumatic. If a student never practises and misses most lessons, I can see it. but not for missing an event that I imagine happens once or twice a year.

Now in your scenario - the student may learn about music at the recital; but if he hasn't learned how to play in the lessons and during practise, then he might as well be a spectator. In any case it's a red herring. I was addressing specifically the policy of kicking out a student because of not attending recitals. I can see it for not practising and not attending lessons, because these two things are essential for learning. A student can skip recitals and still learn, but the student cannot skip practising and still manage to participate in recitals. To me the two things are not on an equal level. I cannot imagine firing a student for not wanting to attend recitals. I can imagine it for not ever practising. I hope that makes sense.
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 11:55 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Well, a post here was deleted while I was writing a reply...

I think John extrapolated the MTAC Convention recitals to stand for ALL studio recitals in which students are forced to perform, and that extrapolation led to some misunderstanding of the situation being discussed, namely, the firing of a student over a no-show at a Convention recital.

That was me, AZN, sorry. I didn't like my wording. I rewrote it. My opinion is still the same, as I wrote just above this post.
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 12:12 PM

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
A common error adult students make is that learning to play piano is just a matter of hitting the right key at the right time.

This part of your response puzzled me. I had not written about adult students. The only reason that I can think of is that in part I am still a student, and an adult. If so, I've made my priorities clear over the years - acquisition of skills and understanding of music, the combination of which together can lead to good playing of music. I've never reduced it to "right note at the right time" though I must admit that it's a good start. laugh

Personally I have participated in recitals as an adult student, and it's in my nature to enjoy them. What I've taken away from the experience is that activities geared toward skills take a priority for me over activities that prepare for an event. We hear of teachers who spend most of their time preparing those one or two pieces for recitals to the detriment of everything else - I would prefer such things to be the icing on the cake. I imagine that you might agree.

That said, I think that this discussion is about students in general, and the vast majority probably are still children.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 01:33 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
It would be a shame to dismiss a student who is practising diligently and progressing well, because of an event that has nothing to do with learning to play.

My focus and comment was on this very last sentence. I believe that if used properly, recitals can be a very important foundation element in student's learning and progress at the piano. I encourage teachers to explore this and use it accordingly.

FWIW, not only do I not force students to participate, I even poll them just before they go on stage to insure they are comfortable with their participation and are ready to perform. No student is ever criticized if they choose to not play at a given event.

As a student, my teacher never, ever had us perform, except for the highly feared end of year recital, which was totally a formal event. This is no way to help a student become comfortable expressing themselves in public. Once a year, you will have a chance to express yourself in front of a crowd whom you do not know; in your 3 minutes, everything must be perfect - no mistakes are acceptable. Talk about fear inducing environments.

Rather, I was and am referring to the intense focus which a student is capable of and which occurs when playing in front of others. That which was dismissed or "I'll correct it next time" suddenly is now of great import.

Unfortunately, too many teachers do not use recitals as learning venues for their students, but rather as a show case. Sad.
Posted By: ClsscLib

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 03:00 PM

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted by keystring
It would be a shame to dismiss a student who is practising diligently and progressing well, because of an event that has nothing to do with learning to play.

My focus and comment was on this very last sentence. I believe that if used properly, recitals can be a very important foundation element in student's learning and progress at the piano. I encourage teachers to explore this and use it accordingly.

FWIW, not only do I not force students to participate, I even poll them just before they go on stage to insure they are comfortable with their participation and are ready to perform. No student is ever criticized if they choose to not play at a given event.

As a student, my teacher never, ever had us perform, except for the highly feared end of year recital, which was totally a formal event. This is no way to help a student become comfortable expressing themselves in public. Once a year, you will have a chance to express yourself in front of a crowd whom you do not know; in your 3 minutes, everything must be perfect - no mistakes are acceptable. Talk about fear inducing environments.

Rather, I was and am referring to the intense focus which a student is capable of and which occurs when playing in front of others. That which was dismissed or "I'll correct it next time" suddenly is now of great import.

Unfortunately, too many teachers do not use recitals as learning venues for their students, but rather as a show case. Sad.


This is such an important distinction -- speaking from a student perspective.

To the extent that the earlier point was that being able to play before others and get through a piece effectively and musically IS part of learning to play the piano, I agree totally.

That said, there are performance opportunities that positively support that goal and others that seem designed to produce failure.

Some degree of anxiety about playing for others is common and probably irreducible below a certain point for individual learning pianists -- especially, I think, for adult starters. But making the performance opportunity supportive and welcoming, rather than artificially formal and unwelcoming, can help towards the goal of getting a learning pianist comfortable playing for others.
Posted By: BrianDX

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 09:25 PM

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Have you ever heard the expression, "I played it better at home?" Teachers hear this all the time and inwardly groan. No, you didn't play it better at home, you just weren't listening! Playing in recitals focus your attention like nothing else will.

I have to comment here. Last week before my lesson I was putting the finishing touches on a piece I have been playing for several weeks, and have performed it twice in front of my teacher.

I know every note in the piece, every single one. I ran through it 5 times, no mistakes. The first three times I played it at my lesson I made the same mistake three times in a row on the third measure.

I took a break from the piece, went on to other things, and then came back to it. This time I nailed it, probably played it better than at home several hours before. My teacher, who usually has some suggestions about every piece I play, said it was "perfect".

So in this case, I actually did play it better at home, for real. The good news my teacher believed me, gave me another chance, and it was a great experience.

Sorry, I know I'm OT here.
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/22/15 10:11 PM

John, thank you for your reply.
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
My focus and comment was on this very last sentence.

It is the usual misunderstanding. smile I wrote in the context of the idea of kicking out a student solely on the basis of not attending those particular formal recitals.
Quote
I believe that if used properly, recitals can be a very important foundation element in student's learning and progress at the piano. I encourage teachers to explore this and use it accordingly.

I can see what you are saying, in everything that you have written.
Quote
Once a year, you will have a chance to express yourself in front of a crowd whom you do not know; in your 3 minutes, everything must be perfect - no mistakes are acceptable. Talk about fear inducing environments.

Yup! Well, even if the "no mistakes are acceptable" is absent, if you do something only once a year, first off you are in a strange situation. You don't learn to get used to it so the situation itself will cause mistakes even for the most careful and well-prepared student. And it becomes so ultra-important that if you slip up, it will haunt you for an entire year - thus setting up even greater anxiety.

I remember that you offer your students frequent opportunities to play. Thus it becomes a normal and familiar experience.
Quote
Unfortunately, too many teachers do not use recitals as learning venues for their students, but rather as a show case. Sad.

Or a means of self-promotion. If the goal is wrong, the teaching will be wrong. I think that is the kind of thing that leads to limiting lessons to very few pieces so that the students' playing as a group will be as perfect as possible, etc.
Quote
Rather, I was and am referring to the intense focus which a student is capable of and which occurs when playing in front of others. That which was dismissed or "I'll correct it next time" suddenly is now of great import.

I had not thought of an "I'll correct it next time" attitude. I guess you're saying that a student who won't be bothered to correct his work will have a particular motivation for doing so. Gotcha.

My thoughts on recitals is that they should never be the main goal of lessons. The lessons should be for getting the skills. Those skills don't just include technique or understanding music as the twins for good interpretation / sounding good. You also have to have an approach of practising, working at home. If these things become the focus, then the recital itself should come off much better I would think.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/23/15 12:22 AM

Originally Posted by BrianDX
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Have you ever heard the expression, "I played it better at home?" Teachers hear this all the time and inwardly groan. No, you didn't play it better at home, you just weren't listening! Playing in recitals focus your attention like nothing else will.

I have to comment here. Last week before my lesson I was putting the finishing touches on a piece I have been playing for several weeks, and have performed it twice in front of my teacher.

I know every note in the piece, every single one. I ran through it 5 times, no mistakes. The first three times I played it at my lesson I made the same mistake three times in a row on the third measure.

I took a break from the piece, went on to other things, and then came back to it. This time I nailed it, probably played it better than at home several hours before. My teacher, who usually has some suggestions about every piece I play, said it was "perfect".

So in this case, I actually did play it better at home, for real. The good news my teacher believed me, gave me another chance, and it was a great experience.

Sorry, I know I'm OT here.

Every note perfect? What about the dozens of other elements that make up music? Phrasing, balance, touch and tone, tempo etc. etc.? Does your teacher work with you on these? Does he/she play the piece for you? Does your performance and his/hers sound identical? If not, why not?

Brian, let me tell you what happened at yesterday's recital. A dear student of mine gave a note perfect performance, but unfortunately, the Steinway B she was playing on has a booming low midrange (the two octaves below middle C), and as a result, a performer has to quickly modify the intensity of their left hand to match the sound of the higher notes being played by the right hand. This she failed to do, so instead of a beautiful sonatina, we got to listen to 3 minutes of Alberti bass. Argh. Long story short, her playing was far from perfect even though all other parameters were quite well done.

Rather than telling a student that a performance was perfect, I will tell them that "It was a strong performance" or "An excellent interpretation" or "Nicely done" or other word choices which suggest an element of excellence while still allowing for continued improvement. IMO, teachers who tell students their performance was perfect are doing them a grave, grave disservice.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/23/15 12:31 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
I remember that you offer your students frequent opportunities to play. Thus it becomes a normal and familiar experience.

Yup. Here's what I offer my students:

In studio performance opportunity playing for other students: 8/yr

Community recitals: 4/yr (3 formal, 1 in a gig type setting)

Piano parties, made up of studio families: 4/yr

Formal studio recital: 1/yr

Piano Guild Auditions: 1/yr

I also encourage advanced students to schedule a recital of some kind where they are the featured performer. They can do this with friends or completely solo. Younger students are encouraged to give "house recitals" for friends and families.


This is almost 2 performances per month during the school year.
Posted By: pavane1

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/23/15 03:35 AM

No I don't really dismiss students but what I do is put them on what I call the "last chance program". If I continue having a problem with lack of practicing I assign them a piece and then tell the student or parent to contact me and set up a lesson when the piece is learned and ready for polishing. I almost never hear from them again and this takes care of the problem in a comfortable manner.

Doreen Hall www.palomapiano.com
Posted By: BrianDX

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/23/15 12:28 PM

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook

Every note perfect? What about the dozens of other elements that make up music? Phrasing, balance, touch and tone, tempo etc. etc.? Does your teacher work with you on these? Does he/she play the piece for you? Does your performance and his/hers sound identical? If not, why not?

Brian, let me tell you what happened at yesterday's recital. A dear student of mine gave a note perfect performance, but unfortunately, the Steinway B she was playing on has a booming low midrange (the two octaves below middle C), and as a result, a performer has to quickly modify the intensity of their left hand to match the sound of the higher notes being played by the right hand. This she failed to do, so instead of a beautiful sonatina, we got to listen to 3 minutes of Alberti bass. Argh. Long story short, her playing was far from perfect even though all other parameters were quite well done.

Rather than telling a student that a performance was perfect, I will tell them that "It was a strong performance" or "An excellent interpretation" or "Nicely done" or other word choices which suggest an element of excellence while still allowing for continued improvement. IMO, teachers who tell students their performance was perfect are doing them a grave, grave disservice.

Thanks for your comments John. I should have put quotes around "perfect", as after 17 months of lessons and hundreds of hours of practice I know all too well about the myriad of things that go into playing each measure, well beyond hitting the correct notes.

My main point of my comments was that there are in fact times (too many for my linking) where I really did play hat better at home.
Posted By: missbelle

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 02/25/15 06:47 PM

I teach through a private school, and to quote the old tv show Monk, "it's a blessing, and a curse."

You see, I do not have to do any billing or scheduling, I get paid for my time in being there whether or not a student arrives, no recital hall fees, free printing, etc...
Yay!

But, I also get zero say in what students I get.

Most of my students do practice, and lesson time zooms by! But there are a couple that...no matter what, they do not want to be there, and I have tried pulling new ideas out of my hat, but it is painful how much one boy would rather be elsewhere.

Mom seems clueless. "Grandma gave us a piano and we feel that someone should learn to play it!" So they signed up their 3rd grade son that hates reading and school, loves sports, and drags himself in weekly for his "torture session."

I have eschewed traditional teaching methods and we just draw on the board, learn by rote, talk, tried to get him to listen to music and march or clap (ha-- nope!) and give him colored pencils and give him the answers for note values.

Mom just says they do not have time to practice, but she knows I am a good teacher and will do well with her son.

Well, what is she doing?

I am desperately working on not having him resent lessons.

The "drop-add" period had ended, and full semester payment was set last week, so I am paid, yet stuck, with this boy until May.

For my private studio lessons, most of parents stay unobtrusively during the lesson, since I teach to home schoolers, and the parents are used to being involved. I enjoy those lessons, and it is a team effort.

School- well, I will drag out something he ca play for recital, and hopefully the boy can convince mom not to continue in the fall.

I do like the boy.
I feel his pain.
I try to work with him.

But, if not for the school, I would fire him, and he would thank me!
Posted By: pianoheart

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 03/04/15 08:51 AM


Originally Posted by pavanne1
No I don't really dismiss students but what I do is put them on what I call the "last chance program". If I continue having a problem with lack of practicing I assign them a piece and then tell the student or parent to contact me and set up a lesson when the piece is learned and ready for polishing. I almost never hear from them again and this takes care of the problem in a comfortable manner.

Doreen Hall www.palomapiano.com


This is a great idea!
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 03/04/15 02:56 PM

Originally Posted by pavanne1
No I don't really dismiss students but what I do is put them on what I call the "last chance program". If I continue having a problem with lack of practicing I assign them a piece and then tell the student or parent to contact me and set up a lesson when the piece is learned and ready for polishing. I almost never hear from them again and this takes care of the problem in a comfortable manner.

Doreen Hall www.palomapiano.com


That's a great idea, but I assume at the very least you are assigning a piece you know the students would want to be able to play and is within their range? Giving something that they would have no interest or is beyond their known capabilities would seem to be an automatic setup for failure. With those conditions, this seems like an excellent idea.
Posted By: keystring

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 03/04/15 07:11 PM

Originally Posted by pavanne1
No I don't really dismiss students but what I do is put them on what I call the "last chance program". If I continue having a problem with lack of practicing I assign them a piece and then tell the student or parent to contact me and set up a lesson when the piece is learned and ready for polishing. I almost never hear from them again and this takes care of the problem in a comfortable manner.

Doreen Hall www.palomapiano.com

Doreen, one can assume you are doing what I'm about to ask, but it may be worth stating in a broad forum such as this. Do you discuss the specific behaviour that you want, that they are not doing? If they are not practicing, is this discussed? I am also thinking of knowing how to practice, and possible obstacles to practice such as overscheduled activities or parents not setting up a time and quiet space, which need to be discussed.

If a student is being sent home to learn a piece entirely on his own, then I assume that you have already taught the student how to approach a piece on his own. Or that you have given instructions before sending the student home with this task. The student may stay true to form and ignore those instructions like all others, but at least those instructions exist.

I would hate anyone to try this idea by simply grabbing some piece, say "Here, do this on your own and come back when it's ready." with nothing more.

If the student is being sent home and told not to come back until the piece has been learned, because he hasn't been practising, then I think he should be told that this is the reason. He also needs to know that this is a chance for him to change his behaviour. Otherwise, what is the point.

My concern is that in those cases where maybe a student is lost and doesn't know how to practice for whatever reason, and is not doing so because of that - that this assignment is basically impossible. Not for your students, but some other person who teaches, who may try this for the wrong reason.
Posted By: pavane1

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 03/05/15 02:05 PM

I give them a piece that is well within their range of capability.For example; I had a student that was put on the last chance program recently. She was studying Burgmuller's Tarantella, getting nowhere with it. So I assigned the Arabesque (much easier as all of you know). I played it and got her started with it, made sure she practically knew it when she left my studio just like I would any other piece.Told her and mom to call me when she is ready for a lesson. She did not.
I had this student for a while and I like the her.

The thing is I really think some people want to quit but for some reason or other they can't let go, Honestly, this gives them an out.

I always make sure that they understand that we are still friends. and that I like them.
This works out well, I have to live in my town and run into my former students. Plus I believe we are in the business of building people up, not tearing down. For me it's not just about the 88 keys it's about people's lives. I use a sewing analogy I'll put it on my blog as not to take up too much space here.

Doreen Hall www.palomapiano.com

Posted By: Angela62213

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 03/05/15 03:25 PM

I think this depends a lot on what your focus as a teacher is. I am just starting out, so obviously getting some sort of a reputation is pretty near the top of my list. But at the very very top is teaching kids to love music and to gain a skill that will help them for life. I know very well that I am dealing with over scheduled kids, and that some are more dedicated than others. I do have higher expectations for some students than others (I really prefer those students) However, unless there was a serious problem such as the students attitude, a regular refusal to do any work whatsoever, or a problem with payment I would not dismiss a student. I have only had to do this once, but me and the parent were in agreement that the student was not ready for lessons.
Posted By: pavane1

Re: When do you "Fire" a student? - 03/05/15 08:13 PM

When I was starting out I got this advice from one of my teacher trainers. She said be careful to educate potential families about what is involved in piano study and select students who seem to be serious.
I have stuck to this and I have found that good students beget more good students. If your students play well people will hear them and want to study with you. Plus it makes the job more fun if the students come in prepared.

Doreen Hall www.palomapiano.com
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