PULLS AND TUGS: Two sides of the piano student/teacher relationship

There are two sides to every story, so in all fairness I’ve posited a number of situations that crop up in the piano lesson environment, with an analysis from the Teacher and Student’s point of view. In some instances, I’ve substituted PARENT for STUDENT where I think it applies. RESOLUTIONS of various issues are explored.

1) JOCKEYING FOR CONTROL

Parent: Hands teacher a package of pieces. Wants student (her child) to learn on demand. (Tiger mom? or just pushy parent of any shape, size, form or ethnic background)

Teacher: What’s going on? (she says to herself before thinking about the next move on the chess board)

RESOLUTION:
Teacher can either have a fit, draw a line in the sand, refuse to
thumb through the music,

OR

Look at the packet and manage to find one piece that is level appropriate and fits the curriculum.

PARENT: Can take an all or nothing position, or negotiate a middle ground that teacher is trying to advance.

In most cases, the situation can be resolved until the next packet arrives by UPS. Back to the drawing board.

2) CHALLENGING AUTHORITY:

TEACHER: Rules of studio, as far as payment, cancellation policies have been set in stone from day one.

MOTHER OF STUDENT: Decides that out of town debates, swim meets, tennis matches, soccer practices, upend lessons, and deserve higher status. Lessons missed must be deducted from monthly fees at all costs. (pun intended)

TEACHER: Mother knew the rules, and is now changing them.
Money, power, and control are all interchangeable.

Resolution: Teacher can write a 4-page letter to mom about running a private business, comparing her own plight to hard-working Americans with no health insurance, no cushion of job security, and the rest. She can emphasize that monthly payment reserves her child’s lesson day and time. It might alter consciousness for a few months until the Lacrosse tournament rolls around. Then it’s just a matter of time before lessons are terminated by either the parent or teacher, whomever chooses to exercise POWER.

Teacher realizes, a prolonged clash of wills is not worth the trouble..
***
3) REDUX: More quibbling over canceled lessons, sometimes at a moment’s notice.

Parent: Makes a cell phone call to teacher only minutes before lesson begins. Junior is on his way to the mound for the Little League Championship. Does she have to pay for the missed lesson? Can’t do make-ups because kid has 5 other tournaments in a row coming up?

Teacher: What???????

Resolution: Teacher can fumble the ball and give in, or stand firm.

Parent can either quit lessons once and for all, or hang by a thread, until there’s a shouting match worse than an explosive response to an umpire’s bad call.

***

4) MISSING MUSIC

Student: Forgets to bring music for THREE consecutive weeks.

Teacher: Can gently remind student of his lesson-taking responsibilities, comparing the piano learning environment to the classroom. What would his-her teacher say if loose-leaf, text books, pencils, pens, homework assignments were missing week after week?

Student: Can look puzzled? or connect with the teacher and admit wrongdoing with a plan to remedy behavior. In desperation, he might blame his parent for not packing the music.

Enter parent (usually father): He can either back up the teacher, (the preferred response) or absorb all the blame for the missing music, taking his kid off the hook.

In either case scenario, the music does not magically appear, and may not in the future. A double play strategy that worked on the baseball field goes the distance at piano lessons.

Resolution: Teacher can reprimand parent and student or stand idly by. In both instances, she’ll never get to first base!

5) MORE MISSING MUSIC AND TALL TALES:

Student: Claims all his music is in Texas???

Teacher: What??????

Student: When gramps last visited, the music bag landed on the back seat of the pick-up truck and was driven to El Paso.

Teacher: What?????

So when is the music coming back?

Student: No idea. It could be a month or three months.

Parent: Corroborates story of student, but says grandpa is planning to visit again in about six months, and promises to pony up the music.

RESOLUTION: Teacher can suspend lessons for 6 months.

Parent can purchase new music and resume lessons asap.

COMPROMISE–Get music in three months..

6) ADULTS ONLY: situation #1

Student: Can’t practice. No time, no energy–divorce interfering. Low hemoglobin. Needs vitamins.

Teacher: What???????
(Thinks to herself, Why did pupil sign up for lessons in the first place?)

RESOLUTION: Drop lessons until red cell count rises. NO further discussion.

ADULTS ONLY: Situation #2 (Beginner wants to take lessons)

Student: Has no piano, no keyboard, no nothing…

Teacher: What?????

How do you expect to learn???

Student: Give me six months, and I’ll come up with something that resembles a piano. Ya know, “Money is tight.” In the meantime, I’ll just wing it or tap on my table top.

Resolution: Lessons are a NO GO!

***

7) ANY STUDENT situation #1,000 and growing! With parents screaming the loudest!

Can we change lesson times??? (IN CHORUS)

TEACHER: What??? We’ve already changed from Tuesday, to Thursday, to Friday, to Saturday, and finally, to Sunday? (Teacher is tearing her hair out, about to blow a gasket!)

PARENT: But what about Wednesday, at 4 p.m.? We’ve never tried that time? And it’s the best, since there’s soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming, tennis, flag football, and Catechism on other days??

TEACHER: What makes you think, you’ll stick to the new day and time?

PARENT: Well, we can always give it a try to see if it works out. Otherwise we can play it by ear.

REFER BACK to “JOCKEYING FOR POWER.”

TEACHER: Can either capitulate to parent or tow the line.

Best RESOLUTION: TOW the line! or eat crow!

RELATED:

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/piano-lessons-and-dropout-rates-how-the-initital-interview-is-better-than-a-crystal-ball/

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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4 Responses to PULLS AND TUGS: Two sides of the piano student/teacher relationship

  1. Jessica Olson says:

    This was a pertinent post for me today! Thanks for your great blog, all the information it contains, and all the support you offer! I’ve been reading for some time, and I never fail to find something here to help me grow as a teacher.

    Like

  2. Tsvetan Tsvetkov says:

    Such a humane post, it has a harsh tone but you never fail to percieve the ‘we’re all in this together’. Teachers don’t only teach us how to play the piano.

    (Adult Beginner 22 years old.)

    Like

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