Keeping upper level students
Found in: Student Retention/Attrition
Kym N., California
I have quite a few higher level students leaving for different reasons. Some of them are very hard to teach. Somehow group lessons don’t hold well for me lately. Students keep telling me they are too busy to practice and many of them are not using the videos or using them enough. Just want to vent.
Leeanne I., Australia
Everyone’s lives are so busy these days, some find it very hard to juggle everything. Once we get to Level 4, I simply won’t teach them the next section of a song until they have reviewed it with the video. That’s what I love about SM digital–we can see if they have viewed the video! Oh, for the perfect students that do everything you ask when you ask 🙂
Stephen R., California
There is a lot involved in doing well at this program. I understand when people say they are too busy. So many people have too many irons in the fire.
I have also had the experience of a group breaking up and then all members quit shortly thereafter. The momentum and energy of the group just is not there anymore. It is very sad, because life just gets in the way for some people.
Colleen R., Washington
As students get older, life naturally gets busier and time constraints affect practice. I wish they would maintain focus on the “one thing” I would choose for them, but that is not going to happen. I find as I offer grace and move continually toward our stated goal of their being able to play the music they love to play, the fewer dropouts I have. They all develop a bent. I do my best to cheer them on (recalling all the teachers who were satisfied to just “teach curriculum” to me and my children). It goes a very long way in those approaching Level 7-8-9-10, and really all levels.
Heidi M., Canada
It’s true that some people feel they get too busy to practice. One of my students even told me that it’s her two cats that sometimes get in the way of her practicing! Though fortunately she does love practicing and does make progress. I hope you soon get new students coming and also fresh ideas on how to maximize the possibility of students not leaving, and especially them loving the piano so much that they love to practice.
Bernadette A., California
I’ve accepted that all of this is normal. It can be hard on the budget, but normal. I think we all do our very best to retain students and provide value, but in the end, as I see it, it is their loss. So know you are doing a great job. There are more families and students out there that want your services. Be encouraged. Many are on the horizon.
Cheri S., Utah
Keeping those upper level students is hard. I haven’t got that down at all. I appreciate Colleen’s perspective.
Joy O., Alabama
I’m a fairly new teacher, and I find that students who don’t practice end up quitting. I struggle with the balance of requirements and grace. As you look to replace those students, remember “Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Someone’s Waiting”. I learned this when I was selling children’s books.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
This is a great discussion, everyone. I agree that’s not unusual to have more students discontinue in the upper levels. The longer I teach, the more those kinds of situations compel me to look back to the very beginning process of starting students. I really want to maximize the number of students I take through the entire curriculum. How can I increase that likelihood, starting with the FIS, and continuing into the Foundation Session, requirements, how and what I communicate to students and coaches?
It is a HUGE question, and I like to think of it as a puzzle (because I love puzzles!). I try different things with brand new students and watch for the outcomes of those things as we progress through the curriculum.
I have become more selective in accepting new students and very upfront about the commitment level I am requiring (it took several years to get to this point, by the way). This is a long process seeing these changes through, but if you are in this as a career, it is so worth it. You will build a strong, robust student body. You won’t have to advertise or market, because your studio schedule will be full, and most of your new students will be referrals and siblings of students.
I’m thrilled to currently have a group of three students in Level 18. The other students I’ve taken all the way through ended up being private by the time we got there. My plan is to take more GROUPS all the way through!
Jacqui G., Canada
I am curious to know what is the median level most students reach before quitting. In the three years that I taught in my small rural town, I never had a big studio, and never more than a handful of students at one time, but they seemed enthusiastic and happy through Foundation 1 and 2 and the introduction of Accompaniment 1. Then one by one they all dropped out.
Some did leave for reasons beyond their (or my) control, but a depressingly large number left because they were impatient to learn to read music. My very first adult student was also my last – she was with me for 3 years and got halfway through Foundation 4 before family commitments interrupted our lessons for several months. Despite my reassurances that she would quickly recall her pieces, she decided not to return.
Leeanne I., Australia
I think this happens to us newer teachers as we take on anybody. We are not as selective at our FIS as to who we accept as students. I have decided that I will just be happy that I gave students a positive learning experience, regardless of when they decide to leave.
Heidi M., Canada
I am noticing that some of my students are very hard on themselves (though they are learning very well and often quickly) so it has become my personal commitment to myself and my students to remind them it is more about the journey and the process than just “arriving” there. I had to recently remind my most advanced student (beginning of F3) about that so she can be patient with herself that she will get to each stage (including note reading) all at the right time but can enjoy each day as it comes with the pleasures of practicing daily.
Though I am a relatively new teacher I am coming to believe this understanding is one thing that will help encourage students to remain in SM lessons for long term, though I realize things can happen beyond anyone’s control too.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
For me that median level gets later and later the longer I teach. This is because I am learning what needs to be communicated and taught from the very beginning in order to keep students from getting discouraged later, and thus keeping them longer. Right now I teach 16 classes, and 10 of them are in Level 5 or above, all the way up to Level 18. It has taken some time to get there. So don’t lose heart! You figure out more and ore as you keep teaching, and that’s what has helped me the most.
Cheri S., Utah
So far I’m having the experience Laurie described. I lost close to half my first batch of students before or during Reading Rhythm and Reading Notes (Foundation 4).
Later, I lost a couple of students just after getting into sheet music. They felt they had learned enough to keep playing piano independently, and were ready to move on to new activities. And they were mostly right.
Now I have several who are in Foundation 6 and learning songs from sheet music, with no signs of departure. And I have a few other groups that are currently in RR & RN, who (from everything they say) are really clear about the value of Simply Music and planning to stick around for several more years.
The more I teach, the more I learn what conversations we need to keep having, so that everyone knows what to expect and how to navigate the process. Lots of talk about the reading programs: the solid pedagogy behind the reading programs, the benefits I’ve experienced in this new way of seeing music, how RR & RN will feel different than learning Foundation songs, connecting reading to all the music learning we’ve already done (patterns, shapes, chords, etc), emphasizing that as readers they are beginners who need lots more coaching to become independent readers, making sure they know that all our other streams will continue forward as usual and we’re just adding reading.
A couple other things I’ve learned so far: don’t take too long to get through F1-4 since people do get discouraged if reading seems too far away, and prep students for the F4 leap in difficulty – in a positive way, they’re ready for longer, more challenging pieces. Each one is worth three songs in the earlier levels, and so we take longer on each F4 song.
Maureen K., California
Getting groups to the higher levels is challenging for me too. I think of it as one big logic problem and have even from time to time hired administrative help to sit with me while I look at my groups and privates, students’ levels, and my schedule to make a master plan of getting privates back into groups while keeping siblings in back to back lessons. Meanwhile I find I have to roll with the punches, understanding that sometimes students’ lives get busy and practice falters, helping them get back on their practice schedule when that happens.