Parents that Watch & Lean Ahead
Sharon I., Australia
I’ve got a territorial question this time round.
One of young students aged 8 has a dad that likes to keep ahead by watching the SHM and learning the next song before our lesson.
He just sent me a recording of him playing Minuet in G which is our next song to learn, please advise for I am unsure on how to deal with this.
Winnie B., Colorado
Is the video of the child or the dad: who is playing? In other words, is the dad learning ahead, or is he teaching the son ahead? (I do require my parents to learn the songs, so I’m not clear)
If the father is playing, I would explain that you only hear what was assigned this week, and Minuet will be heard next week. If you can, proceed to give a tip about Minuet, write if you would like one, and
send him off to do the assignment, including Minuet which you will hear next week.
I further explain that by learning and beginning a song together, many strategies can be included and reviewed from other songs to aid in the song learning. I might also ask him, as well, to transpose Minuet for next week into x number of different keys, or to write a composition based on the LH. If he is bored or inspired, it might be appropriate to accelerate his additional activities so he has plenty to do going sideways, instead of going forward.
If the child is on the video, then the father can be given the choice about whether he wants you for a teacher for his child, etc etc. and whether he is willing to become a team member rather than the teacher. That is pretty well covered in other conversations.
Julia B., California
I wonder why he wants to move ahead of his son’s lessons? Is he just excited about the program? Does he feel competitive with his son? Does he feel he needs to help to his son at home and is a little insecure about it? (some people naturally want to be prepared in advance for stuff) Is it a control issue? Maybe it’s just a miscommunication? There are lots of possibilities.
If it was me, I might handle it one of two ways:
1) My preference would be to keep it a brief “non-issue”. Just saying something like “I got your recording on Minuet. Good job!” Then smile really big and in a very friendly, kind, confident way draw my line in the sand: , “You know what, though? When I said not to go ahead on the video, I mean that for the parents too!!! So next time let’s wait and you can both learn it at the same time!” I might even turn to the student and say “You are so blessed to have a Dad who wants to learn the songs with you! I’ll have to get you two doing some duets together.” I really do love it when parents have a level of commitment to the program where they are willing to learn alongside their child. This is rare.
If it was just a misunderstanding then that might be all it takes to clear things up, and the Dad will hopefully feel appreciated for the effort he is making.
2) If this isn’t successful or if I sense the situation needs something more comprehensive, then the other approach would be to dig into it a little more, get a handle on why the Dad is moving ahead, and then address that root issue. I would also make sure I communicate my reasons for not moving ahead independently.
I find it important to remind my parents that the purpose of the 9 Foundation Levels is to teach students the SM learning tools and strategies. I keep a list of these on the piano and refer to them all the time. Hopefully all my parents and students understand that the reason I keep a tight control over things is because it is my job to make sure my students master the tools and strategies that each piece is intended to teach – and I really take that job seriously. I frequently say “Remember! These are wonderful pieces and it’s so much fun to play them, but in the Foundation levels it is not really about learning a piece — it’s about learning the tool or strategy associated with that piece. Then when you get to the Development Foundations you will be able to apply them and eventually play whatever you like.” Sometimes I joke around and add, “You, know, I’m trying to teach myself out of a job! My goal is that one day you can play anything you like and you won’t need me anymore!” When I do a good job communicating that, parents appreciate my stance, and become very firm about it with their own children, because ultimately they want their kids to be self-generative too. But we all need the reminders, because it’s easy to focus on just learning the next piece, or bumping up to the next level… It might be important to help the Dad understand this, if he seems to be focused on just moving on to the next piece quickly.
I hope that helps, and I hope your conversations with the Dad go smoothly for you.