Cate R., Australia
Here is another playlist dilemma. Most of my students use their playlist pretty diligently however I have a 15 year old who just doesn’t. She won’t use the materials (CD, notes, DVD) plays by ear, doesn’t practice a great deal but most of the time still manages to pull the song I requested out of her memory. I have asked her to use her playlist EVERYTIME and noted it down on her notes every lesson but still no compliance. She is a foster child living in a group home who carer is looking for another job. The group I was told have behavioral issues but I must say she is delightful. I have talked to the carer but still no compliance. I asked if the children are allowed a certain autonomy which she said they did. She, the child, has a list of things to do every day but if they don’t get done well it’s up to her. I said ‘so if she doesn’t brush her teeth? ’ the carer replied she goes to bed with dirty teeth. Not sure where I should go from here. Am I just being difficult about this? I know she really wants to play piano.
Elisa J., New Jersey
Did you try having her play her playlist in class on your keypad? If your student relies heavily on her ear, she may not be able to play it as well on keypad. If she’s in a private lesson, you can spend most of her lesson watching the dvd and keep doing it until she finally does it. You can also say something like “you know how you’re sure that 1+1 equals 2? Well, I know what results you’re suppose to get when you watch the dvd, listen to cd, explain diagram, etc. I love teaching you but what you’re doing just doesn’t work.” If she’s in a group and comes in not having done what she’s suppose to, she should lose the privilege of participating. She can just observe and use keypad. She’s basically on her own at home so just expect to lose this student sooner. Since you can’t use the toothbrushing analogy one of the teachers used this analogy “I see that you came to class with clothes on today which I’m so glad you did! Well, this is the same kind of commitment required to get the breakthrough results in SM.” I happen to be a dental hygienist so patients who don’t floss just get redirected to the worse case scenario. “You’re just heading towards cavity land. We appreciate the business but I don’t want you heading this route.” For patients who really won’t take care of their teeth I’d say, “oh, ok. We make really good dentures here and we also do implants so just plan for this in your future.” For teenagers that don’t brush or floss I usually ask, “are you saving the food for later?” It grosses them out but they get the picture. You can play some of the arrangements or future songs in later levels and just say “it’ll just take a little longer to get there if you’re ok with that.” I think I’ve said too much!
Darla H., Kansas
What a heart-breaking situation! This girl needs a life coach and doesn’t have one. So sad!! (I’ve had some very personal dealings with children coming through the foster system in the past, and my answer comes from my past experience.)
Simply Music is not just about playing songs. So although it works in the beginning to just learn the songs by ear, it won’t take you very far. If there was a life coach involved I would simply make it clear to the coach and student that we are learning a way of learning, and if ALL of my instructions are not adhered to, I simply can’t be your teacher. Saying this all out of love and in a positive way, that it’s simply a choice they need to make. What makes this situation so difficult is that this girl is not getting a fair shake in life, doesn’t have the support that she needs. However, as sorry as we feel about her situation, it doesn’t change things. She needs to know what is required of her and what will happen if she doesn’t fulfill the requirements. I would sit down with her and explain that it is an absolute requirement that she marks her playlist, uses her DVD, can explain the diagrams, and practices her 5 days a week. I would tell her that if these things don’t happen, Simply Music will not work for her, and that you will no longer be able to teach her. Set some goals and time limits for making all of that happen, then hold her accountable and drop her as a student if necessary. That may feel really harsh, but letting her get by with less than that just because of her situation does not get her anywhere in the long run either.
Hilary C., Australia
I think there are broader issues than SM here. – she is a child whose parents for whatever reason are not her primary carers, she’s in with others being looked after by someone who’s looking for another job (read, had enough of this) so behavioral issues are no surprise, and she’s 15, a time when she really needs someone who obviously thinks she’s special. …….wow… what is remarkable, in my view, is that she bothers at all.
This is a very delicate plant pushing to the light with all the will she has – personally, and I guess this is a non-Kosher statement in SM – the least of my worries would be the playlist. How easy is it to watch/hear DVDs/CDs in her situation? What reason have you given her for the playlist – I tend to say it’s so that we both know what she knows, and doesn’t just practice favorites, everything being in the programme for a reason etc, etc… . Since for me, being told it’s a requirement wouldn’t wash, I don’t expect it to wash for others – you need to give me a reason.
And yes it can take a while for the importance of patterns to make sense – I tend to grab a book of Beethoven Sonatas and show this complicated music and explain how even this can be put into patterns to make it easier to learn and say there’s no reason you can’t play whatever you want, including this – you just need to put in the effort/work/time……..
Another thought perhaps she’s not yet sufficiently challenged by what she’s learning. And get her to transpose what she knows – can she do that by ear alone.
How is school for her? Success/failure/ friend/ friendless???/…….perhaps her one place to shine is with you doing something that makes her special and that she wants to do – pick up on her strength and work with that.
Encourage her to be creative – to be heard – and I suspect that this is part of what is going on – non-compliance means being noticed. Does she write her own songs, poems? It could be that you are her one bright light – so help her carry it. .
For me the bottom line in SM is the student; yes we have processes etc ostensibly to make it easier but not all of us have a smooth run and hers sounds particularly rough. So in order to make this crooked road a little straight go a little crooked – after all, isn’t this the history of Simply Music?
Her story really makes me sad…….there are too many similar ones in the world.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
Wow, that’s potentially a tough one. While you want to be understanding of her situation and give her every opportunity, I guess what I would be pondering is, ‘What IS the best opportunity here?’. On one hand, you want to be a loving presence in her life where it is obviously lacking. Does that mean having different expectations for her than for others….or is that sending a message that standards are lowered for her because of her circumstance – which won’t always be the case in life? I don’t know. On the other hand, maybe the opportunity is to teach her a little more about personal responsibility, since it sounds like she’s pretty much on her own to figure things out anyway.
Maybe taking some extra time with her, by herself, to have a discussion about it would be really good for her. Ask her how she feels about being largely on her own, and with not much accountability. Talk to her about how she seems to have a knack for playing piano, since she mostly keeps up without doing everything you ask….BUT consider what it would look like if she DID do everything you asked. Talk about how musical expression can be so healing and cathartic. Ask her if she is willing to take personal responsibility for her own progress and just see what happens. You never know, it could be a real eye-opener and confidence-builder for her. It might be an opportunity to help her understand the power of choosing one’s own outcome. It sounds like she could use some life coaching wherever she can get it.