Recovering Lost Territory
Found in: Claiming Territory
Carrie L., Michigan
After doing several of the trainings from the coaching conversations page about controlling the territory, I’m finally realizing that it’s time to take control back. I have 3 students or more that have taken control and I’m realizing now that it’s because I have let them.
Are there some of you that have had to take control back after allowing the kids control for too long? Is there a better way to do it? Or it is just a calm conversation explaining what is expected and moving on from there?
Elaine F., South Carolina
I’m not always sure this has good pedagogical support – but it has worked for me with children between 6 and 10. My students who claim territory generally do it by not doing exactly what I ask. This is displayed when they start too early or don’t stop when I say stop.
So I bring out THE DIME GAME every now and then. I give them a dime. If they do the above behavior, they have to give it back. (I don’t care about mistakes, just willful disobeying). If they do exactly what I ask, I give them another dime. I was initially amazed to see a hyperactive wiggly child transformed into a perfectly controlled child in a matter of seconds.
This goes on for a bit during the lesson, with me asking more and more, and always getting much improved behavior… and rewarding less and less.
I’m a bit uncomfortable with the game because it has shades of paying for behavior. I make sure that if I use this game it is ALWAYS ended by a discussion (however brief) with the child and parent to the effect of “you see, they CAN do just what we ask.” And then we go on to some version of a discussion of request vs requirements, etc….
One final thought: We know the issue is with OUR psychology, right? Whenever I feel the least bit squeamish about setting the limits I remind myself that if the child is testing in the lesson, he is doing it, perhaps even more so, at home. Most likely the parent knows this, and often is exhausted by it. I know I was when I had small kids. I loved it when my kid’s teachers called them on poor behavior. It helped me remember “how to parent” and helped me be strong at home. Strong parents make strong kids. Strong teachers can help make strong parents.
As someone else wrote recently, it can only HELP your studio.
Learning piano is never just about learning piano and the same goes for teaching piano.
Cindy B., Illinois
If it’s an issue that you’ve instructed them in and they’ve ignored your instruction, then just say something like “Do you remember me saying that …..?” If they don’t remember, just re-instruct them and insist on it from that moment on. If they do remember, ask them if they’ve been doing as you instructed. Since you know they haven’t, you can expand on your original conversation by making clear that it’s not ok to continue ignoring this aspect of piano lessons and that since you want, most of all, to teach them to play the piano really, really well, and that can’t happen unless…, and go on from there.
I recently found myself in a position where 2 girls who transferred to me, in a shared lesson, had once again forgotten their most recently learned song. These girls are the slowest of the slow group, perhaps learning 1 new song a month. I retaught the song and then asked them pointblank if either one of them had ever watched the video. I have told them that the video is required, and necessary to succeed, but suspected that neither one had taken me seriously and were depending on their memories. Sure enough, neither had EVER watched the video for ANY homework other than satisfying their initial curiosity when lessons first began. These are girls age 10-12.
So I proceeded to ‘lecture’ on the subject, including in my talk the fact that they were wasting my time and their parent’s, in addition to the cost of lessons. (not in such blunt terms though). I was prepared to send them both home at the beginning of the next lesson if nothing had changed. One girl was absent next week, but the one who showed up had dramatically improved in every way. We’ll see.
Elaine F., South Carolina
I found that my parents really got it when I told them I realized I had been doing them a disservice by only expecting 80% effort. And that part of going to the conference was the reminder to have higher expectations from myself, from the students, and from the life coaches. They all knew I had been ‘to the mountain”and this seemed to set well with them. I will also borrow the line from another teacher who wrote recently: if I didn’t care, I’d just take your money and accept less. But I do care. I care a lot. SO I’m going to expect more. Several students who had been at the 80% level came back the next week with their best playlists ever and whole new attitudes.