Shocking Feedback can be Excellent Feedback
Emily C., California
I’d like recommendations on how to handle the feedback from this
parent. (Please see below.) They’ve missed the last two and have
only come to two classes, up to and finishing the “pentatonic”
concept. The recreation only allows refund if they’ve requested for
it before the start of the second class.
I’m very shocked to read her responses because this is the second
session of the beginning Play-a-Story group class that I’ve taught at the Rec. And out of my two classes of 13 students from the Winter session, 3
continued and now come to my home studio while 2 are retaking it again
this session at the Rec because the parents thought they could use the
review. I know the return-rate might not seem high percentage-wise,
but it’s actually the highest rate so far in my 3.5 years teaching
I have absolutely no idea on what I did wrong, because as of last
week, I felt the rest of my current classes really enjoyed learning
all the creatures in the forest because you could feel their
excitement in wanting to play, and I could see their eyes light up
with each new motif I demonstrated.
One thing that I did remember and don’t know if it might have
contributed to part of the cause was that at the second class, the mom
brought her other baby (I don’t know if it was because her nanny
suddenly couldn’t come or what), and she was playing with little toys
at their side. First with ones that would make sounds, then I quietly
asked them if it was okay to have her play with only ones that don’t
That’s the only thing that I can think of that might’ve distracted the
the parent and made her feel confused, but the “scary music” part is
just beyond me, because with two classes, she should’ve only heard the
“Song of the Zephyr- Wind”. And although I don’t remember if she’s
responded during class when I asked “how did the music make you feel”,
but I do remember that the descriptions from the class were all very
“normal”- calm, good, happy, etc.
I know we cannot satisfy everyone, but I’d at least like to know what
I can do, if any, to avoid feedback like this again in the future.
Thank you in advance.
I wanted to let you know that we will not be back for the remaining
classes. Unfortunately, Tristen did not enjoy the class. She thought
the music was scary and was unhappy in the class saying that she
thought it was boring and didn’t understand what to do. She’s always
liked all the classes she’s taken at Arcadia Rec before and I didn’t
want to push her to continue with the class and have an unpleasant
association with the piano. I also thought that the class was a
little confusing. It sounded good in theory but in practice it didn’t
seem to translate for us. I don’t think that the Rec department would
allow us our money back but we would take it if they would as we were
both very disappointed in the class. Thank you for your time and
Kerry V., Australia
It’s a terrible shock when you hear news like this isn’t it!
Now days my response to myself first is “wow, I’m curious!” “what can I learn from this? What could I do differently? Is it something I did or is it an issue they need to deal with?” I then say, ‘I’m so curious now as to what I can do next time” regardless of who was right or not (I’m not interested as to who is right or wrong and not meaning this is what you are saying). Instead of going into the oh no’s etc.
Firstly when you said about the young one being in the class with you two things came to mind ~
1. How strong was your first conversation with them about siblings being in class? I don’t mind if they are as long as the parent is aware that only quiet play is appropriate.
2. You said………
I quietly asked them if it was okay
I’d never ask them if it is ‘okay’, you are opening them up to saying ‘no’ and being in charge! Instead I’d state that she will need to play with quiet toys and then I’d expect that to happen. I’d then talk to the parent afterward and ask why the child was there and if and when the child is to make sure they have quiet toys.
All that aside, You’d want to find out what went wrong. Once you find out then, if they haven’t asked for the refund, then move on. You cannot and will not please everyone all of the time. I rejoice when people like this leave as I do not want them in my studio anymore. I want to spend my energy on people who want to be there.
If you feel you need to respond to her then by all means, either ring or email her showing your surprise, that you are sorry that it didn’t work out and if ever she wanted she is more than welcome to join them in future. Leaving doors open and nothing for her to come back at that you were rude, or what ever they may think. If she does have problems with you or the method, then you have your email to fall onto that you have been in integrity all the way through. Then move on, move forward to knowing you now have room for new parents who Want to be With YOU.
For the excuse she used. Well maybe there is some validity in it however, you shall learn that children say almost anything when they are asked ‘why’ and they don’t know the answer they tend to say the first thing that comes to mind be it they made it up or is truth in it. And parents hear that rather than investigate more, especially when the parent is looking for an out as well.
Anyway, enjoy the process, grow, learn and mentor the next teacher who comes up with something like this or to avoid something like this.
Hope I didn’t waffle off too much! Oh, the subject line “Shocking Feedback” really is in fact the ‘best feedback possible’. Negative feedback is room for growth.
Sue C., Australia
That is a difficult experience. We all have these experiences from time to
time and there often is no satisfactory explanation. The best thing is to
try to overcome it as soon as you can and concentrate on the students you DO
than the ones you do NOT have. It is so hard to get over this kind of
rejection, but we know you will. Don’t let this disappointment put a cloud
over your next class.
I take the view when someone leaves that maybe I am better off without them
(otherwise they would have stayed). Someone else may come to take their
place (with a few catch up lessons). I am just trying to cheer you up but I
understand you will probably be upset for a while. Just remember we are all
thinking of you.
One thing I tell people now before they start is to ask them to commit to a
term because they will go up and down about how they feel about the program
during that time.
Karina S., California
How many of us are all shaking our heads huh? Don’t we ALL have these events happen? Hang in there, Emily – I know you did a GREAT job. You never really know what’s going on in people’s lives and sometimes we are in the “battle field” unfortunately.
I had a REALLY tough experience once and refunded everything – to the penny. You might want to do that? But also with the kind yet firm parting that it was unfortunate that this fabulous program – which is a benefit to many – was not a good fit for them. Always, always maintain your integrity…it will serve you well 🙂
Take this from me – as one who has been through many lumps…iron sharpens iron and we’re all behind you!!
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
Oh, what a tough e-mail to receive. But probably nothing you have done!
I have notes from one of Neil’s talks where he talks about upsetting situations. He said “all upsets have a design” and stem from one of these:
1. Unfulfilled expectations (most common)
2. Thwarted intention, or
3. Withheld communication
She was most likely expecting something different, and when it didn’t meet her expectations she opted not to explore it further. She only came to two classes!! That’s not enough for anybody to determine whether or not they “like” it or understand it. It takes a few months just to get the kids and parents accustomed to what class “looks” like and how to behave in class, and to understand what to do, much less have an inkling of what the program has to offer.
It’s hard not to take things like that personally, but truly this boils down to the coach not being willing to give the program half a chance.
Lyndel K., Australia
I remember once when I had quite a large studio, and rang Neil and said that I had decided to stop teaching, because I was finding it too stressful to live up to the expectations I had for myself, and from my coaches.
He very graciously said that whatever I decided he would support me. We talked for a long time and by the end, I discovered that I had this one difficult mum, who affected my whole studio through me! She would give me ‘shocking feedback’ often, as a way of getting me to do things her way. This had gone on for a couple of terms, and her attitude had such an impact on me, my whole studio became stressful. I became so insecure and questioned everything I did.
Neil suggested that I give her permission to leave. Which I did. I had never seen her speechless before.
After that, I regained my confidence and realized that one mum, and her ‘shocking feedback’ had changed my outlook so completely, I was willing to stop teaching. I couldn’t believe it.
Sooooo, I agree that this really is excellent feedback, and early in the picture. You really don’t want her negativity mixing with those who are enjoying the experience. And you don’t want her robbing your joy of teaching. Right now, I’d be breathing a huge sigh of relief! That’s what I did.
Sharing stories can make a difference.
Annette S., California
Thank heavens Lyndel didn’t stop teaching because of that one “mum”. We wouldn’t have PAS or this wonderful email group.
I would like to invite you to join the duck club. All of you. The duck club is a club I formed because I need to be just as good as the duck who lets the water run off her back. I need to just let it go. When students or parents leave my studio for whatever reason, I just say to myself, “quack, quack.” And I share it with another member of the duck club who can confirm for me that this is just a part of life. So Emily, well done. You shared it with all of us. This quack quack response doesn’t mean that I don’t allow myself to feel sadness. But it does remind me that that this is life. And I can choose to be just fine.
All of our students will leave us some day. So we need to be good a letting go. This duck club is another way of saying what Neil reminded me (and what I believe is the greatest gift of Simply Music to me, by the way): I am learning not to be attached to results.
Quack quack! And now, thanks to Lyndel, we all know how to play it on the piano.
Thanks for sharing, Emily…
Colleen R., Washington
I love it, Annette…Thanks for introducing the Duck Club!
I lost a wonderful student this week, too. After adding two extra sports to her already full schedule for the spring term she simply burned out. I was brokenhearted and frustrated by parents (too many) who think their children must participate in everything possible. They say it’s just a break, but we will see.
For now…sign me on…to the Duck Club!
Kerry V., Australia
Love the duck club Annette, I’ve been doing this letting go and allowing myself to be like a duck for a few years too (some easy some not so), and it is a constant learning and growing with it but to call it the Duck Club! Wow completely different turn to it for me, thanks so much.
Julia B., California
I love the Duck club idea!! My husband is a teacher in the financial
industry and he would get solid 5 star ratings from a hundred
students, then horrible ratings from one, and it would throw him into
a pit — till he learned to let it go. More than once the horrible
ratings came from students whom he had spent extra time with, 1 on 1,
over lunch breaks, after class etc!!! Here’s what he finally
concluded: Some people just won’t like you, some people are
IMPOSSIBLE to please, some have a lot of personal problems going on
that are out of your control…. and some actually have good feedback
you can learn from and use to improve your own skills! As we go along
in life it gets easier to sort out, hopefully!
One other thing I wanted to add, Emily, is that I’ve found that when
money is involved, things can get more complicated and the waters a
little muddier. (Just speaking in general here, fortunately haven’t
had the issue come up with piano parents yet) I’ve noticed that
when people are trying to get money refunded, or upset because they
can’t get money refunded they tend to be more agitated and respond in
a harsher, angrier tone than they might otherwise, because they are
also processing the loss of the money (or hoping to sway things so
they can get their money back). And even though the policy may be
fair, it usually doesn’t feel fair to the person who wants the refund
— so they tend to accentuate the negatives and forget about the
positives. That may not be the case with the family you are dealing
with, but it’s something to bear in mind as you try to move on from
That’s my two cents! So glad you shared your experience. It does
happen to all of us!
Emily C., California
I love your letting-go/ duck club concept, Annette! It’s definitely
something that we all need to (learn to) do in life.
And Julia, that’s very true about people can get more “emotional” when
money is involved. I’m still waiting for the Rec’s response after
they have time to discuss/ investigate, and probably need to check
with them too if I can offer to give the parent her materials fee
I did stop worrying after reading Laurie’s words about Neil saying how
different expectations can result in upsetting situations, so it
really can be nobody’s fault.
Original discussion started Julyl 8, 2012