Students who want Private Lessons
Alice W., Australia
I keep getting students who are not “happy” with their group (for various unimportant reasons) and want to either move group or have private one-on-one lessons instead. I prefer to teach mainly in groups but find myself “bending over backwards” for students only to have them leave later down the line.
I recently had a small mixed group of adults and children which worked fine until one of the two children left – now the parents are asking for private lessons which I really don’t want to have to give. I cannot see that the student is at any disadvantage being with the “oldies” (to quote the parents!) and it is certainly not to my advantage at all to move her to a private lesson. I have been quite firm but I’m left feeling a bit annoyed that students focus too much on who is in their group rather than what we are actually doing as a group. I wondered if anyone has any tips for me regarding how I should be responding to these students and or parents? Should I just continue to be firm but fair to all including myself?
Have you tried to explain that this a good experience for their daughter to be in and around the “oldies” and not just her own age group. This student will be learning how to interact with the old as well as the young. It will be very beneficial to her when you she gets older. I personally would not change her from shared lessons to private, just for this reason only. Remember, she is learning several life long skills in this class; not just how to play the piano. She is learning how to be with and talk to the older generation, which is a great learning tool for when she really needs it.
I have talked to serveral kids (at church, social gatherings, ect.) and it’s so sad, because they really don’t know HOW to interact with people who are even 10 years older than they are. Society has just grouped certain age groups together and people have gotten used to it and they don’t see how it REALLY hurts the younger children later on in life. Children need to see that they can LEARN so much from the older generation.
I can also see the point of the parents that it might be more FUN if the child was with someone her own age…but will she be getting the same thing out of it??? That is a hard decision…. however I still would not move her!! The parents need this lesson as much or more as this student. If the older people haven’t pulled her down and she is doing well in this class then keep her there!! Hope everything works out well for you.
Robin Keehn, Washington
This is an important topic.
For me, the bottom line is that your students need to trust you in each and every aspect of you being their coach. Determining how groups are structured is part of that–and a very important part. I configure groups to the best of my ability based on what students have told me about their previous experience and possibly their age. Sometimes things don’t happen the way I expect them to. For example, maybe I’ll end up with an “average” student who ends up being exceptional and I need to adjust the group. I’m not talking about exceptions, though.
For the most part, groups work and if they don’t, I want to be the one who decides what will best serve students. I am not open to input from students. I’m certainly not going to change groups to private students because someone thinks it will be better. In fact, I know that it isn’t going to be better for them. I’ve never seen a private lesson be superior to group lessons, rather I’ve always (with half a dozen exceptions in 10 years) seen the rate of learning slow to a crawl in private lessons because there is no peer influence for the student OR his/her coach.
So, I agree that you should stand firm and do what is best for your students based on your expertise and your intuition. They do not know what is best for them, perhaps just what would be most convenient for them or what the culture of music education has influenced them to think is best for them (private lessons).
Adults are very good at selective coaching. Selective coaching means that I will be coached if I agree, if I find it convenient and if I understand. If I disagree, it isn’t convenient or I don’t understand, I will just go ahead and do it my way.
Does this sound familiar? I think you are battling selective coaching and you want to establish yourself as an authority and make sure that you address this.
Stand firm, be confident that you know best and ask students/coaches if they are coachable. If they say yes, remind them that being coachable means that they will do what you require even if they don’t understand, agree or find it convenient. If they are willing to be coached, you can accomplish remarkable things.