“Trying it out”
Gabrielle K., Iowa
What is your take on parents who say “We’re just going to try this for a year and see if it works”? Do you take on the student and think of it as an opportunity to impact the parents’ viewpoint since this is the way a lot of parents think in this day and age, or do you view this as a non-commitment and not worth the investment?
Stephen R., California
A year is a fairly big commitment in this day and age. I give everyone a chance, because I’m trying to add students. I’m trying to work with students/families where they are and to encourage them to do more. All my expectations are in my policy; we discuss them in the beginning and I bring them up routinely so everyone knows.
A lot of families need to be taught about what the nature of a long-term commitment looks like, if they haven’t had one. As long as you’re clear at the outset (and they are as well), that piano lessons unfold over years and so does Simply Music. It’s a 6-10 year curriculum, however long they choose to commit to that. Just know that reading most likely begins towards the second year of lessons and completing that process the following year. At least we as SM teachers are up front and communicate these things, where previously in traditional lessons it was almost never talked about.
I’m also doing Foundation Sessions now with all new students. This may unfold over the first couple of lessons where we talk all about this. I divide it over two lessons. I like to cover the Basics the first lesson, but often choose to do Dreams the second week. Many issues with some veteran students could have been prevented had I done adequate Foundation Sessions in the beginning. There is no time like the beginning!
Patti P., Hawaii
If you take this student, I’d suggest you make sure to have plenty of discussions about peaks and valleys being normal and expected.
I have found that you just never can tell. Sometimes these families will become your most committed ones. And sometimes parents who seem the most committed suddenly withdraw their child with no forewarning.
Missy M., Iowa
I take ’em! I’ve only had one family not stay longer than they planned. I was glad when they left too.
Robin T., China
I think it is a very sensible approach by the parent.
Unmani U., Australia
Alarm bells for me. There’s a bail-out clause there about piano and the long-term relationship and who decides it doesn’t work and heaps of other stuff I don’t feel at all comfortable about when beginning a new student. My option is your first one, and the opportunity to impact viewpoint starts right at that moment at the FIS or on the phone or whenever it is said, e.g. “We are beginning a long-term relationship; learning piano takes around 10 years to get anywhere; what will you say as a parent the moment Johnny says I don’t want to learn piano, I want to do soccer instead, I can help you with that if we work together”. You need to distill to your own conversation in the moment. I have allowed these moments to escape too many times and not listened to my belly. For me it’s better they don’t start at all and know what’s entailed than start and stop and it be flaky.
Leeanne I., Australia
I think it also depends on where you are as a teacher. Do you really need the income from this student? If so, yes, take them and give them a chance. I am getting to the stage now where I am going to be a lot more selective about who I take and who I don’t. The really important thing for me now is students being able to commit to riding through the valleys.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I agree with Leeanne; it really depends upon where you are in your teaching journey. Early on I would take anybody as I wanted the experience and to grow my studio. Now that I’m established and don’t have openings very often, I need to be more selective particularly because I only teach groups. I don’t want to deal with a group’s size whittling down because of a lack of understanding about the commitment needed to keep music as a lifelong companion.
However, it may also be an opportunity to give someone a different perspective. Likely this person has not considered WHY it is worth it to make a long-term commitment to music. It may just not be on their radar because they don’t have music in their lives. So there are several things to consider in determining what works for you.
Cate R., Australia
I believe that parents are trying to give their kids a lot more opportunities than they had as kids. You’ve got them for a year, so say something like ‘let’s give this a good crack, then you can say, I did piano for a year and loved it’. You never know. They might really like it.
Gabrielle K., Iowa
I am at a place where I need the student, but the slack on the rope hasn’t loosened. Policy stays the same and maybe the parent needs a new perspective, so I’ve got my eyes open for any territory issues.
Stephen R., California
Keep the dialogue open regularly. “How did it go this week?” “How are you feeling about piano?” “How was your piano time this week?” etc. I’m trying to communicate more with the parents. If you don’t develop good relationships (communication) with the parents, it’s not a recipe for long term success. Of course, all this varies with the age, background and level of the student. I tried to wrap up my second foundation with a parent today and I could tell she was tense. I’m at the point now, where I am going to be firm with my expectations and will communicate everything I need to. I am not attached to students if they leave, but I am 100% committed to them if they want to progress and work at this. I just don’t have time for flaky people either and am happy to see them go if they choose to do that. I’m just not going to get wrapped up in all the issues of their lives.
Katie S., California
I always take that student on. Even a few months is a great opportunity to impact the student and parent – they usually will stay on board anyway.
Kym N., California
Making commitments, either with a teacher or with playing the piano, is a growing process. Giving a year to experience both is a good commitment for the family to begin with. I usually ask for a minimum of 3 months to see if we (teacher, student, parent, and the method) are a good fit.