Young Student Wanting to Quit Lessons
Alice W., Australia
I have just lost a young student (7) who was, until mid level 2, loving the piano, practicing diligently without any encouragement needed. Then just before the school holidays we had two weeks where she barely played and then her father informed me she just doesn’t want to continue lessons. We spoke about the reasons behind wanting to quit but I think she had simply lost interest. I had another “relationship conversation” and talked about practice being a non-negotiable and agreed a “play-list plan “for the two week break. Her parents have come back to me today saying that they are disappointed but don’t want to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do and they will definitely be stopping lessons.
My question is this: to what extent do you all try to retain students like this and what tact do you take? (ie. would you have just let this student quit without much question, knowing that you have already had the relationship conversation and that some students just don’t last very long? or do you try to persuade the parents they are making a mistake (Im not overly comfortable with this) and give them more “advice” on how to handle the situation (if so – what do you say?)
My second question is – does anyone have a handout that they use to explain to parents or students why quitting should not be an option (especially when it’s their first “valley”). I’m thinking that something which talks about lifelong learning/benefits of music/ piano not being “extra curricular” and practice being negotiable/ relationship conversation summarized/etc etc etc?
If so, has this been effective in retaining those students who quit as soon as they reach their first valley?
This is not the first time I’ve come across this but this is the first time I’ve really questioned the role I should play in what seems to be a family decision (once I have talked about relationships and practice). I guess I feel uncomfortable with telling parents how to parent (with regard to piano practice – I don’t want to push my values onto them. I was thinking that a well laid out handout for parents to read and consider at their leisure might be better than spending lots of time trying to “persuade” them to keep their child enrolled?
Elaine F., South Carolina
Seems to me that once parents have made up their mind, it’s too late to influence them. They way we make decisions is that we arrive at a point of view, and from that point on, our brain actually seeks out information that reinforces that point of view and gives more weight to everything that reinforces that point of view. Here’s wikipedia:
The bold is mine. I would imagine that the decision to withdraw from piano is emotionally charged. ….. making the bias all the stronger.
Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.[Note 1] People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.
So if you want to influence people, you need to do it earlier– maybe when times are good
Debi D., Missouri
I have found, the relationship you have developed with the students parent/parents or sometimes the student themselves will dictate the outcome of their decision.
If you have the ability to separate different personalities and change your approach to match their personality you’re already a step ahead.
I have an older adult student who made it very clear she “wasn’t getting it” was dropping out and she did.
That “still small voice’ told me … just because she had given upon herself, I should not give up on her.
I called her and in a voice light, laughing yet serious said “Dorothy, I care for you and your musical adventure. I can’t accept your decision to stop lessons and expect to see you in class next week. I ended our conversation with, “don’t make me come over there and get you!” I laughed, Dorothy laughed and was in class the next week That was over a year ago. She often comments how much she appreciates my call.
I taught a family with two girls. Their mother was their coach. During class I often found their coach dozing off’. When they decided to drop, I wished them well.
This has been my conversation with two or three students however, the majority of families will listen to my reasoning why lessons are important, etc …and still drop out,
Every situation is different.
Vicki L., New Zealand
It’s always sad when you lose a student and feel you have tried everything to encourage the parents to see the “bigger picture” re the lifelong companion that piano is, and that as in any relationship there are bound to be the good times and the not so good along the way.
If you have had this conversation and they still are pushing to leave, you really can’t do much other than leave the door open to her/he coming back at a later stage, yet point out that this is something their child will come across in their life time and time again, and success may elude them if they don’t learn the philosophy of commitment .
You are passing on a life tool which people will either “get” or not, this is ultimately their choice.
I will bet we will all face this dilemma at some stage and as long as we continue to embrace Simply Music’s point of difference ,and perpetuate Piano as a lifelong friend, we are doing okay.
Elaine F., South Carolina
It would be interesting to separate out the kids who quit from the adults— I bet it’s a different dynamic. I remember a traditional teacher telling me that the #1 reason adults quit is they feel guilty they didn’t’ practice enough.
I’m very easy on adult students when they have vacations– and only get in 1 day, or their kids and grandkids visit- and only play a little. If they return to lessons, committed I’ve found that it works well to be understanding when they have guests. Some will take the opportunity to show off their skill– especially after the first year– And it’s different to play a polished piece than it is to practice when the house is full of guests.