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Parent trying to tell me what to do


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#1 tetrachord

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Posted 15 December 2018 - 11:56

I've got a situation which is partly my own making.  Basically I'm not a naturally authoritative person and I have a young pupil who has sometimes been hard to control - not really naughty or difficult, just can sometimes dig their heels in.  I tend to quite often give a lot of choice to pupils in terms of choosing the next piece for example, and in this situation it got a bit out of hand at one point because the pupil was saying "no" to pretty much everything I chose.  I realised things had gone too far and have been trying to get on top of things again but unfortunately the parents (who sit in on lessons) seem to have decided they need to guide me a bit.

I have had both parents at different times say something along the lines of "it's ok to be more strict with the pupil".  The fact is the reason I don't behave in a particular way because I genuinely don't want to, not because I don't feel allowed to!  I think they're expecting me to treat their child the same way they discipline them at home but that's not right for me. 

One parent doesn't attend very often which suits me as they're a lot stricter.  Unfortunately there was an incident today - I had been wanting to do some work on dynamics and as the pupil tends to just use the same piece every time I said they'd need to get used to using other pieces eventually and suggested using their current piece.  When the pupil wasn't comfortable I decided to leave it for now and then the parent told me to use that piece!  As soon as they said that it meant I would not be using that piece because I didn't want the parent directing me and the lesson like that but I do have a problem here and I don't know what to do about it.  Possibly the easiest thing would be to suggest the pupil has lessons by themselves now but if the parent thinks they need to tell me what to do they might feel they should sit in on lessons.  Plus when lessons started I told them I was fine with parents sitting in on lesson if they wanted to...rolleyes.gif


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#2 BadStrad

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Posted 15 December 2018 - 12:13

Oh dear.  That doesn't sound like much fun.

 

It can be very hard to re-assert one's authority after not doing so, but if you want to continue with these children then I suspect you will have to.  You don't have to be stern.  I find a breezy "Right now were going to do this exercise"  (or whatever) works well.  It sounds cheerful, but doesn't invite discussion.

 

I suppose the real question is - what do you want to happen?  Do you want to work with a kid who underminds your decisions when you are too accommodating (and whose parents obviously want you to be less "giving") or are you prepared to be a little firmer?  I don't see the situation improving without you taking the lead.

 

Good luck.


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#3 tetrachord

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Posted 15 December 2018 - 12:25

I have already been working on being a bit tougher with the pupil - but my own approach, where I take back some control without being as strict as the parents.  I realise it came across like the pupil is really awful but they genuinely aren't as bad as I've made out!  The issue here really is more with the parents (or rather one parent) than the child.  Further to which I have had some light bulb moment recently when I found out why the pupil might have been resisting some pieces in the past which I think is valuable information going forward.  There have been times where the piece has looked too hard and the pupil felt they just couldn't do it.  Recently the pupil got a bit grumpy when I told them they'd been doing the piece wrong and the parent said they kind of beat themselves up if they know they've not been getting something right.  I think I can make use of this information but I just don't think it's by doing things the way the parents think I should do them.


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#4 HelenVJ

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Posted 15 December 2018 - 13:41

Firstly, I suggest changing the repertoire regularly - even weekly, if you want to focus on a specific topic such as dynamics. The various books by Barbara Arens and Ben Crosland are invaluable at most early levels ( I'm imaginging this student isn't 14 or older? Alhough Barbara has written some wonderful pre-Chopin Nocturne-style pieces).

These composers are so interesting and accessible, and have loads of useful pedagogical content, eg hand-crossing/using the full range of the piano.
 'Here's a new piece we're going to look at today ' (play it to them). 'Why do you think I've chosen this piece? What would be interesting to focus on? ' Choose things slightly below their level, that can be finished in a couple of weeks.
As for parent sitting in - just be firm. New Year, new start. 'Now that Theo/Millie is 8/10/15 whatever, I think it would be beneficial if you popped in towards the end of the lesson, starting from next term' ( or however you prefer to do it). And maintain the fixed smile biggrin.png.


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#5 BadStrad

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Posted 15 December 2018 - 13:53

Oh that sounds like you have something that you can work with moving forwards. It sounds a bit like the kid hasn't learned that effort is as much to be rewarded as outcome. Perhaps as a result of the parent's attitude, or through a results driven school atmosphere.

Hopefully the parent will lay off if you can turn things around now you've got some information on how the kid responds to challenges. Good luck again. :)
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#6 Aquarelle

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Posted 15 December 2018 - 23:52

It is difficult to give any advice without knowing the age of the pupil. Different children and children at different ages need different kinds of discipline. In my experience as both an instrumental teacher and a class teacher, children - even teenagers -  do not function happily and do not learn well unless they have definite guidelines and limits they may not cross. They need to know that the teacher is the leader and more often than not, the person who decides what to teach.. That does not, of course mean that we should never give pupils choices about what they learn or how they learn it but one does have to get the dose right. Many children these days are given lots of choices with little guidance and they don't necessarily have the experience to know how to choose.

 

As a general rule I don't give my younger children much choice about the pieces they play. I take into account their particular character and try to choose appropriate pieces but when i give a choice it is almost always  just either /or. I never leave it totally open ended. On the other hand I have a small group of older teenagers who have been with me a long time and have developed their tastes and interests to a point where the choice offered is wider and where I am nearly always willing to cooperate if they ask to learn a particular piece, as long as it is within their learning capacity.

 

I hope you manage to sort it tetrachord - but I think you might need to make it very clear to both pupil and parents that it is you who hold the reins.

 

I know many teachers like parents to sit in, particularly with young pupils. I don't like the idea of parents being present all the time. I find it interferes with my relationship with the pupil and it can also be distracting for both me and the child. However I make a point of inviting a parent in on a one off basis when I feel it would be beneficial. This term I have only done this once - with a five year old beginner.


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#7 agricola

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Posted 17 December 2018 - 11:55

I agree with others about limiting choices -- sometimes children will start saying 'no' to everything either to test the boundaries, or because they are in a very organised environment at home and they enjoy the sensation of control it gives them, or simply to waste lesson time.  After three or four 'nos' I would tell them they need to choose one of those pieces, otherwise I will choose for them. 

 

I am always happy to have parents sit in on lessons and I will either take their contributions on board if I think they are helpful -- which they often are -- or just smile and carry on regardless if they are not.  I think the crunch comes when the pupil is distracted by the parent's presence and/or behaves rather better when they are not there (or sometimes better with one parent rather than the other!).  To ease the parent out gently I would suggest trying pupil-only lessons for two or three weeks initially to 'see how it goes'.


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#8 sbhoa

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Posted 20 December 2018 - 12:53

If it's mostly that a new piece always looks too difficult I remind them that they are not expected to learn it all at once and that we always break it down into manageable steps and work on each step in the lesson so that they know what is required.


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#9 Dorcas

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Posted 21 December 2018 - 09:05

I agree with not having to tackle a whole piece, just one phrase or bars, and it can be from anywhere in a piece.  


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