Jump to content


Photo

Feeling fed up with teaching


  • Please log in to reply
47 replies to this topic

#16 agricola

agricola

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1778 posts
  • Member: 545
    Joined: 01-February 04

Posted 23 August 2018 - 14:58

I second what Dorcas has posted -- it's easy to assume that our pupils have the same conditions for learning as we did but they don't always tell us about poor out-of-tune instruments, critical comments, keyboard next to the TV or in a cold bedroom etc.  Unless I can tell that a child really doesn't want to learn  -- and if in doubt I ask the child -- I tend to soldier on regardless at what ever level of input they can manage.   

 

I've been teaching long enough to occasionally bump into people I taught 20 or more years ago and sometimes I get reminded of something I said, long forgotten by myself, which has influenced them.  Usually this person will be one of those pupils who made me gnash my teeth when I was giving them lessons and will be the last person I would expect to tell me how much they enjoyed their lessons. Of course there are probably plenty of others who cross the road when they see me coming, the point is you never know what a child may be getting out of their lesson time.  


  • 1

#17 Hedgehog

Hedgehog

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 6550 posts
  • Member: 3747
    Joined: 25-May 05
  • Suburbia

Posted 23 August 2018 - 15:43

.. they don't always tell us about poor out-of-tune instruments, critical comments, keyboard next to the TV or in a cold bedroom etc.  

I often talk to apparent non-practisers in a very non-confrontational sort of way (lean back in my chair, twiddle a pencil, completely ignoring the piano) and we have a little chat about why they're finding it hard to practise. Some children will tell you quite easily about the piano in the smallest, darkest, coldest room in the house, or sometimes you have to probe a bit.  I find it difficult with pupils in school to convey my thoughts to parents as I have to write it down, whereas when I see the parent before/after the lesson in the case of private pupils it's easier to make the case for changing the position of the piano, or whatever the problem seems to be, and sometimes parents haven't thought it through at all.


  • 2

#18 jch48

jch48

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 546 posts
  • Member: 25823
    Joined: 26-February 08
  • East Midlands

Posted 24 August 2018 - 06:26

i could have written many sections of your post and have felt like stopping teaching. i find it comes and goes and pupils who are difficult at one time become easier and sadly vice versa. Their lack of practise, lack of interest, my not knowing how to plan a meaningful lesson in such circumstances, feeling inadequate, trying to push this heavy boulder up the hill - if i continue it'll become a spiral. I console myself by thinking of those pupils I can help and who enjoy most or all the pieces I suggest and I genuinely like them all and their parents and they like me. I have learned how different teaching is from my day, how different pupils are and that piano is not for everyone. I have those with potential who prioritise academic work or sport and I have to accept that, but I should do more than accept. I should appreciate and value them for what they offer rather than what they don't. If I were in my twenties and needed to bring a decent wage in it would have been a mistake and I'd be looking for another career. As it is, I'm glad I had the guts to give it a try and working with music and one-to-one has allowed me to be my true self. I play for a few exams and really enjoy new people and new music. I play for a choir and though I may not like everything equally I am actually being paid to play the piano.

You're not alone. I hope you find a way through it and this way through it has to be yours.


  • 2

#19 musicalmalc

musicalmalc

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 395 posts
  • Member: 516127
    Joined: 06-September 12

Posted 24 August 2018 - 08:45

Perhaps for those pupils/parents who bizarrely think little practice is required between lessons you could compare it to another activity, perhaps some kind of sport (not that I know anything about that) but I'm pretty sure that whatever sport it is (football, athletics, cycling,golf), if they don't put in the hours between coaching sessions, their skills will evolve very slowly if at all. biggrin.png


  • 0

#20 mel2

mel2

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4809 posts
  • Member: 6928
    Joined: 15-May 06
  • East Yorkshire

Posted 24 August 2018 - 08:55

Perhaps for those pupils/parents who bizarrely think little practice is required between lessons you could compare it to another activity, perhaps some kind of sport (not that I know anything about that) but I'm pretty sure that whatever sport it is (football, athletics, cycling,golf), if they don't put in the hours between coaching sessions, their skills will evolve very slowly if at all. :D


Absolutely. I have heard musical learning compared to ice skating (William Westney, perhaps?)
It's unlikely that anyone can do that triple spin and land cleanly the first time they attempt it. They will start with a single spin, fall over and keep trying until they get it right.
My 6 yr old pupil apparently spent hours and about 30 attempts to be able to brace her arms and legs in an X position in the door frame. I suggested she apply the same strategy with the piece she was balking over.
Never seems to occur to them, does it!
  • 1

#21 Norway

Norway

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 4541 posts
  • Member: 452922
    Joined: 05-May 12

Posted 24 August 2018 - 08:56

I don't have any problem with entertaining a pupil/ student for half an hour a week if that's what the bill payer is happy with. Some people want to "do" music rather than learn it. The problem comes when they want exam success.


  • 2

#22 cestrian

cestrian

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 759 posts
  • Member: 253314
    Joined: 09-May 11
  • Wales

Posted 24 August 2018 - 20:11

50% of your students don’t practice????? You must be an amazing teacher then as for many others that figure is much higher.
  • 2

#23 akc42

akc42

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 43 posts
  • Member: 898697
    Joined: 28-January 18
  • Just outside London

Posted 25 August 2018 - 11:05

I have told this story before in a teachers forum - but I don't think I have on this one.  But I want to encourage all those teachers who have pupils who don't practice.

 

My father bought himself (a grade 8 level pianist) a piano when I was 5 and paid for me to have lessons for 6 years.  I never practiced (except in my last year when I went to my grandparents house for a week on my own and they had a piano and I learn't my piece - mainly out of boredom).  I also never did any school homework either - but that is another issue.  I must have made some slow progress because I did get to play quite a bit of music as I still have the books with the green ink my teacher always used written all over them.  I eventually took ABRSM grade 3 exam scraped a pass and then promptly stopped. 

 

In the 1990s I inherited the piano and it sat in our dinning room untouched (almost) by me.  My youngest daughter did learn on it up to grade 4.  In May 2017 she (now grown up and married and moved into a big house) inherited the piano from me.

 

September 2017 - 56 years after I last took a piano lesson I suddenly had the urge to start again (retirement?) - bought a digital piano (actually 2 - initial and the an upgrade) and sought out a teacher with whom I started having lessons in early October.  

 

The 6 years of a teacher who didn't give up on my as a child has embedded something in me that I can only describe now as marvelous.  I could immediately, on restarting, read music (if a little difficult at first it soon came back).  My fingers seem to naturally form the correct shapes and comparing how I play with the various technique videos on youtube - I seem to naturally do the correct thing. As a result of that stable base that she gave me - my progress recently has been fantastic.  I don't intend to take any more exams but I feel like I quickly progressed past Grade 3 (I learnt this grade 5 piece about 3 months ago https://soundcloud.c...-354084073/cool) and my teacher says the Bach Inventions I am currently polishing are about grade 6

 

The one piece I did learn fully as a child even had a few fragments left in my fingers, and with a little investigation was able to track down to Purcell Hornpipe in E Minor (me playing it - https://soundcloud.c...pe-in-e-minor).

 

Of course it wasn't all about my teacher.  My parents have been an inspiration as well.  I have just started learning Chopin Nocturne Opus 9 No 2 because it is the only piece I can ever remember my mother playing - she is now in her 90s and I hope to be able to play it to her before she passes.  My father passed away in 2001 but I can still remembering him playing Bach's Italian Concerto and much of what I am doing is striving to be able to get good enough to play that.

 

 


  • 7

#24 ten left thumbs

ten left thumbs

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 789 posts
  • Member: 454622
    Joined: 09-May 12

Posted 25 August 2018 - 17:48

I have told this story before in a teachers forum - but I don't think I have on this one.  But I want to encourage all those teachers who have pupils who don't practice.

 

My father bought himself (a grade 8 level pianist) a piano when I was 5 and paid for me to have lessons for 6 years.  I never practiced (except in my last year when I went to my grandparents house for a week on my own and they had a piano and I learn't my piece - mainly out of boredom).  I also never did any school homework either - but that is another issue.  I must have made some slow progress because I did get to play quite a bit of music as I still have the books with the green ink my teacher always used written all over them.  I eventually took ABRSM grade 3 exam scraped a pass and then promptly stopped. 

 

In the 1990s I inherited the piano and it sat in our dinning room untouched (almost) by me.  My youngest daughter did learn on it up to grade 4.  In May 2017 she (now grown up and married and moved into a big house) inherited the piano from me.

 

September 2017 - 56 years after I last took a piano lesson I suddenly had the urge to start again (retirement?) - bought a digital piano (actually 2 - initial and the an upgrade) and sought out a teacher with whom I started having lessons in early October.  

 

The 6 years of a teacher who didn't give up on my as a child has embedded something in me that I can only describe now as marvelous.  I could immediately, on restarting, read music (if a little difficult at first it soon came back).  My fingers seem to naturally form the correct shapes and comparing how I play with the various technique videos on youtube - I seem to naturally do the correct thing. As a result of that stable base that she gave me - my progress recently has been fantastic.  I don't intend to take any more exams but I feel like I quickly progressed past Grade 3 (I learnt this grade 5 piece about 3 months ago https://soundcloud.c...-354084073/cool) and my teacher says the Bach Inventions I am currently polishing are about grade 6

 

The one piece I did learn fully as a child even had a few fragments left in my fingers, and with a little investigation was able to track down to Purcell Hornpipe in E Minor (me playing it - https://soundcloud.c...pe-in-e-minor).

 

Of course it wasn't all about my teacher.  My parents have been an inspiration as well.  I have just started learning Chopin Nocturne Opus 9 No 2 because it is the only piece I can ever remember my mother playing - she is now in her 90s and I hope to be able to play it to her before she passes.  My father passed away in 2001 but I can still remembering him playing Bach's Italian Concerto and much of what I am doing is striving to be able to get good enough to play that.

 

Yeah, but, do you know what? It's so incredibly dis-spiriting to be faced week after week, hour after hour, with a child who does nothing in between lessons. It just sucks the soul out of life. To the point that sometimes it is worth either terminating lessons, or at least, charging the parents extra for all the trouble. Because, it's not just about the individual student. The teacher also matters. And the teacher's mental health matters. And it is about proportions. If you have 1 non-practicer and 20 great ones, then that's OK. If it's the other way round, then stacking shelves in a super-market suddenly seems quite attractive. 

 

So, I don't mean to disrespect your story. But your story is just that, your story. 


  • 6

#25 Aquarelle

Aquarelle

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 7660 posts
  • Member: 10531
    Joined: 05-April 07

Posted 25 August 2018 - 22:46

That set me thinking. Is it a matter of proportions ? I got out my proposed timetable for next year.

Tuesday five pupils. Four are regular practisers. One is  only fairly regular but he is very  musical which tends to compensate

 

Wednesday morning six pupils. One is new, so  it remains to be seen but her three sisters all practise regularly. The remaining two also practise  conscientiously though one is a very slow learner.

 

Wednesday afternoon eight pupils. Two are new so I don’t know. Of the remaining six five practise – one of them is an avid practiser. The eighth was not very motivated the year before last and did a minimum, but last year took Grade one, was well motivated and got a Merit. He is obviously one who likes the challenge of an exam.

 

Thursday five pupils. Two are excellent practisers, one practises as much as he can but has  had serious health problems. One practises adequately – just. One is an interesting but difficult pupil who practises only what he likes and it’s not always easy to find out exactly what that is.

 

Friday five pupils. One only moderately motivated, one sometimes highly motivated and sometimes much less so. Two quite well motivated and the last one very keen indeed this last year,  though it took a while to get there. Got a merit at Grade 3 in June and at the next lesson asked me for the Grade 4 scales

.

Saturday  six pupils. One who practises quite a lot but not what I give him – always wants to play difficult and showy pieces that are way beyond him. The remaining five are all weekly boarders at a school where their piano practice is timetabled and they certainly do it – all very keen.

 

I lost one in the middle of last year. I failed to motivate her and she had other interests which were more important to her.

 

I seem to be fortunate in that the majority of mine do work. I think the secret is to enthuse them with one’s own love of music.  It won’t work with all of them and we just have to accept that. But when it does work  they do respond. I don’t think there is any other long term motivation than the love of music. Exams are good short term motivation for many pupils as are concerts, but the real motivation is to get them to love it.  I don’t think it’s possible to do that unless you observe each pupils very carefully and try to respond to their individual needs. While doing that I think right from the start you just have to make it plain that some evidence of work is needed every week – even if all that has been set has not been achieved. It mustn’t just be another “school” lesson. We have to actually, as Atarah ben Tovim once said to me “touch their souls.”

 

That reminds me of a nice incident last year when a teenage girl was learning an arrangement of the minuet from Handel’s “Berenice”. She had worked hard at the note learning but it was just one chord after another. So I played it too her and did my best to make the music really say something. When I finished playing  I turned to her and we both  exclaimed “It’s beautiful!” Then of course we laughed at our simultaneous reaction. But her eyes were shining and at the concert she played it  with heart and soul.  compared with some of the pieces this was long and slow, but she had the audience spellbound. And this is a girl who was once so lacking in confidence she would hardly speak to me.  We simply have to get them to understand that in this business of learning something as difficult as a musical instrument, we are actually on their side.

 

Incidentally, I respect the views of those who use practice charts – heaven knows, we all have to use what works for us. But after giving it a go once I have never resorted to it again. I found them more trouble than they are worth. Mine have a notebook in which I write the aims and methods of work for the week. If they haven’t done the work we do it together there and then. I stop being a teacher and become a répetiteur – but again, it always has to be with the attitude “OK, I’ll help you to do it now” rather than “this is a punishment because you didn’t do it.” Teaching is not telling them to do something or even telling them how to do it. It’s finding out how you can get them to do it. It can be a big challenge but it’s worth it. We mustn’t despair!


  • 6

#26 jenny

jenny

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2744 posts
  • Member: 7686
    Joined: 16-September 06
  • Manchester

Posted 26 August 2018 - 11:46

 

 

That reminds me of a nice incident last year when a teenage girl was learning an arrangement of the minuet from Handel’s “Berenice”. She had worked hard at the note learning but it was just one chord after another. So I played it too her and did my best to make the music really say something. When I finished playing  I turned to her and we both  exclaimed “It’s beautiful!” Then of course we laughed at our simultaneous reaction. But her eyes were shining and at the concert she played it  with heart and soul.  compared with some of the pieces this was long and slow, but she had the audience spellbound. And this is a girl who was once so lacking in confidence she would hardly speak to me.  We simply have to get them to understand that in this business of learning something as difficult as a musical instrument, we are actually on their side.

 

This is lovely - thank you, Aquarelle! smile.png  


  • 1

#27 lorraineliyanage

lorraineliyanage

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1263 posts
  • Member: 5008
    Joined: 17-October 05
  • South London

Posted 28 August 2018 - 14:03

I have a few that don't practice but they don't do exams either so I find it low stress and I give them fun pieces they can learn in the lesson as I know they won't touch the piano between lessons. I also add in theory, listening to lots of music, working out how to play things by ear and playing duets. The parents understand that they can't sit graded exams unless they are prepared to put in daily practice (or at least every other day as most kids are ridiculously busy with after-school activities).


  • 0

#28 The Great Sosso

The Great Sosso

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 367 posts
  • Member: 887899
    Joined: 04-February 14

Posted 28 August 2018 - 14:08

All good advice, as usual.  Thanks everyone.  I am hoping that I will renew my enthusiasm when the new term starts.

 

TGS X


  • 0

#29 cestrian

cestrian

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 759 posts
  • Member: 253314
    Joined: 09-May 11
  • Wales

Posted 01 September 2018 - 15:32

Yeah, but, do you know what? It's so incredibly dis-spiriting to be faced week after week, hour after hour, with a child who does nothing in between lessons. It just sucks the soul out of life. To the point that sometimes it is worth either terminating lessons, or at least, charging the parents extra for all the trouble. Because, it's not just about the individual student. The teacher also matters. And the teacher's mental health matters. And it is about proportions. If you have 1 non-practicer and 20 great ones, then that's OK. If it's the other way round, then stacking shelves in a super-market suddenly seems quite attractive. 

 

So, I don't mean to disrespect your story. But your story is just that, your story. 

 

 

You are in the wrong job.


  • 1

#30 edgmusic

edgmusic

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 462 posts
  • Member: 77428
    Joined: 09-October 09

Posted 02 September 2018 - 15:52

Yeah, but, do you know what? It's so incredibly dis-spiriting to be faced week after week, hour after hour, with a child who does nothing in between lessons. It just sucks the soul out of life. To the point that sometimes it is worth either terminating lessons, or at least, charging the parents extra for all the trouble. Because, it's not just about the individual student. The teacher also matters. And the teacher's mental health matters. And it is about proportions. If you have 1 non-practicer and 20 great ones, then that's OK. If it's the other way round, then stacking shelves in a super-market suddenly seems quite attractive. 
 
So, I don't mean to disrespect your story. But your story is just that, your story.

 
You are in the wrong job.

Not necessary, and rather unkind I feel. The poster is making a personal response which some may disagree with, but not deserving of this comment
  • 5