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Teacher Responsibilities


ConnieSunday

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Good evening:

I have a question for the teachers on the list. Can anyone recommend a method of software to keep track of lesson payments. It doesn't work for me to charge straight away, by the month - though some parents very responsibly do that - but rather, at four lesson increments. But with nearly 30 students, I'm having trouble keeping track and I wonder if anyone has any recommendations. Right now I'm using Excel and just logging in the payments dates, but it's awkward.

Also, do all the teachers feel this intense responsibility towards their students? I myself practice every day, a little piano in the morning, and some cello, and then violin for several hours...I feel like I really need to know what I'm doing and keep my own playing up. And that if I teach them wrongly, they'll remember things wrongly the rest of their lives! Or develop bad habits. This is a tremendous responsibility.

Thirdly, how do you deal with disappointment if the student isn't practicing. I try to remain sweet and gentle and nice, but sometimes I am disappointed, and I think a bit of a hard edge may come into my presentation. I think the emotion of personal strength works well when I'm performing or practicing (I actually play better when I'm angry or feeling very assertive), but it's not appropriate with children.

Thanks in advance,

Connie

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Wow! The world needs more conscientious teachers like you.

As for regular practice, maybe a different approach for each student would work, depending on that student's aspirations, needs, learning style, and personality.

One of my friends used to practice 6 hours a day because his teacher was so incredibly demanding, critical, and blunt during lessons. At any scratch in tone or out-of-tune note, the guy would pounce. (Danger: student may burn out, crack psychologically, burst into tears, etc.) That approach may be best for students who have professional goals in music.

I know of other teachers who will send students home if they're not prepared for a lesson, or they'll get all wide-eyed and shocked (but not necessarily angry) when a student hasn't practiced. "What? You can't come in here unprepared!"

There's a teacher in my area who "fires" students from her studio if they constantly come in unprepared. I know of at least 2 instances when that has happened.

Maybe part of the problem is the students need to get used to setting aside a certain time every day as untouchable practice time, like a daily appointment with yourself that you must keep. One thing I've learned (well, but too late) is that every day, the longer I wait to start practicing, the less likely it is that I'll even practice at all. Also, evening practice doesn't work so well for me since my mind is too worn out or flooded with garbage accumulated during the day.

What motivates (and de-motivates) each student? I used to start every day with an hour and a half straight on scales and double stops, then wonder why I'm too tired and unmotivated to put in any more time later in the day. I'm fine, though, when I spend time on musical matters, vary my practice routine, and take breaks every 50 or 60 minutes.

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I try to motivate my students by providing them with excellent sources of music and showing them how attainable that can be. For exmple, I ran a Celtic session locally initially for my students, with the intention of showing them how easy it is to have fun and play with other people. I found that to be a very good motivator. Students lined up outside the door waiting to play. My only rule was you had to practice at least 1/2 a day to play in the session.

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Hi Connie,

I'm not a teacher, but I used to be a student! I've been discussing the benefits & drawbacks of studying music as a child with various friends recently, so I thought I'd add my tuppence.

As a pre-teen, I rebelled against most things my parents wanted me to do, especially as they were often presented as chore - practise the violin or do the washing up. Many an evening I'd choose the latter. I didn't like the tunes I was learning, I found the instrument very uncomfortable physically to play, and I took little pleasure in the lessons. So I would have been one of your students who hardly practised from one week to the next.

Of course I'm glad now that my parents make me play, as I'm able to return to the instrument recently and not sound awful. However I did have a ten year break from performing or playing any kind of music from age 16 to 26, before I bought an old guitar and started playing for myself.

I think I would have been more motivated if I had been able to choose some of the tunes myself. In England I worked directly towards passing classical grades, but maybe if I'd had some tunes of my own choosing to play, say one tune at the end of each lesson, it aould have been more fun.

If I were a teacher, I would encourage my students to bring pieces they would like to be able to play, and then work together with them to master those tunes. They couls be classical, folk, or TV themetunes, whatever, but I think the student would feel more involved, and of course any sort of playing still improves their abilities.

Anyway, that's my tuppence, and a quick thank you to my longsuffering teacher John Humphries who I'm sure knew exactly how little I really practised, but patiently put up with me for five years! I must've absorbed a lot more than I realised at the time.

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Question #1 - Tracking payments

With the number of students you have, there are many financial programs that could help, there are lesson payment records that you should be able to get from just about any music store. A method that worked for me involved getting a separate payment book for each student. It not only made a record for me, it gave a reciept to the student.

Question #2 - Resposibility toward students

First of all, relax. You seem to be putting a whole lot of pressure on yourself. I have been teaching bassoon for many years. I know what my students need to do and do not feel the need to practice hours each day to tell them that. I give them the information they need, record it in a notebook that each student is required to bring to their lesson so they can review what they learned that day, and send them on their way to internalize what they have just learned. I don't lose sleep over my students. If they develop a bad habit and won't change, that is their choice. Sure, I want them to excel, but they must make that choice.

Question #3 - Unprepared students

I begin by teasingly encouraging them. I have a wonderful book called "How to Get your Child to Practice Without Resorting to Violence." It has great tips and I try to have most of my parents read it. The lack of practicing is, again, the student's responsibility. I have a general idea of how much each of my students should be able to accomplish based on various factors (talent, time, parental involvement, etc). If a student does not reach even the most basic of goals within a resonable amount of time, I drop them. There is no need for them to waste my time and their parents' money. Sure, it sounds cold, but they get plenty of warnings beforehand. I always leave the choice for failure or success up to the student. I can't do it for them.

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