When I started teaching 8 years ago, I wondered if I would ever have to let a student go. What happens in that situation? How do you do it? Do you just deal with them until they quit on their own? And what is the list of reasons why you should let a student go? I didn’t like the idea, but a therapist friend of mine, who has had to do this with clients, confirmed with me that sometimes you don’t have a choice, and it becomes unethical to keep them.
I taught this wonderful little girl for 4 years. I adored her. But she got a little older and started acting like she didn’t want to listen to me anymore. And when I insisted she listen, she pouted through the entire lesson. When I told her I did not like that she wasn’t listening to me, and that I expected her to listen, she started crying. This happened a few times and it made me feel like the worst teacher in the world. I tried my best to be sensitive. I tried to bring her songs she would enjoy singing, but she frequently found things to complain about. The third time she cried, I realized it was time to say goodbye. I didn’t take the tears personally. She is a very sensitive child and at the age when a girl becomes even more sensitive than average. For some reason we were not clicking anymore.
For some reason, I was having a negative effect on this girl, and I felt it would be wrong for me to continue teaching her. I couldn’t figure out why I had this effect. I was not teaching her any differently than other students. In fact, I was more sensitive with her because I knew she was a bit fragile. She was upset when I quit, and that made me feel bad, but I know that if I stayed she would continue to become upset, because I wasn’t going to change my expectations, and I wasn’t going to let a student disrespect me.
This event taught me to take control and not live at the will of others. In a regular job, if we are being disrespected by our bosses, we would quit and find something else. In lessons, it should be the same. If a student is treating you with disrespect or refusing to follow your rules, you have the right to quit. Businesses usually have signs that state “We reserve the right to refuse service.” The same goes for us. It’s harder, because our work is more personal.
My therapist friend I mentioned earlier suggests that you explain to the parent and child that you feel like you are no longer effective and that it is probably best for them to continue with another teacher. You can heal the blow by offering a recommendation. Most likely they will be upset no matter how kind you try to sound, but taking money for a job you know someone else could do better is worse that hurting someone’s feelings.
Have you ever had to let a student go? What was it like and how did you handle it? Please share, because I think other teachers need to think about this topic in case they are ever in a difficult situation that requires making such a tough decision.