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Happy Students, Happy Parents, Happy Teachers

134750351I admit it. I want everyone to be happy; even me! This fall I took a few surveys to help me better understand what behaviors and circumstances promote happy students, happy parents and happy teachers.
It is much easier for me to know which behaviors in my clients make me happy as a teacher. Some of these things are important enough to be included in a policy statement—a place where clear communication can set healthy boundaries and solve problems before they happen.
Here is what I included in my registration packets this fall:
Keep Happy Teacher

Students:

  • be willing to try new things, and new ways of doing old things
  • listen to directions and follow them at home
  • read your assignment notes over at home each week
  • enjoy the songs you are learning
  • have a respectful attitude
  • practice faithfully, and record it in your assignment book
  • smile a lot
  • tell the teacher frequently that you love piano lessons
  • always bring all your books to your lesson
  • participate in studio activities
  • take good care of borrowed books and return them on time

Parents:

  • offer your child support, incentives and encouragement at home
  • set aside practice space and time in your child’s schedule
  • say uplifting things about piano lessons in front of your child
  • provide an adequate instrument on which to practice
  • keep your expectations high, but fairly close to reality
  • help your child participate in studio activities and recitals
  • respond to studio emails in a timely manner
  • rarely cancel lessons, and call ahead on those rare occasions
  • drop off and pick children up on time
  • pay your tuition on time each month, without a reminder
  • call me when you have a concern or problem so we can resolve it
  • remember that I thrive on appreciation, and your kids thrive on praise

That covers my side of things, but what about the students’ or parents’ perspectives? For the last few weeks I have been surveying students and parents from my studio, as well as parents with other teachers in my local association, about what makes them happy with a piano teacher. Below is my compilation of the student and parent responses.
I expected certain things to be high on the parents’ list: keep tuition rates low, limit the number of outside activities, high tech studio, make sure we get our perfect time slot, be flexible with sport schedules, vacations and illnesses, have a location close to school or home, have lots of degrees, certifications and professional performance experience.
I was wrong. Not one of these items was mentioned. Read on to find out what was important! This list may have regional differences, but I think there are core values that will resonate in any location.
1. Number one way to keep parents happy?
KEEP THEIR CHILD HAPPY AND MOTIVATED.

  • child looks forward to lessons
  • child is engaged and striving to achieve goals
  • child is motivated and excited about learning

2. Second in importance was having the child feel good about himself/herself and seeing his/her SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE grow with progress.

  • offer praise and encouragement
  • keep child growing in self-confidence through personal accomplishments and met goals

The rest of this list could be in a more random order.
3. BE NICE

  • have a good personal rapport with the child
  • be friendly, cheerful, smile a lot
  • practice kindness and good manners
  • be patient with the student, but keep high standards/goals
  • have a good sense of humor and be willing to have fun
  • have a studio that feels safe and child friendly

4. BE PRODUCTIVE

  • cultivate a passion and a love for music in the child
  • keep the child progressing well, at his or her own individual pace
  • give clear, specific, and achievable instructions for home practice
  • explain new concepts well
  • include helpful directions for non-musical parents
  • offer recitals, workshops and enrichment opportunities
  • introduce a variety of musical styles
  • take care of music purchases, don’t send parents running all over
  • be honest with the student if you know they haven’t been practicing
  • be firm, hold the students to a high standard
  • expect more out of the student than they think they are capable of

5. BE PERSONAL

  • tailor teaching to each individual student, no cookie cutter approaches
  • recognize and encourage natural interests and abilities
  • let the student choose the type of music they want to pursue
  • take an interest in the child’s life outside piano
  • have the child’s best interest at heart
  • be a good mentor
  • listen to the students to know what they love and need

6. BE PROFESSIONAL

  • be organized, dependable and predictable
  • maintain open and timely communication
  • make payment systems easy and uncomplicated, offer online options
  • don’t be distracted while teaching lessons
  • give the year’s schedule out in the fall so parents can plan ahead
  • make recitals organized, have printed programs

7. BE FLEXIBLE

  • understand when life doesn’t go the way we all want it to
  • expect a lot, but understand when life happens

Students were more of a challenge to survey. Here is what they said:

  • exciting music (top response)
  • lots of actual playing time in the lesson
  • want to love what they are doing
  • music they can play by memory for enjoyment
  • piano lessons should be fun and motivating
  • fun worksheets to do at home
  • they love music and learning to create music
  • learn new things
  • get their questions answered
  • playing duets with the teacher
  • being taught everything you know
  • different themes each year

This student list has definitely has not been explored to its depth! Perhaps you have some additional insights as to what makes students happy that you could post in the comment section down below. Happy teaching!

About the Author

Sandy Lundberg
Sandy Lundberg teaches piano in her private studio in northern Colorado. Her desire is to enable students to achieve their own personal musical goals, and to assist them in becoming literate, life-long musicians and patrons of the arts. Sandy is known for the wide variety of activities she designs to interest and motivate students to continue learning. She is a past president of the Loveland Area ... [Read more]

9 Comments

  1. Mrs. Pugh

    Great article! It really puts into perspective all the work that an instructor deals with “behind the scenes.” It also reflects your willingness to find what works best for your students and helps them achieve their goals. Thanks for taking the time to do this survey and posting the results!

  2. jazza

    Thank you, this helped me so much!?

  3. Sandy Lundberg

    You’re welcome, Jazza!?

  4. Robin Steinweg

    How interesting this survey is, Sandy–parents want their children to have music in their lives. That’s encouraging! A bit tougher to find exciting music for students, since that’s entirely subjective. I think you were brave to do this with all your families. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.

  5. ramsha qureshi

    Dats cool to make everyone happy…….