Music Teacher's Helper Blog

I read an interesting post today by a teacher who was so frustrated about her student’s that she was in tears. Many of the subsequent posters were sympathetic and offered sympathies equal to “it isn’t the teacher’s fault if the children don’t practice, the parents are always on the cell phone,” blah, blah, blah!

Not wanting to steal John Stossel’s thunder “Give me a break!” this teacher has thirty seven students that are performing in the recital and she is focused on the few that can’t make it or are not doing well.

Students are like clay – they need to be molded and shaped. It is true the parents can be the biggest influence, but to pass the buck solely to the parents, and have a pity party for one teacher is just not reasonable.

My son’s music teacher is far more inspiring than I have ever been and he garners so much respect from the children he teaches that it is actually the children leading the charge to practice. 

As far as parents at lessons talking on cell phones, this probably has little or nothing to do with the student practicing, and at this point, is just an accelerant to the already present frustration.

Teachers should make it their resolve to bring the lessons to life, be inspiring and most of all be inspired. Remember what made music your first love. I doubt that any of us are playing instruments because our parents nagged us so enthusiastically that we just couldn’t wait to play again. My brother and I are still grounded in two sates as a result of refusing to practice. He plays three instruments and composes music and I play both the radio and the piano.

There is a saying in football “Any given Sunday, any team can win!” This is true on every day for every student. On any given day any student can become inspired.

To all of the frustrated teachers who feel that the parents are not pitching in, the students aren’t practicing and they are just plain discouraged, I say “Carpe Diem!”

Make today the day that you handle your student’s challenges with grace and view them as opportunities not obstacles!

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Any expert will tell you that the best source of new clients is current clients. Over the summer is a great time to get new students and to showcase your achievements.

There are several ways to promote your expertise as a teacher and your student’s achievements.

1. Late in summer as school is ready to resume is a fabulous time for a recital

2. Ask parents to sign a waiver allowing you to make a video of your best students in each category from beginner to advanced. You can use this video to show potential students, speak at community groups during the summer or post on your website

3. Offer an incentive plan for referring students. For example, if a student refers a new student and the new student completes a month of paid lessons, the referring student should receive one lesson free or a gift certificate to a music store

4. Offer a family introductory special if one member signs up at full price the second family member will be half price for the first month

The above steps are very proactive ways to reach new students, but the most effective way to increase your teaching base is to ask for referrals.

Many professionals use a note in red ink on invoices or correspondence to thank existing clients for their business and ask for referrals.

Another very handy phrase to use at the end of a lesson is: “Do you know anyone that is interested in taking lessons?”

By asking on a regular -but not annoying- basis, you are certain to spread the word and increase your teaching base. Persistence breaks down resistance, always has always will. So by focusing on increasing your teaching base and using your current resources to expand you will realize your goal.

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Teaching is solving puzzles.  Of course, puzzles are meant to be a bit frustrating; otherwise they wouldn’t be as rewarding when we figure them out.  The question is, how do we handle the frustration part?

Thanks to AnaLise for a thought-provoking post last week about this. Her message was essentially that teachers need to be open-minded about learning how to respond constructively to their students, and to avoid resorting to anger, or even (I might add) more covert expressions of frustration.  I have to say I took issue with a few of her turns of phrase, though.  For example, if we were to buy into the notion that “high emotion equals low intelligence,” we’d have to figure that Beethoven was some kind of idiot! …In context, of course, she was trying to say that hot-headedness towards a student is not a smart way to get constructive results.  (As always, you are invited to join the discussion by adding a comment at the end of this or any post. Thanks for new comments from W.A. on Choosing an Instrument and from Joe on collecting student payments.)

Does there exist a teacher who hasn’t been frustrated at some time?  It’s in the nature of teaching, to push people to do things they haven’t done before.  There are always going to be students who don’t quite get it, or who don’t try very hard, or who despair, or backslide after achieving progress.

It’s important to note that teachers can also mix into their teaching frustrations that do not stem from their students.  [···]

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