Over the summer I took a break from work and enjoyed some well earned time with my family. I also had the time to read a little, and one of the books I read was, 'I Wish I Didn't Quit Music Lessons', by Nathan Holder. The book explains recurring reasons why children quit music lessons, and I thought I would share the most useful idea I took away from my holiday read.
The main reason that Holder highlight's, for children quitting their music lessons, is miss-alignment of expectations. When children take up an instrument expecting one thing, and their teacher is working towards an aim of their own, and perhaps their parents are holding a different set of expectations, this is when things go wrong and children get demotivated and decide to give up on their lessons.
I teach 36 individual lessons a week, but never have I thought to directly ask the question, what do you want out of your piano lessons? I have a very low rate of turn over but whenever students do drop out, I am always keen to understand why, and If there is anything I could have done differently. In lessons, we always have an open dialogue throughout the year, about what we are learning, and what we want to do next, but often I assume I know where we are going and what the student 'needs' to do next.
Each student has a homework book and at the start of each term we discuss where they are headed and come up with 2 targets to focus on. For example, reading music more fluently, practicing more regularly, moving on to a higher level book etc.
This year, I added a new question, to address the issue of expectations from the get go. 'What are your expectations and ambitions? What would you like to be able to do at the end of this year that you can't do now?' And the students had such interesting thoughts that really helped me to reshape my expectations for their year of progress.
One child said, without hesitation, that he wanted to learn to play songs by the Beatles. One child considered the question for a minute, and then thoughtfully answered that she would like to be able to play like her Grandpa. Wether the student had an answer at the tip of their tongue, or if they had to think long and hard, asking the question opened up the conversation. It made it their piano lesson, their learning process, and their ambitions.
Teaching so many individual lessons is never dull and I am always working to make sure I meet the needs of every student. Having been teaching music for 10 years, and teaching privately for 5 years, I can't believe I have never asked this question before, so thank you Nathan Holder, you have helped me up my game. Looking forward to a year full of dreaming big!