One thing you hear a lot of as a teacher are excuses. Many, many excuses!
Most of them are along the lines of ‘I forgot’. This does not fly very well because I write down the homework, plus write the lesson date next to the work. In the early stages 15 minutes practice a day is enough. I don’t see this as a huge burden, but you would think I was expecting some herculean effort which would suck every spark of joy out of their life.
Now anyone can have an occasional crises, but excuses week after week are a clear indication of a problem.
An even bigger problem comes when the parent backs up a child’s endless excuses. The bottom line is that the child is not practising. No practice – no progress. There are no exceptions to this rule.
I once had a parent stop her children’s lessons because I said the work gets more difficult…
The weird thing is that parents don’t take the next logical step and think that it would actually be better for me to shut up! If they are paying regularly and don’t notice or care that little Johnny has been playing Jingle Bells for six months and still can’t keep time because he won’t count the beats, I could just keep wasting Johnny’s time and their money.
In defence of students everywhere, it’s not always their fault. I had one little girl – talented child, but not really making progress. I spoke to the mother and found out that she had 23 activities a week! Because the mother wanted her children to try everything…
Then you get the pupil with an uncle or whatever who learned to strum two chords ten years ago and is perpetually telling the child how it should be done. Generally with horrendous technique.
Oddly enough, the one thing that often does get through is that you shouldn’t watch your hands. Absolutely correct, but in the beginning you do have to look to see where you are. The spatial sense that tells you where the strings are without having to look takes a while to develop. One youngster would stare fiercely at the opposite wall, desperately fumbling for the correct fingering. One quick glance would have set him right, but a helpful relative had told him you NEVER look at your hands.
And the student I will never forget. He had a formidable talent and a boundless love for music. It was all I could do to keep him challenged. If I explained something, it was almost as if he was remembering how it worked and he would be taking intuitive leaps and bounds ahead. Then one day he came to tell me that he was stopping his lessons. He was going to university next year and his father had said he couldn’t study music because there was no money in it. I offered to speak to his parents, but he asked me not to. All I could do was tell him that he had a rare talent, and to keep on with his music any way he could. I never heard from him again.
I wrote a young adult book about music and one of the main characters was inspired by this student. I think of him often, and hope he found a way to his music.