No products in the cart.
A couple of months ago, Tim Topham posted an open letter to parents outlining the many joys and benefits of learning piano and why they should bother with their time, budget, and organisational skills. It is an inspiration to read, and I highly recommend sending it to all your piano parents.
But this got me thinking… what happens once the honeymoon period is over? How do we manage the extreme frustration of the same excuses week after week, from overscheduled children and all-too-competitive parents? And what do we do when pushy parents insist on an exam being undertaken when they don’t leave enough time in a child’s day for the practice to be done?
My friend and co-author of the sight reading books Michelle Madder recently had to manage such a situation. The mum promised week after week that practice would get done, but as the exam drew closer the family just seemed to get busier. The mum was saying things like ‘We just need to get through this exam – if they fail they can still sit the next grade can’t they?’ (Seriously???)
Here is the email Michelle wrote to her, which you are free to use/tweak for your pushy parent, if you are finding this necessary. I think it is a great balance of being forthright but at the same time maintaining a good relationship:
I’d prefer to chat over the phone but I know you’re working today and then I’m teaching all afternoon…so a quick email and then we can chat!
I really feel that it’s a bad idea for either of the girls to sit the exam on June __ and I’d like to notify the exam board that they will be officially withdrawn.
As you know, I agreed to entering them in for this session only given that there were promises of much more time to put into practice and preparation. If you read back through the notebooks that I write in you can see that it has been a constant battle of me teaching and reteaching the same things with very little progress. Although both girls are musical, exam preparation only comes with a certain number of hours, which they have just not done.
I certainly understand how hectic life is and how thinly everyone is spread. I know you’ve absolutely tried your best and I don’t want you to feel bad. These exams take LOTS of consistent work and are tricky to factor in to busy lives.
The reality is that the work has not been done. The girls are not even close to ready and are very likely to fail the exam. This is not something I see as a useful experience in any way, shape or form. I am not comfortable with them doing it at all. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
If we had given more notice, the exam board would have refunded 50% of the exam fee. It is too late for that now, however, I am offering to refund you 50% of the exam fee as I feel so strongly that this should not happen.
Hope to get to speak to you soon.
Michelle and I had discussed the offer of the 50% refund at length before she made that offer. Although she was under no obligation to do such a thing, in the end this is what really drove home the point to the mother, who gave in with a response of ‘with great reluctance I will follow your advice’ (and, to her great credit, declined the offer of the 50%).
As teachers, we must ‘stand up’ to parents who insist on exams being undertaken despite a lack of practice. Scraping through grade after grade is not the stuff of great music education! We are professionals in our field and we are the ones who know what it takes to prepare for an exam; I believe it is our responsibility to communicate this clearly to parents and to only support exam entries when an appropriate amount of work is being done at home.
A strategy I have taken to lately is to make the due date of the exam entry the deadline for being able to play certain elements of the exam e.g. all required technical work at a slow speed, at least 4 of the 6 pieces, that sort of thing. If that deadline is not met, there is little hope for a positive exam experience three months down the track!
What are your thoughts? Please leave comments below.