Posted by: playsteinway


How does everyone motivate the lazy?
I have a wonderful young lady taking lessons who says she wants to learn to play piano. I belive she does.. but she is completely lazy at anything that requires putting effort (even minimal ) into anything. I have tried letting her pick out some of the supplemental material we use to help motivate her but to no result. Most weeks she does'nt even practice (or just barely). This past week she did'nt even bring her books to lessons! I did her sisters lesson and then played review theory games with them in place of the older sisters lesson. Her younger sister LOVES piano and I barely need to prompt her on learning new things she is always practicied up and even looks ahead so she is ULTRA ready at every lesson.
If music is'nt the problem and she wants to learn to play piano what should I use or do? Im stumped. This student in question loves the prize bucket for the middle school group, but she has'nt gotten anything in awhile because she does'nt put the effort into anything to learn. It usually takes a month to get past a single lessons worth of music. Any ideas? (she is 12 and in 7th grade. Im using older beginner level materials with her so she does'nt feel dumbed down by "kiddie" music)
Posted by: jaydub2

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/02/04 10:50 PM

A few times throughout the years I've discovered that lack of motivation was the result of poor note reading ability. Is your student able to identify flashcard notes quickly?

I'm embarrassed \:o to admit this but it took me several months to figure this out early on in my career. But now it's something I'm more on the "look" for...and sometimes it is the cause for lack of motivation because everything always seems to hard. Even if the student won't admit to that.
just a suggestion
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 06:22 AM

I agree on the note reading thang. There's a good article on it over at practicespot in the Why students Don't Practice section and it's also covered in The Practice Revolution. I love his "typing for dyslexics" analogy. \:D

Checking with flashcards, though, won't necessarily get you to the root of the problem because that's only one component of reading. Plus some kids automatically shut down when they feel "tested."

Other than that, one cannot motivate the unmotivated...
Posted by: Lyndall

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 06:42 AM

I agree with Lisa's last comment... Speaking of unmotivated, I just let 2 sisters go for this very reason. I tried to be upbeat every lesson & 'inspire' them with a variety of songs to learn, but after 6 mths realized that by this time the motivation should come from within.

So, a word to Mum, with a little resistance at first: "I was made to play for 6 yrs & hated every minute & I really want my kids to go through the same" until she realized how silly this sounded & asked me if the girls should continue. My honest answer: no.

The beginner wasn't 'getting it' & certainly wasn't loving it even though she said she liked her songs & had her Primer favorites (which she never could play quite right). The older one who'd had a previous teacher for a year or two was quite self-motivated to practice but really wasn't into music I guess.

It's a shame, but I'm relieved because I just picked up 2 brothers who have no previous bad habits & seem to really love music. Can't wait to start them next week.

My advice to anyone struggling with motivation - give it a chance, read this board every day, try different methods, but in the end it might be that piano is not their 'thing'.
Posted by: Sally Ritchie

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 08:18 AM

I think we have all had this problem from time to time. I obviously am a believer in making it fun but I don't use games to review when a student has not done their job which is to prepare the music. I use games as a reward at the end of a lesson that has been well prepared.

I have found some success with "making a deal" with the students. Usually a student who doesn't want to practice also would prefer to quit taking lessons and at some point most students hit a time when they don't want the pressure of having to keep working. The fact then that they cannot play their music well, only serves to amplify that attitude.

I make a deal that if they practice very hard until a certain date (usually a performace like recital or competition) which is a few months away, I will then discuss allowing them to quit with the parents and I will support the decision to quit. By that time, they are used to working again and performing their music with ease which makes it more enjoyable, so are not as eager to quit. This works especially well with older students. It gives them more control in the decision as well and makes them accountable. If they don't work, we practice at the lesson and they learn that practicing with me gets the music learned but the leason is much more work than play.

While this doesn't work all the time, it has saved many students from wasting my time and their parent's money. Many times it has brought a student back to a more productive week of practice.

Good luck!
Posted by: pianoc

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 08:29 AM

I just had a student - boy in 4th grade, beginning 2B books. He has generally been a good practicer - piano has come fairly easy to him - but he has always made it clear to me that although he doesn't mind piano lessons, he is really doing it because his mom makes him.

Starting school this year, we've had 3 lessons in a row - little practice and no recording on practice chart. They get a sticker for 5 days of recorded practice. I would ask him why he didn't record his practice. Shrug of the shoulders, "I don't know, can't hardly call what I did practice." I really thought it was the competition of a lot of daylight after school and neighborhood friends. I kind of did an off-handed comment like his and said - "well maybe next week you'll have to owe me a sticker."

The next week, he had 5 days of practice. I'd forgotten my comment - so when I asked what made this week different, he said with a shrug "I didn't have any stickers to give to you so I figured I'd better just practice and mark it down."

I about rolled on the floor - in my mind, of course.

You just never know.
Posted by: playsteinway

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 12:26 PM

That is the thing with this student. She CAN read the music pretty well and does flashcards with about 90-95% accuracy she's just (pardon the expression) butt lazy!
She's in a very beginning level of music but I have found her things like classical pieces in five finger and things that are popular in that same form (something different for her to learn by rather than "row your boat" since she is 12). I've also been using the Acc. PA book 1 for some things as well with her, mainly for the music and her age.
It was interesting that several of you made the comment about "lack of motivation and effort being a sign that they want to quit and don't know how to say so". I'll give her through the month and try some different tactics with her and if it does'nt improve I'll talk to the mom about what's going on at home when lessons come up.
Posted by: Christine

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 02:00 PM

I think that you have to remember that this is a very difficult age. Kids at this age are really trying to exercise more independence, and have tremendous peer pressure. What type of music does the student like to play? Maybe get her more involved in helping you choose the music. (You select a number of pieces, and she choose from that. Then she will feel like she is having more say so.) I don't know if this helps.
Posted by: Dolce

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 07:17 PM

When you have one of these students, doesn't time drag by kind of like you're having a never-ending root canal?

I think some of these kids want the music just to sort of rush out of their fingers when they place them on the keys - like the boy in "Sparky's Magic Piano". They just don't want to wake up and put the brain into gear.

I personally don't think there is any way to motivate the unmotivated or lazy. So I don't teach them anymore.
Posted by: playsteinway

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 08:55 PM

I have tried letting her pick out her music-it has'nt helped at all. Im not sure its the age to blame here though. I have other kids her age and some a couple years older and they just LOVE doing this and play beautifully.
Posted by: Martin

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/03/04 10:48 PM

I have dealt with this too and found out from a few of the students that the daydreaming is kicking in for the 1st boyfriend....crazy as it sounds but true.
One student admitted to me that with a (sigh) that --- always seemed to call her at the time she would be practicing...she just couldn't (alas!) miss his phone call (cough cough)
If you talk to the parents about this then you alienate the student because sometimes this information is relayed and the parents have no clue what is going on!
I have basically discussed with the student that in order for me not to discuss this with the parent they are going to have to wise up and discipline themselves to either find a different practice time or have the beau call a different time!
Whichever it has to be -the situation has to change and that is that...
Posted by: Christine

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/04/04 03:18 PM

I agree that not everyone at this age goes through this stage, but again, this is the time these students are going through many changes. However, all students, of course, handle the changes differently. Playsteinway, you said in your first post that this student wants to play the piano. Then later you said that her being able to pick the music has not helped. I'd be very interested to know why she wants to play the piano. I am only asking this because I think as teachers, we all go through this, and I am very curious what her response is. I once had a student who wanted to play duets with her friend. I promptly gave them both more duets to work on. That got her to practice. Keep us updated.
Posted by: playsteinway

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/04/04 10:25 PM

Something I did'nt mention is that the mother of this student said that she is typically unmotivated to work on anything that requires any effort or otherwise.
I have been trying to find pieces she can handle that are interesting for her and letting her pick and choose which one to work on each time but like I said this has made no difference. I cringe at the thought of doing a level jury with this student (she won't pass it because the effort is'nt there) and doing recital with her in spring (again, no effort) because of the potential lack of practice and being the "bad" performance in the group.
I see her again on Wednesday and will try out some new structure and things then. It may mean me telling her she is on probation and getting mom clued in on what is happening.
Posted by: xstitch4me

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/07/04 11:02 AM

Hmmmm I've dealt with this too. If the student has a problem with note reading, etc. you generally already know that. Unfortunately there are a lot of students who only take because they're "forced" to. I dislike these kinds of students the most. In the past, I've called the parent and explained it's really a waste for their money and my worked for awhile but the student went right back to not practicing. I'd rather fill that slot with someone who really wants it. Try for awhile....then let them go. Not worth it. I agree with "you can't motivate the unmotivated" for the most part.
Posted by: ChristyA

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/07/04 11:59 AM

This discussion reminds me so much of a former student of my dh's, years ago when he was teaching. She was a teenager who was being forced to take lessons. She never practiced and had a bad attitude, but was very intelligent. Finally he let her go--and she was thrilled, acting like she had won the battle. I've always wondered how she turned out--if she ever grew up.
Posted by: playsteinway

Re: LAZY and UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS - 09/08/04 03:47 PM

Well, I got through to my lazy girl about practice.
I talked about the situation with mom who got on board with the idea of having her do it IMMEDIATELY when she gets home from school for starters. I also let the kids know on my 200 Well (200 songs by the end of the year learned well and they get a party) incentive that if they don't put their part of the effort in they will not get an invitation to the party at the end of the year for the incentive. (I keep a list of names and the pieces they have done for this in a separate notebook as done so I can keep track). I explained to them it isn't fair to those putting the effort in to have those who don't ride in on their coat tails.
They totally got it and it totally rejuvinated alot of effort all around- even in kids who did'nt need the effort boost!!