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#27969 - 08/11/04 05:23 PM Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
I will apologize in advance for the length of this, but it needs explaining and I need some help. This is a dilemna.
Since January I have been teaching one of my adult students in the mid morning on piano. Her first lesson my husband was working out of the home that day for his job and getting ready to go out on a sales call when she arrived. She was very rude to him and actually said "what are you here for?". My husband was shocked at first and then put out by the remark. He introduced himself and then left. Several weeks passed and her attitude started to get very negative and very self hateful over the littlest of mistakes (like one note in the song or something of that effect) and she would start saying outloud during the lesson things like G.D.! (I won't spell it out because its offensive but you get the idea). The first time or two I did'nt really say or do to much just figuring she was having a bad day and chose to overlook it. Recently within the last couple months however, this has resurfaced to the point she has made comments like "your piano is better than mine. why?" or offensive comments like before or saying things like "this idiot" over little things. When she gets frustrated I have taken to telling her to not beat herself up so much, take a deep breath and then isolate the problem. We have gone over technique again and the measure when she does this hands alone and then backing up a measure or two and playing again from there.
Well, today was the icing on the cake. Today I had a new family start lessons with their two children ages 8 and 10. They are homeschooled adn wanted the hour before her lesson. No problem, I went ahead and booked them and got them started. The kids had just finished picking out their prize after lessons for doing a good job and my adult student comes in, looks at the parents of these two boys, scowls (sounded more like growling), slams her stuff down on my kitchen table and says "If your going to be here at this time everyweek She (pointing at me) is going to move my time slot because I don't want to be back to back with anyone".
As these people were walking to the door I apologized for the comment and told them this is not a problem with their time slot and I would see them next week, they agreed and left. I told the adult student that under no circumstances was she ever to come into my home and slam something down much less say what she did to any student- child or otherwise and that I would not move her time slot for something as ridiculous as that.
Well we got the lesson started and we have been working on chords (something kind of new within the last month). She announces upon sitting down about my piano again and that she would not learn to play chords and that she refused to play any of the stuff she practiced all week because she hated the music. (the week before she said she really liked it) so I told her, well, lets play through what you practiced and then we can look at some new stuff. I gave her some technique exercises and for her two pieces I picked one and she picked one. She huffed and puffed through the entire thing. If I were a little piggy in a straw house I would have been leveled for all she was doing! I have never seen an adult act like such a child before at a lesson!
After we were done with the lesson I wrote down all the assignments and practice tips I gave her so she would have them to use during the week ahead. I asked if she had any questions and she again insisted on moving her time because of the two little boys before her. (they are 8 and 10 and not only adorable but perfect little gentlemen- not to mention they go to my church). I asked her if she had some kind of bad situation between her and this family and she said "no I just don't want to be back to back with anyone". I explained to her that I was not extending my hours earlier or later to accomodate this and that I would not ask someone to move their time either. I explained further that eventually the way I am filling up the schedule everyone will be back to back with someone eventually and it was'nt that big of a deal. More huffing.
After this I had enough of the attitude- and not just today either. I told her that I did'nt appreciate the attitude towards other students- especially to children- and that if she was going to continue to throw tantrums at lessons then she needed to decide if she wanted to continue with me as a teacher and to let me know by the end of the month.
Part of me says I did the right thing but the other part of me feels sorry for her that she has to act this way as an adult. I have taught four year olds who control their behaviour better. I was so shocked and appalled! Does anyone have any ideas how I can best handle this situation and the negative attitude and comments at lessons better should she continue? I have NEVER encountered a situation like this before and am at a loss as to where to go from here.

Like I said, Im sorry this is so long, but I felt I needed to explain the best I could what has been going on. All of my other adult students have been wonderful and enthusiastic (much like the kids enthusiasm) in learning and a joy to teach.

#27970 - 08/11/04 06:40 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Theme Offline
New Member

Registered: 08/11/04
Posts: 2
What an awful sitution! I have dismissed students for less! Don't put up with it. I agree entirely with your course of action. You were very reasonable and completely justified to let her make this decision.

If she decides to stick with you, just make sure you let her know that at the very first sign of any of this unacceptable behaviour you will dismiss her from your studio.

If your schedule is filling up, you really don't need to be putting up with such disrespect. If you continue out of sympathy for her, then it will eventually take a toll on you, which will reflect your dealings with your other students and probably your family too.

I kind of hope for your sake that she decides to go to another teacher (although then we'll all feel sorry for that teacher too!)

#27971 - 08/11/04 08:21 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Ditch her. You'll both feel better, although it sounds like an estrogen patch might help her more in that category. ;\)

And I wouldn't give long reasons why you're doing so or try to defend your decision to her. Just tell her you've decided you can no longer be an effective teacher to her and leave it at that.

#27972 - 08/11/04 08:39 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Shirley Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/02/02
Posts: 309
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Playsteinway ~ I ran into similar situations when I was teaching young adults (not piano), and like you I was at first flabbergasted. You were more than patient, and yet courageous and right to speak with the adult student as you did.

You are obviously a caring person and teacher, and there is one thing that I would admonish you: you are a piano teacher foremost, and not a psychological counsellor.

It would be all wrong if you were to lose such nifty students as your two new children because their mother didn't want to subject them to such a situation. I'm afraid, regretfully, I might react in that way.

The very, very best of luck to you! Shirley

[ 08-12-2004: Message edited by: Shirley ]

#27973 - 08/11/04 08:40 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
As much as I hate dropping students in this case it is going to be for the best. Since Im in the Lansing area of Michigan I apologize in advance to anyone who gets this student!! Playing wise she does fine for the short time she has been in lessons, but honestly.
I talked to mom about it tonight since my mother plays piano and in past years when I started teaching would sub for me when I was ill for the students I taught (i always gave them the option of a make up though if they did'nt want to have a sub teacher for that week). She told me to dump her cautiously because she sounds unstable mentally. She told me that it may be best to dump her in letter or by phone rather than in person in this case because if she is this irrational on a good day she may go over the edge in person to the point of rage. I've never felt threatened for my safety with her just annoyed and uncomfortable with the attitude.

#27974 - 08/11/04 08:48 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
The first thing that came to my mind when I read this was maybe she is manic depressive. I don't know alot about this disorder but do know moods are all over the spectrum. I wonder if she is on medication? If not, she needs to be! I agree with others. It is time to let her go. You don't need this trouble and the thing is you don't know what she might do next.

#27975 - 08/11/04 09:01 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
I think this may go deeper than manic depression...maybe an early onset of alzheimers?
In any case I have penned out a letter and plan to copy her records, seal them in an envelope and mail them within the coming week. I just hope she does'nt go off the deep end to the point she goes rage crazy. All I know is if she shows up on my property again after bouncing her Im not letting her in my house.

#27976 - 08/11/04 09:28 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
I have composed a letter in which her records and final evaluation will be enclosed. I have decided to mail these since an in person communication with this sort of student may push her over the edge to the point of harm to me.
The letter I have composed reads as follows:

Dear ********,
While I have enjoyed teaching piano and working with you these past months I feel I am no longer an effectice teacher for you due to both age and personality differences. As I can no longer effectively teach you within a positive setting I feel at this point another instructor or facility may be better able to service your needs.
Enclosed is a copy of your student records for your next instructor. I wish you wellin your endeavors musically.
Best of Luck,
Kelly Penn

#27977 - 08/12/04 04:42 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
You won't be doing any future teachers any favors by saying that you are not an effective teacher anymore.

I really think you could say that her language, attitude towards others, and rude behaviour is making it impossible to continue to teach her.

If you want to sugar coat it a little and shift some of the blame back on yourself, you could say that perhaps there are other teachers who aren't offended with swearing and are able to schedule students in such a way that nobody has to run into eachother. I wish you luck with your next teacher.

I wouldn't mind if I lost a student that felt like I was an old fashioned ninny because I didn't like their choice of expression - but I would mind if that same student thought I dismissed them because I wasn't a very good teacher for them.

Maybe that's just me.

#27978 - 08/12/04 04:53 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Dolce Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 934
Loc: USA
In my opinion, if you are worried about her actually physically attacking you, instead of a letter, you could ask your husband to be at home the next time she comes for her lesson. When she arrives, you and your husband could answer the door and you could tell her right then and there that you can not give her any more lessons because of her behavior problems. You could then hand her a check to refund her any lessons owed her (giving back money is (IMO) really final) and wish her well in her musical endeavors.
I really think you should not be alone when you do this.

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