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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.

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#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!)

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#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.

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#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 ]

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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

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#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.

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#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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#27979 - 08/12/04 06:51 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
both ideas I had'nt thought of but both worth considering further.
thanks.Im open to any input on this one I can get. I have decided to drop her but just am not sure how without shoving her over the edge with attitude and anger since she seems to be so tetchy about everything anyway.

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#27980 - 08/12/04 08:59 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1573
Loc: Chicago
Dilemma? No. Quite simple. Say good-bye with minimum explanation. "Effective [date] I will no longer be able to provide piano lessons due to scheduling conflicts. Enclosed please find a review of your musical progress while studying in my studio. I wish you best of luck in your future musical endeavors."

Period. No explanations necessary. Scheduling conflicts can mean anything and no one has a right to demand more detail. The more explanations offered, the more fuel for arguments. Simple. Concise. To the point. Period. You could add a few softer words, but that's it.

I originally thought to mention my "contract" with students - but in this case it's hopeless. FYI, each of my students signs a 1 pg. contract that says things such as "no swearing", "no whining", "no banging on piano", etc.

While thinking of policies/contracts, I had a student pull two keytops off this week - idly fidgeting - not my piano thank goodness. But, it reminded me that I don't have a damages clause in my policy. How did I overlook that? Insurance would cover "vomiting" issues - LOL - But, minor damages? Gotta be paid for by parents. Thankfully, I'm just getting ready to re-issue my policy for the annual re-signing.

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#27981 - 08/12/04 10:24 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
arsnova02 Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/29/01
Posts: 908
Loc: St. Louis, MO
 Quote:
Originally posted by playsteinway:
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


Is it un-PC to cite age differences as a problem?

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#27982 - 08/12/04 10:27 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
I think this is what I am going to do as your right, I don't want to add fuel to a fire that is all ready getting out of control with the attitude and anger. Since my husband goes to his Detroit office on Tues, Wend. Thurs. quite early in the morning and its 90 minutes away from our house I am not sure if I should mail this or deliver it to her at the door since Im not sure how she is going to react and I don't want any unpleasant scenes with students leaving as she is coming in the door.

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#27983 - 08/12/04 11:22 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
As I replied to some of this earlier Im not worried about PC correctness. Its just out of control anymore with PC everything we say.
If anyone can be accused of not being PC in this situation its the student with her less than appropriate language (GD you idiot and others). That is offensive to me because of my beliefs and standpoint.
This isn't about who is PC or not anyway, its about someone being irrational and behaving in a way that is not emotionally or mentally stable in appearance and my saftey as the teacher (as well as student safety with those before and after her lesson).

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#27984 - 08/12/04 11:26 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Emilymae Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/19/04
Posts: 191
You are receiving great advice. I like Lilla's, there's no explanation really needed. Just like students can terminate lessons, so can teachers. If your husband cannot be home please schedule a time when someone else can be there. Even a neighbor. It will hopefully stop her from making a scene. Once she gets home she'll hopefully cool off.

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#27985 - 08/12/04 12:45 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
I like that idea - surely there is someone that would just love to have a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever.

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#27986 - 08/12/04 01:10 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
Hello..
Well, I did it. I dropped her. The old bouce-a-roo. Hit the road Jack (or in this case Jane). Its not my way so here is your highway. Make like a banana and split.
(can you tell Im completely relieved now :0)

I put all her records into a folder and attached a letter that I rewrote into four sentences or so reading this way:

Dear ______,
I feel that at this time I will no longer be able to continue lessons with you due to the conflicts at lessons around the current schedule. I simply feel that at this time you should explore your options elsewhere. Enclosed you will find a review of your musical progression with your study thus far. I wish you luck in your musical endeavors.
____________

I made it effective immediately.

I figure I will know the reaction if she emails or calls my house ranting and raving but that is what I have a hubby for - to feild irate phone calls like Im sure this may be.

I will keep everyone posted about anything that happens. The post office said it would get there tomorrow. Brace ourselves shall we.. arrrrgh. I feel relieved though and no more stress over the saftey and well being of myself and my students.

Thanks for the help.... and like I said, I will let you know what the fall out of this is (if any).

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#27987 - 08/13/04 02:45 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Christine/Pelirroja Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/23/03
Posts: 245
Loc: CA, USA
You did the right thing! Yay for you. Now, my curiosity is getting the best of me. What in the world is the problem with being scheduled after someone? Did she give you a reason (not that that would excuse any behavior)? I'm just sitting here totally baffled.

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#27988 - 08/13/04 03:08 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
oooh, both Lilla's idea and the letter you ended up with are brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?!? Congratulations on having the guts to end this before it really got ugly.

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#27989 - 08/13/04 05:23 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
Well here's the follow up gang.
Im baffled too by this whole thing. About being scheduled after someone she said (and in front of my new students) "Im not coming after them now am I?" It was'nt until she left she made a big fuss about a back to back schedule. The rudeness was intolerable and the new family even emailed me later asking if she was mentally stable or not. I told them I did'nt think so and that she was'nt going to be a problem since I terminated her.

She emails today and I quote from her email "unless Im mistaken with your notice my lessons are over and there won't be any more" I emailed back and told her "no mistake" and then blocked her from my email.

I figured there would be a bigger fuss over it, but nothing much ( I hope). The way I see it is one unstable and anger prone student vs. one or two that are great to work with the anger prone student is outta there...

Unfortunately I don't think she realizes what a rude and angry person she really is and how unstable she presents herself to others.

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#27990 - 08/16/04 07:23 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
xstitch4me Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
Please don't think I'm rude....but I'm new here and was just reading all this hoopla about the adult piano student. I'm baffled this took so long to end. It would only take one lesson for me to say - hit the road. My time is too valuable to waste on someone like this. Not only that, but it's a slot that can be used for someone positive with whom you can have a very positive experience with. Some people are just rude - no matter the situation and it's not our job to figure them out. If you baby sat...and had a kid who on the very first day was biting other kids, hitting them, breaking things in your house, etc.....how long would you let it go on? I have no tolerance for people like that. Good riddance to them!

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#27991 - 08/16/04 03:56 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
You also need to give people benefit of the doubt. A biting child is not the same as a rude adult. While the first time may have been a bad day, the other instances did not go unmentioned to the student about her language and rudeness. I work on the three strikes and your outta here system- whether an adult or kid- and therefore, bounced her at strike three.

Had she pulled her tantrum like she did in front of the new students earlier on she would have been gone then regardless because I find that intolerable and unacceptable from an adult.

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#27992 - 08/17/04 08:55 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
More updates.. let the backlash begin...
Got another email from the student in question wanting more details on why she was removed from my studio.

I put it to her simply without specifics- she comes to lessons angry all the time and has a bad attitude about doing anything since she does'nt seem to enjoy this anymore.

I gave her some sources to find new teachers through in her area should she choose to continue. Whether she will or not is up to her but I don't think any teacher will put up with the attitude for very long though.

As far as Im concerned I have fulfilled my obligations and done my final duty as her teacher and therefore blocked her addresses from my email servers and site. If she calls my house she can deal with my voice mail because I have washed my hands of her. Its not worth the confrontation she is trying to push.

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#27993 - 08/17/04 09:41 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
Oh, I feel for you. You have done the right thing and made it clear why you have stopped lessons with her. I hope she will accept it, move on and not harrass you. Keep us updated.

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#27994 - 08/17/04 03:26 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
Carole,
If only it were that easy. I got this letter in the mail today about lessons being cancelled with her all about why and when her last lesson really is.
I emailed her AGAIN sending a copy of what I all ready sent earlier. (see my previous post).
You would think she would get this all ready and quit sending me this dumb stuff.. I mean really, what am I going to do with it except throw it out? She put about 1.50 worth of stamps on it for a 1 page letter. Go figure.
Oh well, hopefully that is the last I hear from her. Glad I don't have to put up with "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your piano down" anymore at lessons! :0)
Kelly , Michigan (Playsteinway)

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#27995 - 08/17/04 06:17 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
unreal Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 945
Loc: CA
I think you need to stop interacting with her at all. Do not speak with her any more, do not mail her anything else, do not email her. Keep everything you have so far, and anything else you receive, drop it unopened into a file for future use in case you need to call the police and go after her for harassment or file a restraining order, or in case she sues you for some ridiculous thing. You never know if someone will be dangerous or not--as you said, she may be mentally unstable.

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#27996 - 08/30/04 06:22 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
playsteinway Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 232
Loc: Mason, Michigan
I think after the past week I am going to consider not taking adults anymore. I had a lady call me the other day that made me want to slam my head into my piano lid!
She calls, all ready having had two years of lessons with another teacher in S. Korea. (no problems so far) and tells me she wants an hour long lesson TWICE A WEEK. (ok, so I do technique and piece elements one lesson and theory and sight reading the next so we have plenty of time). Then she informs me that I am going to come to her because she has a piano at her house. She lives 10 minutes from me and I told her flat out I don't travel to students homes. She kept insisting she has a piano at her house. I finally gave up in frustration and asked her what she thought I taught on here and hung up. ARRRRGHHH!
The thing that drives me nuts is she is serious about wanting someone to do this... NO ONE in my area travels to their students. It is an understood here in the great chilly north that you make the hike yourself.
I don't really want a response, just a chance to vent a little at the absurdity.

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#27997 - 08/30/04 08:07 AM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
You did the right thing.

I personally don't use the "3 strikes" thing on anybody, child or adult. It only takes one bad encounter for me to dismiss a student, because I simply don't feel that I'm obligated to deal with such abusive behavior. It's my studio, in my home, & I'm the teacher. I treat my students & their parents with utmost tact & respect, & I expect them to treat me the same way.

I no longer teach adults, though, because they rarely or never practice & the women refuse to cut their fingernails. Also, I don't feel comfortable teaching men, especially if my husband's not home, so it's best to just stick to teaching children & tell everyone that I don't teach adults.

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#27998 - 08/30/04 02:36 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Deborah T. Freeman Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 32
Loc: South Carolina
My opinion is not to categorize a particular group based on gender or age, just because we have a couple of bad experiences.

Would we stop teaching boys because one didn't practice enough?
Would we stop teaching teenage girls because one wouldn't cut her fingernails.

I think each student deserves a chance to prove him/her self without preconceived ideas.

[ 08-30-2004: Message edited by: Deborah T. Freeman ]

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#27999 - 08/30/04 04:08 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
I chose not to teach adults. I don't think it's wrong to teach only the ages that you feel most comfortable with. I personally work best with children, and that's my specialty.

I know teachers who prefer to teach adults but not children. To each his/her own. I say let each teacher decide for himself/herself which ages he/she prefers to work with.

Also, I wish to point out that when I lived in TX, I received a few calls from men who supposedly wanted to take piano lessons, but the way they talked made me feel very uncomfortable. Since I was home alone most of the time, I didn't even want to let them know where I lived, much less let them in my house! I followed my gut instinct, because my gut instinct is usually not wrong.

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#28000 - 08/30/04 10:30 PM Re: Adult Student Dilemna- HELP!
Susan Offline
Star Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
I, also, have a policy not to teach adult males. It's a safety thing.
I have had very good experiences with female adults and it has been very rewarding. The secret is to have the same standards as you do for children.

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