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#65317 - 09/10/14 12:43 PM Student Retainment
ewoodward Offline
New Member

Registered: 10/25/13
Posts: 13
Loc: Nova Scotia
Good Afternoon,

I am a relatively new teacher (1 year of experience) and am experiencing difficulty with student retainment and unsure where to turn or what to do about this issue. It's really hard not to take it personally and I am left questioning whether this is a trend in parenting, a deficiency in teaching ability, student personalities or some combination there of.

The majority of excuses I hear are "taking a break" and/or busy with school/sports/extra-curriculars. In many of these students I have noticed a trend of lacking practice habits/time.

I have no formal pedagogical training but have however been reading consistently and recently met with a more experienced teacher all of which indicate that I am on the right track (I think...).

Looking for any advice/encouragement or comments that might be helpful.

So thankful to have a community such as this.

Thanks in advance.

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#65318 - 09/10/14 07:01 PM Re: Student Retainment [Re: ewoodward]
EllaCat Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/03/08
Posts: 365
Loc: Atlantic Canada
It's really hard to say what might be going on. What I can say, is in my experience, students who don't practise usually quit. It's a bit hard to feel good about piano if you make super slow or non-existent progress. I find it tends to happen around the 2B level, and I can pretty much always see it coming. It's usually accompanied by parents who say "I don't want to hassle her to practise, she has to WANT to do it on her own."

Don't know if that helps at all!

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#65320 - 09/11/14 12:26 AM Re: Student Retainment [Re: EllaCat]
ransomed Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/05/11
Posts: 223
Loc: New York, USA
It's so frustrating when this happens. Sorry to hear it's not going well.

I know nothing about lessons in your studio, or how you teach. Maybe you are a fabulous teacher!

That said, may I suggest considering what motivates kids? In one of Randall Faber's workshops he said that for young kids FUN is the main motivator (games, imaginative play, activities off the bench). For older kids LITERATURE and SUCCESS are the main motivators. If we as teachers can make lessons more fun, getting students to play music they enjoy and helping them see how they are progressing (succeeding as a pianist) maybe we will all retain more students.

I wish you the best smile

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#65322 - 09/11/14 04:10 PM Re: Student Retainment [Re: ransomed]
ewoodward Offline
New Member

Registered: 10/25/13
Posts: 13
Loc: Nova Scotia
Thanks for your replies, EllaCat and ransomed! I have definitely taken into consideration these motivating factors and will continue to do so after these reaffirming comments.

I had one student one wanted to "take a break" (quit - but parents wanted him to reassess around Christmas) but will continue to take lessons until the end of September as per my studio policies. He came for his first lessons since notifying me of wanting to "take a break" and since returning from vacation. His lesson went SO well and we both really enjoyed it, I think. He was talking about writing a spooky song in October and was asking to play the tic tac toe practice game with his Mom when they got home. I guess it's a waiting game on this particular case as his parents are wanting him to continue if he has a change of heart.

As for the other 2 families - they are wanting to "pause" lessons so as to not over-schedule their children (enrolled in sports, school band/choir, etc). I totally respect this, however worry that this might not be good for 1) actually returning or 2) regression (and therefor lack of perceived success) after such an extended break. These students are really talented and it's also hard because I genuinely enjoy teaching all of these kids and love having the families as part of my studio.

If you have any tips for these "pausing" for extra-curriculars families, please do share!

Thanks again for your input! =)

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#65323 - 09/11/14 04:22 PM Re: Student Retainment [Re: ewoodward]
SharonAdelle Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 05/26/06
Posts: 234
Loc: Central Valley, CA
When I have parents that want to take of just a month or so, I let them know that they will still need to pay tuition to hold their spot. I otherwise would fill that time slot.
When I have a student that I know is also in the middle of a sports season, I keep that in mind and assign less to work on during the week. I may focus on composing, technique or whatever, depending on the student. It also depends on the age of the student. An older student is learning time management...if they have another practice 2 or 3 nights a week, then they realize they must practice on the nights they don't have practice, or whatever. It's a life skill to learn this. I just try to be reasonable as to what I expect when I know they are busy. I've even had kids tell me when they have a big school project they are working on that will dominate their time at home---then I know for the next 1 or 2 weeks, that their might be less practicing. I always tell kids too, on those days of being too busy to practice, they can ALWAYS find 1 or 2 minutes to do a sightreading piece.....it really only takes 1 minute. No excuses.

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#65324 - 09/12/14 09:35 PM Re: Student Retainment [Re: SharonAdelle]
shannonspiano Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 694
Loc: WI
I had 2 come back after break saying they really don't want to continue. One came back after a break before and after talking to her a bit this past week I realized that she feels over scheduled with a Halloween project that her mom wants her to do, and because of the project she will have to miss a piano lesson. We talked about how even 5 minutes before school starts of playing the piano is better than nothing- and I let each of my returning students this week pick out a FUN SONG of their choice to learn for our Nov group lesson. There has been some excitement about that. Her mom emailed me to say she was thankful that we've found something to hold her excitement for the time being. Her mom wants her to play an orchestra instrument next year and doesn't want her to forget the notereading we've already worked on. The girl has a good ear and though she is in 2B she's trying to learn Moonlight Sonata in the correct key on her own.
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#65337 - 09/25/14 11:27 AM Re: Student Retainment [Re: shannonspiano]
CJKitty Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 06/02/11
Posts: 84
Hi!

Wish I had an answer for you. I've struggled with retaining students for many years. Too many activities. I have 2 students right now that have cut back their lesson time to every other week because of sports. I have some who play a sport in every season.
One of my best students has taken on another activity this school year and now seems to be slacking some with her practicing too!

One thing I found that seemed to really interest everyone (which surprised me) was doing a program at a local nursing home. Suddenly they all seemed to practice more. Most of my students said they liked it better than a recital. One girl said "I love making people happy. It's fun!"

Just wanted to say that you are not alone in this. Good luck!
All we can do is try. I'm sure you are making a difference in their lives by sharing the joy of music.

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#65414 - 11/05/14 12:10 PM Re: Student Retainment [Re: CJKitty]
Nyke Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 08/17/13
Posts: 83
Yes, retaining students can be a bit of a struggle. One thing that has benefitted my private studio and now school is offering a program that always has something going on. I think that's one reason why a lot of parents keep their children active with numerous activities is to keep the child busy and also new opportunities. So in my private studio I have had students perform in community events two or three time a year, two formal recitals annually, festivals & competitions etc. In addition we also have incentive programs based on length of enrollment which parents appreciate that students really have to EARN unlike some sport activities.
Don't get me wrong, students will enroll and stay, and others will enroll and are only here for a moment...just focus and provide more for the students who desire to stay-you will get to a steady stride soon! Hang in there!!!
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#65828 - 01/13/16 09:46 AM Re: Student Retainment [Re: Nyke]
ewoodward Offline
New Member

Registered: 10/25/13
Posts: 13
Loc: Nova Scotia
Hi everyone!

Thanks so much for your responses. I have been absent from these forums for quite some time but popped on the other day and noticed these replies.

Your advice and encouragement is so appreciated. I thought I'd provide a bit of an update with regards to my retainment struggles.

Of the 3 particular families that I described above, 2 returned the following semester. The other never returned but ended up moving and recently, I learned that the child had been asking to move back to NS because he was ready to return to lessons again (so long as I was his teacher). Too funny.

Since the time that I wrote about these struggles, my studio has grown quite significantly and retainment has been wonderful (knock on wood!). Coming into the 2015 Fall semester I had 100% retainment other than 1 student who moved. I understand that this will probably go in ebbs and flows, but it was great encouragement!

To anyone else who might be struggling - there is hope!

Thanks again, everyone - your advice is always so helpful and encouragement definitely appreciated!

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#65846 - 01/18/16 03:31 PM Re: Student Retainment [Re: ewoodward]
shannonspiano Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 694
Loc: WI
Great Job this year, I'm glad that you can see that retention has been better for you this year. Yes I can see a definite ebb and flow to the studio.

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