In all of my years of teaching one thing has stayed constant… the absolute need for parents to be “on board” with the entire piano lesson process. Without parental support our jobs are a whole lot more difficult. We are, after all, dealing with 7 year old clients who still sleep with teddy bears; so some sort of parent involvement is certainly needed!
This year, inspired by the podcast I did with Dr. Christopher Fisher, I’m going to be hosting a Piano Parent Meet and Greet before my fall term begins. I’m hoping to accomplish the following:
- Holy wowza… this place is awesome! I use a lot of unique resources and teaching methods in my lessons. But without actually showing the parents, I risk having my students get into the car and say “I dunno” when asked what took place in their piano lesson that ended 5 seconds ago (it happens!). Parents need to see what it is that makes my lessons unique and they need to see it first-hand. Most piano resources really need to be demonstrated to truly grasp how they work. And if I want my students to be using their materials properly at home, parents need to see what their role will look like.
- Hey… I know you! Building a sense of community within my studio is really important to me. Not only does it create a feeling of belonging, but it also helps with student retention. If parents see their child’s peers involved in music lessons they are more likely to stick with it when their child shows signs of falling into a “valley” when it comes to practice motivation. Talking with other like-minded parents who also value music education can do nothing but good. We live in a culture, like it or not, where “keeping up the Joneses” directs a lot of people’s behavior. If you introduce everyone to the “Joneses” then you’re one step ahead of the game.
- This is what effective home practice looks like. We’ve blogged before about the importance of those 167.5 hours your piano students are not in lessons each week. What happens at home is the key factor in many things including the obvious like progress and skill, but also the not-so-obvious such as retention. But I want my piano students’ parents to know that home practice doesn’t just mean 30 minutes of “butts on the bench”. Most of my piano parents have no musical background themselves and therefore just assume they’re better off NOT helping. Demos and some handouts like this one will be going home to give them the tools they need to know how to use cues in method books to assist when needed, and how to provide effective encouragement and support for home practice.
- Peaks and Valleys are normal. Piano teachers can find themselves fighting an uphill battle against parents who are reluctant to push their child to do something that the child isn’t absolutely ecstatic to do. They believe they are doing the right thing in discontinuing piano lessons at the first sign of discontent. Now, my lessons are pretty darn enjoyable, but piano also requires work at home (something most other extracurricular activities do not). Even the most motivated kid will turn up their nose at extra work sometimes… and so it’s up to me to let parents know a) this is normal and b) the benefits of stick-with-it-ness are SO worth it. This is best done in person I believe.
- This is how we work together. Most of my “headaches” in running a piano studio have been abolished through years of experience and just knowing what to do and what to say. Experience has also taught me that having both a strong relationship and clearly laid out expectations are imperative. This is also best done in person. Almost every potential problem can be preemptively squashed with a great face to face chat.
I’m anticipating that my parent welcome evening will take about 2 hours of my time (1 hour to prep the materials I’ll be handing out and one hour for the actual meeting). I’m also anticipating that it will then save me reams of time during the year when it comes to answering emails, attempting to explain things over email and keeping kids motivated and happy. Worth it!
One of the many resources I’ll be highlighting in my Piano Parent Meet and Greet is our resource, Shhhh. Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice. Our piano students spend most of their piano time at home, not in our studios, so it is important parents are armed with practice resources and strategies that inspire students to practice.