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Rebecca Darnall

'The things we music teachers hear' update

November 5, 2012 at 2:02 AM

It seems the entry "The things we music teachers hear" has been taken in a way in which I have not intended. There are situations and circumstances I have faced which were not specified in that blog. It was never my intention to stir up negative feelings. I was looking for advice, and I received some (wonderful at that). I do not wish to go into details of my private studio. In fact, I truly did not think that blog would get so much attention!

Since I have not made myself clear and do not wish to come across as rude, uncaring, or act like I "hate" parents as one person alluded to (which I don't ever hate people) and think they're all the same (which I don't think they are all the same), I have deleted this entry. Please forgive me for coming across in a manner that was not intended. I will be more careful next time.

Best to you all, as always~

From Tommy Atkinson
Posted on November 5, 2012 at 4:04 AM
I wouldn't worry too much about it. We violin teachers care so much about both our craft and our students that it frustrates us sometimes when they are unable (unwilling?) to realize his or her potential.

I can say that, were I ever in the position, I'd definitely send a student your way.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 5, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I thought it was an excellent post. I shared it on Facebook and many friends shared it as well. I think all were very approving of your comments.
From Rebecca Darnall
Posted on November 5, 2012 at 3:51 PM
Hi Tommy and Corwin~

Thanks much for your kind words. There were some who posted who seemed to think I was being a little harsh and negative, so I didn't want to appear that way. Thanks, Corwin, for sharing the post! I also have it on my fact it was just a direct copy from there.

Thanks Tommy for your affirmation. I do care. I try to have a balanced perspective but with the same care and love, you know? I will perhaps post it again at another time after I explain myself a little better on the blog.

Thanks again :)

From Rebecca Darnall
Posted on November 5, 2012 at 3:55 PM
Oh and I did write down the positive feedback everyone gave me~so thanks again for all who offered constructive feedback :)
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 5, 2012 at 4:57 PM
Sorry, my comment was one of the negative ones, but I didn't mean to be negative about you personally. You sound like a caring, flexible teacher.

I just wanted to point out there were two sides to this issue, and that parents can feel caught in the middle when every extracurricular activity under the sun demands a big commitment of time and effort from the families.

I think it is unfortunate when music gets squeezed relative to other activities, but for what it's worth, I don't see that happening so much in my own community. What I see instead is what I posted about--that every single activity from sports to music demands a very large and serious commitment from families, and consequently families have to make "tough choices" in which something has to go.

For example, there is a Saturday morning music school in our town affiliated with the public schools. It meets early on Saturday mornings. They had T-shirts printed up for the kids to wear that read "Saturday Music School--Who needs sleep?" My daughter tried it for a season and it actually was a very nice, well-intentioned program, but it just didn't work for her, or for us as a family because of the Saturday morning schedule, and we dropped out of it. We've also dropped out of travel soccer because of the amount of travel required on weekends.

From Rebecca Darnall
Posted on November 6, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Hi Karen,

No worries :). It's ok. I just want to make sure I don't come across the wrong way :). And thank you for your kind words. I do love my students very much, so of course I am passionate about their progress and about music in general. I do want my students to love and enjoy music overall, and I want it to enrich their lives in whatever way possible.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned all these activities having to be squeezed in one day, even! I think a lot of times parents, with good intentions, try to expose their kid to a lot of things and end up stressing them out. They want their child to be well-rounded, and I really appreciate that.

Sometimes I wonder if I just "don't get it" because I am not a parent. I was a child, however, and I think (though I am bias) that my parents did a great job of balancing how many activities I did, and making sure I did all of them to the best of my ability and fulfilling those obligations. If I couldn't do that, then I was doing too much. I feel like sometimes in an effort to educate their kids (which is fabulous) they end up stretching them to their limits. For example, I've had parents tell me "My child," (who is maybe five?) "just came from swimming for two hours, and before that was at school all day". Uhm...I'd be exhausted, even at this age!

I know parents love their children. And they want what is best. I just appreciate the parents who keep their children's lives balanced and who also follow through with the activities they have chosen.

Sometimes things happen from a lack of understanding about a particular activity~I totally get that too. Sometimes parents don't even know what questions to ask; I mean, how could they? If they have never had music lessons themselves and this is their first exposure, I can't expect them to know everything.

I really appreciated Annette's analogy. I feel I need to be better at actually sitting down with the parents with my policy, face to face, every year (should my policy change) or at the initial inquiry. I need to ask them FIRST, "what do you want for your child in regards to music?". THEN, I can say, "this is what I want for all my students in regards to music."

Before, I was sending out my policy via email, asking them to read it. Now, I will meet with the parents, make sure I am the right "restaurant" they want, and we can proceed from there. I also am implementing a monthly trial for new students, just so in case it really isn't working out, we can all sit down together and talk through it.

I think it's a matter of face to face communication. People tend to not read emails (though I seem to be OCD about it....ha!)

I love my students and I want what's best for them. But the parents and I have to make sure we are reading the same novel before we turn that first page of music.

I appreciated all the advice too, on ensemble playing (couldn't agree more) and getting the parents more involved. That's what I love about the Suzuki method, but I also try to incorporate my own fun activities from time to time :).

I also feel perhaps "tight" because I'm in a tough place right now with being in school and traveling constantly to perform. I love what I do, but juggling it is all very difficult, and I teach and perform in all these far away orchestras to cobble together an income so I can pay for school. I mean, everyone has a story like that, right? It's what we are all facing to some degree, somehow.

Thanks everyone, I feel much better now that I have adequately put my thoughts down. I don't want to come off as negative. Sometimes it's hard for me to write online, but I am learning. Perhaps, I will repost the post after I polish it up a bit :)

From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 6, 2012 at 2:36 AM
This is a general question to all teachers I wonder what policies the super teachers have--the ones who audition their students and are selective about who they take. The ones whose students win the concerto competitions and sit in he top seats of the audition orchestras. It may not be realistic to use all their policies but perhaps parents take teachers seriously who take their time seriously. If you charged a monthly fee and allowed only one cancellation/makeup per quarter would they be more serious? What do you have to offer your students that differentiates you from other teachers? Why do they come to you and not someone else? How many lessons do you cancel for your convenience? Do you let some families push your schedule around?
From Annette Brower
Posted on November 6, 2012 at 6:37 PM
Embedded in my policy each year is the following:

Assuming you have now read almost the entire policy and continue reading until the very bitter end, you could be the winner of $25.00 off your September tuition. The fastest e-mailer in the West wins so good luck to everyone!

I think less than 1/2 the people read it. I am very careful to go through the policy with each new student/parent.

From Rebecca Darnall
Posted on November 7, 2012 at 5:27 PM
Corwin, I think you ask some very astute questions, and ones I've been answering myself. I have a sequel to the "Things we music teachers hear" blog. And it's in large thanks to you, Annette! I have to credit you with your analogy you gave. It was perfect and I really appreciate it!

To answer in short, I think it's ok different teachers have different standards. I think what's important however is that the teacher understands what he/she wants from the studio, and then is able to communicate that to the parents.

I realized from many of the comments on my first post of this article that I probably just wasn't communicating enough. I thought I was doing everything, and I was doing a lot, just not always going about it the right way. I wasn't communicating well because I was still grappling with what I wanted from my studio. That's a hard place for parents to be I think when a teacher is still figuring out exactly what he/she wants in their studio.

Annette~you are so clever, again! You obviously have a lot of experience and I love your idea! SO brilliant!

From Annette Brower
Posted on November 8, 2012 at 4:34 AM
Thank you Rebecca:-).

Feel free to plagiarize. I try to tempt them by saying they will be "richly rewarded" by reading the attached policy but I still only get about 25% participation. I keep track of who wins each year and state in the policy that people who haven't won in the past will be given a "reasonable amount of time to respond" before awarding the prize to a previous winner.

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