Daniel: At one point in time I would have kids write down the time they spent each day. That’s perfectly fine, that’s great. There will sometimes be a month where … Like I have a practice focus month where for just one month I will have kids write their practice time down and instead of doing the notebook the normal way that I do it, where I write everything real big, I’ll write the assignments in the margin on the side. Then make a bracket, like make a chart on the rest of the page so they can write in their time. Perfectly acceptable to do. Perfectly fine.
I don’t really make a big deal about practice so it’s not my choice now, but once again that’s I think … It’s something I’ve done in the past and I don’t see anything detrimental. What was the first question again?
Client: How do you tell parents, who are at home having angst over getting their kids to practice that they don’t necessarily have to practice.. without seeming like it’s not worth their while to even take lessons?
Daniel: I think that goes into something that I do in that initial intro lesson. That’s one of the things I initially explain to parents. I will say, “You’re going to notice at the beginning that they don’t play at home all that much. It’s because the songs are so short, and easy, and they’re learning them here.” A lot of time some of my students, those first couple months, are even memorizing the song and a lesson accidentally because we play it so much. I said, “Now of course over time those practice requirements will go up but for this first year we’re not talking 30 minutes a day, 45 minutes a day required. If you do that they’re going to go through four or five books this year. If you want to do that, more power to you. But, just understand that if they have a lot of activities or this is just something that you’re adding on, that we’re going to do a lot of that heavy lifting here.” Then I just reinforce that message over time.
Now I do have parents … A kid that’s in two years. Maybe they’re in 2B, 3A, 3B and they’re saying, “Hey, we’re having trouble having him practice at home.” At that point I leave that SGL messaging because at that point something different should be happening with that kid. That’s more true at the beginning. When a kid’s up at that level, if they’re just not playing, then it’s just time for some tough love on the parent and I’ll say, “You know, what I initially told you about the practice requirements, at a certain point those kids have to transition more into learning their pieces at home. They do need to go up.” What I would say there is that … I handle that pretty much the way that I did when I was teaching one-to-one and just telling parents … there is a transition point down the timeline. Is that helpful?
Client: That makes sense. Can you tell us about your screening process?
Daniel: I think there are things that are specific to my studio that may or may not be helpful to people here, depending on how you run things and what kind of studio you have but there are some things that I think that are specifically relevant to group.
One of them, I can not see preschoolers in group. I’ve tried it, it just does not work. The attention span isn’t there. The ability to sit for an hour and do what I do is not there. Doesn’t mean you can’t adapt this to a preschool type group but if we did that now we’re leaving this idea of, “Oh we can have multiple kids in the group at the same time.” You’re leaving the reservation, so to speak. I’m going to screen people out right there. That probably doesn’t go past the initial email. Okay?
Now let’s talk about attention span. I have worked with kids with Aspergers, I have worked with kids with just ADHD. I’ve worked with them individually, I’ve worked with them in group. What I will tell you is … I’m not a clinician. My observation … This is where I was saying grownup talk now, my observation, a non-clinical observation, is that there are two types of attention deficit kids. There are the ones that go really inward and they’re living life inside. Then there are the kids with more of the sensory issues that react outward.
I have had success with the kids that go inward. What I will tell you is those kids don’t often go the distance. They rarely last past level one because they need more time than I can give them. They really need someone that can give them that time.
My success rate with kids that are more outward facing is basically 0% because the group environment just doesn’t allow for that kind of behavior.
When I talk about screening, there is a sense that you have to screen for kids that are too young or maybe a kid that’s seven that acts too young. You have to screen.
Now does that mean that you’re pushing those kids away? For a very long time, when I was doing half and half, half group half individual, I ended the possibility to work with me one-on-one in 2011 or 2012. I saw a girl with Asperger’s up into her teens, up until 2015 when she decided she didn’t want to play anymore. She’d been playing with me for seven years. Her progress was slow but she did it because she loved music. I continued to see that girl one-on-one. It is up to you how you decide to deal with students like that.
If you have a family that comes and you just know that it is not going to be a good environment for the child, it will be disruptive to the other students, they’ll feel frustrated, they’ll feel like they’re behind. That is your prerogative as to whether you want to see them one-on-one or not. What I’m saying is that it’s probably not a good idea to have them in group. I tried for a very, very long time to make that work, experimented, that sort of thing and just found the attention they need is just not something you can give them in the group environment. So there’s that.
Other screening things are just the normal things. I recently met with a family. They went through the initial phone call, the went through the initial emails with them. When they met me here at my studio, I was in my studio. They pulled up, mom got out of the car and in my driveway yelled at her kid for 30 seconds, “What are you doing? Stop that. Put that down.” In my driveway. I have neighbors out in their front yard doing yard work and then here’s this person. I’m like, “Oh my word.” Needless to say I did not offer them a spot in my roster. That’s the kind of stuff that … I mean, that’s piano teacher life or whatever discipline you’re at. That’s the life of a private studio owner.
I’m not going to go too much in that stuff because that’s going to be to your comfort level but in terms of the group I wanted to give those two qualifiers. Preschoolers and kids that just aren’t a good fit due to learning issues. That’s what I mean when I say screening.