You can’t expect kids to be focused on the music at every lesson, so it’s not the best use of your time to play ‘police officer’.
If you notice a kid isn’t progressing as fast as you know they can, bring it up to the parents so they can try to work things out with the kid..
Daniel: Within the group, what about a student that isn’t being disruptive, but isn’t staying on task as defined by they’re not playing the assignment I just gave them, or they’re not practicing the song, or they’ve taken their hands off the keyboard and they’re looking around? I have developed my thinking on this over a 10 year period. It used to be that I would run around the group playing police officer, making sure that everyone always had their hands on at all times or was in some way mentally engaged.
What I found over time was that I just got tired of doing that and that even when, and I didn’t experiment with this, even when students, when I allowed that behavior to happen, there were two primary thoughts I had about it. I’m kidding myself if I’m thinking that in the private lesson, that that kid is fully engaged at all times. There were times even within the context of a private lesson I would say something to a student and I’d be talking to them or explaining something, probably over-explaining it, then I would ask them a question and they’d be like, “What? I didn’t know that you were going to ask me a question.”
Kids are tired. Some kids just don’t have the alertness or the attention span of other kids, so I’m fooling myself to think that a child is fully engaged. They can put up a facade to me, but whatever their mental concentration level is has nothing to do with what they’re doing outwardly. What that means is that if a kid takes her hands off the piano for 30 seconds or a minute, or maybe plays with some buttons on one my digital pianos, or yawns, rubs their eyes or something of that nature, that is just the outward manifestation of what was happening inwardly anyway and that is the point of the group.
I want an environment where a child is independent to be what they would have been, were it not for me breathing down their neck all the time. I am getting a very good example of what’s going on at home for them. I’m getting a very good example of how they’re practicing at home, which I before that point had never seen when it was one on one because we just didn’t have time. I didn’t have time to give kids the leeway to do that sort of stuff.
Moreover, even with kid’s exhibiting behavior like that, I didn’t, I’m still … Early on I still saw those kids moving … Those same kids that I’d had in the one to one lessons who then transferred to group lessons, even early on when I could make that comparison, even with that behavior somewhat being exhibited somewhat, they were still moving faster in their books than what they had been before simply because they had more time.
What I will also note is that younger students will tend to that behavior more because they simply don’t have the attention span of an older student or the focus. Maybe the criticism I could hurl it myself would be that maybe I could do a better job of managing their energy in that group, but sometimes things are out of your control. If there’s two parents that work and they can’t get the kid until my late group of the day and that kid’s six years old, you better believe they’re going to be yawning and rubbing their eyes.
In some instances and those observations, that’s exactly what you’re seeing, is a parent that still wanted that kid to come to lesson and they were getting value out of what the child was experiencing, but … I’ve got a five year old. I probably wouldn’t want to schedule my five year old for something that late, but that’s the parent’s choice. If I see a child that isn’t moving as fast as they could be, I’m going to bring that up to a parent and then let them make the decision.
What I will tell you is that about 99.5% of the time, those parents have trusted me, they have trust in the process. Even when I’m very candid about what’s going on in the group, “They’re not moving as fast as I think they could. They tend to get distracted in the group somewhat,” they’re fine with it. I can’t think of a time a parent has un-enrolled because I’ve said I don’t think they’re getting as much out of it. Now, I’m not going to say I think you should unenroll unless I really want that family too, but I will paint the picture for them of what is possible and if they’re fine with it, then I’m good with that too.