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Postby pianoannie » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:00 pm

Lyndall--we are really operating on the same wave-length!! I too am trying to weigh the actual student benefit of all the extras I do.

I have never particularly considered my extras as directly improving my students' skills per se. It's always been a matter of trying to increase motivation, using little rewards/contests to encourage students to practice daily, and hopefully as the student progresses into more exciting repertoire the music itself becomes the reward. I also plan extras specifically to provide comraderie among my students. Lessons and practice are isolating activities, as compared to for example, marching band. Being part of something bigger than one's self is exciting and motivating.

And, as Lyndall said, the culture that today's kids live in relates to all of this. Considering all the other exciting activities for children to choose from (many of which have more immediate reward than piano, which of course takes years and years) it's no wonder that many kids drop out after just a year or two. I try very hard to get my students past that two-year hump by makng my studio a fun place to be a part of.

But I am going to continue evaluating the time I spend on the "fun extras" (parties, contests) and try to put more of my time into things that will truly help the development of my students' skills.
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Postby Lyndall » Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:34 am

Lyndall--we are really operating on the same wave-length!! I too am trying to weigh the actual student benefit of all the extras I do.


Annie, I've always thought this, based on reading your posts over the last year. Let us know if you come to any conclusions about whether to keep all your wonderful 'extras'.

Kitty's right in that we are not just in this because we want to make money (or at least many of us are not necessarily trying to make a living) but we LOVE music & presumably we love people (kids in particular maybe) & we want to SHARE our love of music with people.

One thing I've seen in some local teachers who have very full studios - 45-60 kids a week - they are able to provide many extras because of the cost-effectiveness of it with a much higher income. These extras include several keyboards for group playing, diskclaviers with recording capabilites so kids can hear what they actually sound like to make improvements; several computer theory programs & music games plus a dedicated computer to run them on; a larger library of both print music & recordings; music notating programs for customizing music, creating work sheets, enabling kids to compose etc.

I realize many teachers with smaller studios have much of this equipment regardless of having to eat the costs themselves, but for me just starting out teaching in this country nearly 2 yrs ago (all my other teaching materials/library are back in Australia) it's expensive enough without all these extras.

Maybe if I didn't spend so much of my time on prepping, I could justify spending more on these kinds of things. But do these really make you a better teacher?


PS: How do I make the quote say who's being quoted? Thanks.
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Postby 76-1094931106 » Tue Nov 09, 2004 3:27 pm

I used to do so much prep work on lesson plans... constantly updating student files and doing so much research on the best possible solution to every little problem. Not to mention all the games, activities, etc, etc. Gradually over the last while I haven't been doing so much. For example, I don't work so much on lesson plans... things you don't plan for always come up during lessons and I wasn't getting everything done anyways. Instead, I make sure I have plenty of materials on hand and take things as they come. Also, when problems come up I've started coming up with solutions on the spot and if it still doesn't work then I talk to other teachers and do some research if needed. So far I haven't seen any difference in my students.... so I've concluded that the majority of time spent on prep work doesn't make a big difference. Obviously, there will always be prep work and planning that needs to go into teaching but I think alot of us teachers just get a little carried away at times!
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Postby Lyndall » Wed Nov 10, 2004 3:18 am

Yes that's so annoying when you've put a lot of thought into something for the next lesson & then you don't even get around to it.

Guess I'm not real good at improvising which is why I probably go overboard on the prep, but then I end up forgetting what I had planned, or not having time to get to it, or getting side-tracked.

I'm hoping with more teaching experience under my belt I'll come up with more instant solutions. Lisa do you think this gets easier as you go along???
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Postby 76-1094931106 » Wed Nov 10, 2004 11:10 am

Lyndall - I definately think it gets easier! When I first started teaching and a problem would come up I would just panic (of course I still acted calm for the student!) and I had no idea what to do. But the more you run across different problems you start to know what works and what doesn't.

By simply reading an article or a book on pedagogy or talking to other teachers you learn more than you realize. It's amazing - often I face some sort of problem and my initial reaction is panic but all of a sudden I get all these ideas and solutions that I didn't even know I had or I remember something my teacher taught me when I was younger. But this has definately developed over a few years - it hasn't happened overnight! (And I still have lots of developing to do!!) And sometimes no matter how many solutions I may come up with nothing will work with that particular student.... so then I do my research... these message boards are also VERY helpful!

Lately I've been looking at any problems my students may have as a blessing in disguise! Even though it may be a little frustrating at times - the more problems you come across, the more experience you get in fixing them... and that really helps in the long run!
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Postby Lyndall » Thu Nov 11, 2004 11:50 am

Thanks for your encouragement Lisa! I'm feeling kind of low this week - probably after the high of the competition is over & starting to work furiously on prepping for the next event.

This morning at my own lesson I spent most of it asking my teacher about techniques tricks for certain spots my students are/will encounter. Now if I can only remember to implement them when the time comes!
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Postby 76-1094931106 » Fri Nov 12, 2004 7:25 pm

No problem Lyndall!! Isn't it great to have a piano teacher who can help you with your own teaching?! It's so worth it to invest in a good teacher.... even after finishing lessons I know if I ever have a problem I can call up my piano teacher... she's become like a friend/mentor to me.... but that's another topic!! Good luck with your teaching!
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Postby pianoannie » Sat Nov 13, 2004 9:47 am

I've been thinking about another angle to the whole question of time spent on "extras" compared to actual student benefit. I know that many of my students' parents are impressed at the extra parties, family events, contests, etc that I do. Many have told me that they appreciate these things, and that they tell other people about what a fun and creative teacher I am.

Now, this does not at all necessarily equate to "superior teaching" or "quicker progress" for my students, but it does certainly help me keep my studio filled as word of mouth is the best advertising!

So I have realized as I've been thinking about all this, that even though I do invest a lot of extra time that may not be necessary, if it helps me keep a full studio and waiting list, it enables me to charge more than I could if I were desperate for students! So in that regard, it does pay off.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sat Nov 13, 2004 11:38 am

But, Annie, it pays off in other ways as well, and often the biggest contributions we make are hidden from our consciousness. Those parents are telling you that they appreciate a person who truly cares about what she's doing with their kids, and you build a lot of trust and confidence there. So even if it didn't make you another nickel it's worth all the gold on the planet.

Dr. B.
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Postby pianoannie » Sat Nov 13, 2004 10:30 pm

Dr. Bill Leland wrote: So even if it didn't make you another nickel it's worth all the gold on the planet.

Dr. B.

You know, Dr Bill, that's how I've felt most of the years I've taught piano. But piano teachers have bills to pay and luxuries we dream of like everyone else. Due to some huge unexpected home repair bills (the equivalent of about 2 years of my income!!!) and the fact that we have not been able to take a family vacation in over 5 years, I am starting to look more at the monetary value of what I do and not just the emotional pleasure. I hope I haven't come across in these recent posts about piano teachers income as totally calloused and money-obsessed. That is not (normally) me at all!!
I'm just a bit discouraged about this recent financial set-back, and I am forced to take a long hard look at my career options and earning power.
In general though, I do love imagining my students in the future, and how their love of piano will (hopefully) be passed on to their children, and to their grandchildren, and how some of them may end up music teachers or musicians themselves, and who knows what impact my piano teaching may have on the world, even long after I am gone! Yes, that is more valuable than gold!
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sun Nov 14, 2004 8:43 am

Oh, no, you didn't come across like that at all. I've just been stressing the other side, where the non-monetary rewards are.

It's good for people like me, who have spent most of their time in institutional teaching, to be reminded now and then of the realities of earning a living with a private studio. My wife did it for a long time, and I had to supplement years ago myself. But what I did when I was a lowly asst. prof. here was join the Piano Technicians Guild, get the training and ratings, and then spend summers doing tuning and technicians work. Even rebuilt some pianos, which is hard but a lot of fun if you're fascinated with that side of it. It helped my own playing and teaching much more than I expected--to know intimately how the instrument works--and enabled me to install a couple of courses at the U. in Piano Technology.

We also have a major now at NMSU in music management, and piano pedagogy majors can get a handle on the business realities of it all. And there are good books: James Bastien's excellent "How to Teach Piano Successfully" devotes a lot of space to the practical matters like advertising, business practices, money management, etc.

Bill.
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Postby 76-1094931106 » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:32 pm

I think alot of the social activities pianoannie mentioned (like parties, contests, family events, etc.) are definately worth the planning involved. Especially when kids get to the age when they'd much rather hang out with friends than practice piano. When you incorporate both it keeps the students more interested. I find group lessons are excellent! The students are motivated to practice because they know they'll be playing in front of their peers, they get practice performing in a more casual environment and it's fun! Extra events like that are very beneficial to the student. But I find the bulk of the prep work and lesson planning is not so beneficial.

I guess it's up to each teacher to decide what's worth the extra time and what isn't!
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