Tuesday, December 06, 2011

No Show

Here’s the question of the day:  What should I do about a no-show for a free piano lesson?
I have given 10-year-old Margalen lessons here and there over the past year when her mother thinks to call and schedule a time.  It seems like we have made little headway, mostly starting over each time and never graduating from the initial book in the Alfred series.  I don’t know if that’s because I really don’t know how to teach piano or whether she may have some real learning disabilities that make this more difficult.
In any event, I had come up with some additional things for today’s lesson in the hope there would be a breakthrough.  I bought her a similarly easy book of holiday music thinking she could show off to her family if she could sit down and play something like Jingle Bells. 
I also bought a set of music flashcards with the thought that they might provide another approach to learning how to read music.  I don’t personally remember needing anything like this when I was a kid.  Instead we learned things like “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and “FACE” and “Good Boys Do Fine Always” and “All Cows Eat Grass” to give us the necessary clues to decode the musical score.

So here I sat armed with all this new ammunition while 4:00 came and went without even the typical phone call to say she would be late.
Should I regard this as the gift of an hour I would not have otherwise had today?  Or should I lay down an ultimatum that I won’t tolerate missed lessons, even if there is no monetary exchange?  Or should I call and ask if they would like to reschedule, knowing that it was definitely not Margalen’s fault that she didn’t show up for her lesson?
I am convinced that people are much less likely to miss an appointment if they know they will have to pay for the time one way or the other.  But when there is no penalty for not showing up, it’s a whole different story.


Blogger e said...

I'm not sure what I would do in your place. You might contact the parents and ask what keeps their girl from showing up. There may be a problem afoot about which you are unaware. If her parents were never exposed to music lessons, they may simply not realise the time spent in either preparation or practice. They are also probably not aware of the enrichment value of music,

7:33 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

E -- Mom and dad speak only broken English and are living apart, so things are probably pretty chaotic in their world. I'm sure neither parent never had a chance to take music lessons of any sort in their native Guatemala.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

My first inclination would not be to blame your teaching ability or her possible learning disabilities for her lack of progress. Is she really interested in learning the piano? Is she practicing regularly? I suspect if she were, her mother would be bringing her over for lessons a lot more often. Daily practice and a weekly lesson are needed for good progress at that age.

Back in my early days of teaching, when I used to go to people's houses, I eventually realized that the kids who didn't practice, but still desperately wanted lessons, were kind of more interested in having me come and pay some attention to them each week (because I'm so nice, hahaha)than they were in actually learning the piano and some of them actually told me that. Sad, but true.

So I guess it depends on your goals as a teacher. I probably wouldn't call them and I wouldn't necessarily have any expectation of hearing from them again, and if they did call I would definitely have a talk with them. Unless they can understand and appreciate how beneficial the study of music can be for her on many different levels, it's not likely that they'll feel the need to follow up on your gift with practicing and showing up for lessons. But that's just me and I'm a hardnose.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Steve Reed said...

I guess I would call and ask what happened, because there may be a good reason she missed her lesson. That would also passively remind them that they need to contact you in such circumstances, rather than just leave you hanging.

As for teaching, she may not be retaining as much as you'd like, but you're familiarizing her with music and the instrument on a fundamental level -- the feel, the sound, how notes look on a staff, etc. In other words, I'm sure she's learning, though maybe not to your expectations.

Hope this helps! :)

2:51 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

when I have people who don't show and don't call, it's very frustrating, mostly because my time at work is very valuable and the time I wait until I decide they are definitely not coming is time that I could have used in a bazillion different ways.

That said, I do call and use my most concerned voice, because something terrible must have happened in order for them to not show up. In one family, the mother had a baby that day (good reason!), but mostly it's things just got lost in the shuffle of chaos that surrounds families these days.

It's probably very difficult for your young pupil to learn on such a infrequent basis. Maybe putting aside a definite time every week that can be canceled the night before by either parties would work out better.

I'm thinking about my own piano playing that never really "clicked" until about sixth grade when I found a teacher who taught me what I wanted to know in a way that I could learn. Dear Dick Phillips was a cherish friend and a great piano/flute teacher who taught me how to cord using my left hand, thereby opening up the world of fakebooks to me :).

2:29 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

It has been a while since this post and I am wondering what happened? Did you find out any more information? Remember I was taking piano lessons last year? I was very motivated but twice - TWICE - I showed up for my lesson and my young instructor (he is only 21 and new to teaching piano) WAS NOT THERE! Once he said he was still in bed and the second time he forgot to tell me he was going away. I lost my trust in him and then I dropped the piano. I am determined to start up again and so wish that you were my neighbor. I'd show up AND I'd pay!

10:39 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

To all who were wondering how this turned out:

Margalen's mom called the next day to say she had forgotten about the lesson. She was apologetic and we rescheduled it for the weekend. It was actually the best lesson we have had. I sent her home with the book of Christmas music and some of the flashcards. I showed her mom how to work with her on the flashcards and told them to schedule the next lesson after she had mastered her homework. I'm still not sure whose idea learning to play the piano is. If it's not Margalen's, she may never progress beyond these very simple books. I haven't totally given up yet though.

12:05 AM  

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