Something happened yesterday that has never happened in the nearly ten years that I have been teaching. I almost sent a student home early because it wasn’t worth it. She clearly didn’t want to be in my studio. She said at the end of the lesson that she was mad at me because she needed to practice the material we’re working on during the week.
This particular student is a very sweet girl. Things are often tense at home, and I try to keep things as laid back, easy, and supportive as I can. I use the sandwich method. A compliment on what she’s done, something we need to work on, followed by another compliment. Since September I noticed that she had stopped practicing our music. She would mention that she was working on orchestra stuff for school, and couldn’t get something. I happily helped, but I was concerned about a pattern that was showing up. We practiced together on what needed to be worked on, and she would come back the next week with the same problems. And then yesterday I noticed she looked “off.” We talked about what was going on. Her orchestra teacher had stressed that they needed to practice a lot because of a competition in 18 days. I asked if she was having any problems. No she wasn’t, but the piece was 2 pages long. Well just practice the part that gives you trouble, and see if you can work for 5 or 10 minutes on your other music. Apparently this was a huge mistake. 30 minutes in I was tired of pulling her along. I asked if was worth our time to even continue. She said no. If I had known her dad was there I probably would have let her leave, but he usually isn’t. We continued on. She mentioned something she wanted to learn, which I would have done with her except I didn’t have any copies for her, which I explained in addition to mentioning that she would still need to work on the other things we were working on, all of which were things that she herself had said she wanted to learn. Huge mistake! The look I got at the end broke me. She said she was mad at me for asking her to practice, and she was thinking of stopping.
Usually when things go wrong I can look back and find something that I can change, but this time I’m at a loss. We have dragged on for so long, and the behavior was so rude that I don’t know if I want to go on. In all my years as a violin student I never got mad at a teacher because I had to do work to move forward. My parents worked hard to pay for my lessons. If I wanted the lessons I had to practice. End of story, no questions. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that she was livid at me because she had to do a little work. And all I said was 5 or 10 minutes of practicing. I didn’t want to push too much. I know that kids today have much more work then I ever did. I have no problem practicing with a student. I’m always looking at what we’re doing and trying to figure out ways that work, or understand what doesn’t work. I have no idea anymore with this student. Fortunately, the student after her got stuck in traffic, and was late. I didn’t want to go on anymore after that. Even this morning it is still messing with my head.