This week, I wanted to talk about parents sitting in during lesson time. Some teachers may have a strong preference about whether or not parents should attend their child’s weekly lesson, while others believe it is more situational. I came up with a good list of pros and cons for both group class settings and private lessons.
Let’s talk about parents and group classes first. At MSS, we have two early childhood classes: Treblemakers (ages 6 months to 3 years) and Merry Musicians (3-5 years). Our Treblemakers class is designed for parents and children to make music together, so of course we want the parents in class! Around age 3, students transition into our Merry Musicians preschool class without parents. Some children at this age experience separation anxiety (usually because they have never been to a class without parents before), so we understand that they may feel a little anxious. Even if the child is nervous or upset about being separated, the important thing is for parents to not join class or be visible from the classroom window. When a parent joins the class, the child remains dependent, which can hinder their learning and socialization with the other children. It’s also distracting to the other students, and oftentimes they feel as if they can’t be themselves, so the group dynamic is compromised. If you are worried that your child cannot be without you in class, that is probably a sign that they are not quite ready yet to join, so it’s best to wait a few months!
There is more gray area when it comes to parents attending private lessons. Some teachers prefer having parents attend lessons for the first year so that they are able to fully support their children at home. Parents have the opportunity to ask the teacher questions on the spot and learn what is expected (for parents do’s and don’ts during lessons, check out this article). Other teachers prefer to have families sit outside of the lesson, but reserve the last 5 minutes of class to go over the lesson with the parent. What’s nice about our studio space is that each classroom has a large window so that parents can see in at any time if they are asked to sit outside the room. This is a safety feature for both students and teachers that just puts everyone more at ease. As far as student behavior goes, I’ve seen it go both ways: some students have much better behavior when the parent is present, while others have worse behavior and are tempted to talk to the parents too much or seek attention from them. Another potential problem is when a parent and younger sibling both attend the lesson. When extra people are brought in, it just creates more distraction, especially if a parent is trying to keep the sibling entertained.
Like in group classes, the dynamic between teacher and student is sometimes compromised when parents or family attend private lessons. The student may not feel comfortable fully opening up to the teacher if the parent is there, and the teacher may feel as if they are being evaluated. In any scenario, the environment feels different when someone is observing, and it is unlikely that both people will act completely naturally. We’ve talked about how important the relationship between teacher and student is for success and longevity, so time alone between teacher and student during lessons can ensure that the rapport is built properly.
Whether or not parents sit in on the lesson is really up to the teacher, and teachers may make different decisions based on each student. If a teacher wishes to be alone with the student during the lesson, it is not something to be taken personally (in fact, I think it’s a great sign that your child is independent and well behaved!) If you’d really like to be in the lessons but your teacher would prefer to be alone, come up with a compromise, like sitting in on a lesson once every 4-6 weeks. The important takeaway is to have an honest conversation with your teacher so that both of you are happy! As a parent, what is your opinion on attending lessons?
One of my new year's resolutions for 2020 was to listen to more podcasts. I usually listen to them in the car after I drop kids off or on my way to get my kids, because they need to talk or listen to music. I love listening to podcasts about business, managing a team, Gretchen Rubin, piano teaching, and piano parenting. I wear lots of different hats and I just can't narrow it down! ;)
This week, I was listening to the PianoParentPodcast, the host, Shelly Davis, was talking about how to fit in piano practice for our students. Now, I know we've written blogs about practice and how to practice, but this podcast really hit home with me. As a parent myself, my daughter is on her own most of the time to practice since I'm teaching most evenings. I don't do a whole lot of checking and planning for her, but I have added it to her "responsibility list" to help remind her to practice.
As parents, we think just enrolling them for lessons will get the job done. If we can get in a few days of practice here and there, then that's an added bonus! However, I've seen so many students lose interest in their lessons because they are not getting in enough practice. You see, they want to come prepared for lessons! They want to impress their teacher! And when they are not able to do that, then they feel like a failure. As teachers, we get them re-motivated in their lesson and then send them back into their world hoping they will get to practice. Maybe one week is not a big deal, but if they don't get practice in week after week, this is when our students begin to lose interest.
We, as parents, have to be intentional about helping our kids get their practice in. That doesn't mean we have to sit right by them, but we do need to say, "Hey, while I'm working on dinner, go get a little time in at the piano". "Or, we have a crazy evening tomorrow, so how about practicing your instrument before school so we get that in." They need our guidance and our help. Practicing is not going to always be first thing on their mind; it's our job. Yeah, I know, sometimes I feel like EVERYTHING is our job, we've gotta do everything, remind everyone, blah, blah, blah. But, I'm starting to come to terms with that. Have you?
So, if you have a chance, check out this podcast. It will give you ideas on how to help your child with practice at home. Let's set them up for success the best we can!