Clavier Companion - May/June 2017 - 58
Making money, making space
How to dismiss a student with
by Wendy Stevens
studio full of hard-working and
well-mannered students is every
piano teacher's dream. But few
teachers actually have the opportunity to
live this dream for their entire careers.
The truth is that most teachers have at least one
student that they do not enjoy teaching. It might be due
to a communication problem, a mismatched energy
issue, a behavioral issue, a lack of effort or advancement,
or just a difference in personality. Many times, it's possible
to work through these things with help from parents or
with help from time as students mature.
Though we've all had students we don't particularly
enjoy teaching, some students become such an emotional
and physical drain that our teaching quality diminishes
for all of our students. When this happens, it is important
to have a healthy narrative about the need to dismiss a
student so that the best possible outcome can occur for
the teacher, the student, and the parents.
Leading up to dismissals
Dismissing a student should involve a careful analysis
of whether or not we have done everything reasonable
that a professional would do to help the student succeed.
Some questions to assist in this analysis might include:
1. Have I communicated with the parents multiple times
about the issue?
We often think that parents are more aware of
the problem than they actually are. We also tend to
overestimate the number of times that we communicate
with parents about the problem. Finding time not only to
speak to them, but also to hear them speak about the
issue is of utmost importance not only for problemsolving, but for kindly communicating with the parent
when it is time to transfer the student out of our studio.
2. Have I asked the parents for assistance in improving
Parents know their children better than we do. Though
they may have blind spots, many times parents hold
the key to helping us see what we might miss about a
student. These things can include emotional changes
they may be experiencing, traumatic events about
which we may not know, learning disabilities, and more.
3. Have I explored the possibility that the issue is the
result of normal development?
As an example, an average student who starts to
lose interest around age twelve or thirteen may just be
exhibiting normal behavior for their age. It may indicate
that we need to change repertoire, expectations,
or other things, but some issues may just require an
adjustment to normal childhood development.
When you are convinced that you have truly done
everything reasonable to help the situation, it may
be time to think about dismissing the student. Since
teaching is a nurturing profession, we naturally feel
great angst about doing this.
The kind and mature teacher wants what is best
for the student, but dismissing anyone is rarely
considered a positive action. It may be helpful to rebrand the action from "dismissing" to "transferring"
a student out of our studio. There may be other
words for this, but it is important not to talk about
"dismissing" a child, especially in front of their
parents! When possible, this re-branding should be
done in conjunction with a genuine effort to find a
better fit for the student in the form of a different
studio or activity.
While re-branding the dismissal is important,
without the proper narrative we will rarely feel
confident about our actions. It will be difficult for us
to keep the parents from feeling as if their child is
being rejected, and difficult to help the parents feel
that this is the best thing for their child.
Correcting our narrative about
"transferring" a student out of our studio
Correcting our narrative is paramount in helping us
to be confident, clear, and kind when transferring a
student out of our studio.