Music Evaluation Musings

I can almost taste the excitement in the air - students are coming into lessons, bouncier than usual and less focused. Pre-lesson chats are filled with birthday parties, summer vacation plans and the summer camp line-up. It's a bittersweet time for us teachers too. We see these kids (and adults) for 36 - 40 weeks in the year. It's a big change to go from that to not seeing them on a weekly basis. However, change is good. I was speaking with some colleagues a few days ago. The general buzz was that everyone was going to take it easy and focus on their own musical pursuits. A few of us, as I alluded to in an earlier post, will take on a summer job to fill in the income gap (yes, like me). Some are going to far off places. What was clear is that everyone needs a break from teaching to recharge their batteries.

I've begun writing out student evaluations. I follow a simple formula of acknowledging the student's accomplisments, areas for improvement, summer music goals and what's the general plan for next year (for returning students). I've enjoyed this aftenoon's trip down memory lane, reviewing my lesson planning/record sheets. Some students surpassed the goals we established at the beginning of the year. Kudos to them!

June is also bittersweet because some students aren't returning next year. It's just the way it goes. Some students aren't returning because they wish to spend more time on other pursuits (soccer, another instrument, school). Some aren't returning because of scheduling conflicts between piano, their other activities and my schedule.

And sometimes, you have to bid farewell to a student because things just aren't working out. Either piano isn't their thing, there's a personality conflict or there's an clash between learning style and teaching style. These are sensitive issues to deal with. If the parent really wants the child to continue, but you can see that the pain outweighs the benefits - how do you express that tactfully, sensitively and professionally? If a student who's bright and a teacher who has a good theory track record can't get on the same wavelength, how do you tell the parent that their child will respond better to a different teaching style in a way that says, "I am doing this because I want your child to succeed,"? How do you say this without them taking it the wrong way?

I had to wrestle with the last issue this week. Let me tell you, it's a pickle to deal with. In situations like that, you just have to stand firm and never lose sight of who it's all for - the student. No matter how ugly things get.

(c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.