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Jan 26 2006

So you want music lessons?

I’ve been teaching for a long time. Well, some 14 years or so, but it feels like a long time. I used to be a middle school/elementary band director. I did that for 2 years and decided that 1 on 50+ is damn near impossible, I’m much better teaching one on one. I really enjoyed teaching my (mostly) girls. One of them is now a mom. One of them filled in for me when I was sick for Mahlerfest (truly proud of her, no words to describe it). They are the daughters I don’t have. It’s been great. I’ve taught in 3 states, in my home, in public schools, in community music schools. But I think I’m smacking up against burnout. I’m getting grumpy. Not with the kids themselves per se, but just with situations that I really can’t control. My tolerance for crap is getting lower and lower. I attribute that to having my own kids and having the crap level rise throughout the day, so that by the time I go teach in the afternoon I’m almost full.

So let’s review yesterday. I have a whopping 3 students. Well, four if you count the homeschooler who is almost like a little sister, but I’m not counting her in this situation. I have a whopping 3 students right now. The first has an hour long lesson. She did not show up yesterday. I called halfway through the lesson and whoops! they forgot to call, she’s sick. This isn’t the first time this has happened. After the hour lesson there is a half hour break before my next student. A little mental math…I sat with my thumb up my…you get the idea…for 2 HOURS before I saw my first student, who was then late. NOTE FOR PARENTS/STUDENTS: Call your teacher if you’re going to be late, we all have cell phones for that reason. If you’re going to be more than 5 minutes late, CALL.

It is difficult to prepare for teaching lessons. All my students are in different places, I use different materials for them based on where they are, how they play, goals, etc. I don’t have a lesson plan, I do it during the lesson, tailored to each student. So when a student comes to a lesson completely and utterly unprepared, it is not good. It sucks all the enthusiasm out of the room, the air from my lungs, the thoughts from my brain, it basically just sucks. First girl yesterday (the one who was late) could barely remember which end of the flute to play (she’s a beginner and she’s back from winter break). This was right after having to fun back out to the car to get the book she forgot. Five minutes into the lesson I wanted to slam the door onto my head repeatedly. NOTE FOR PARENTS/STUDENTS: if you’re going to pay for lessons, for cryin’ out loud, make it worth your while and PRACTICE!!! I don’t mind taking your money but c’mon, my brain is trying to kill itself during these lessons! If you want an after school activity that doesn’t require home practice time or enforcing home practice time, take a pottery throwing class or underwater basket weaving.

As I said, I’ve been teaching for a long time. I’ve seen all sorts of stuff. Like the one girl who sat like she was in physical pain. I asked her how she practiced at home. “On the stairs, with the music on the stair above me.” NOTE TO PARENTS/STUDENTS: buy a folding music stand, they’re like, ten bucks and you can find them used even cheaper. This same student only wanted to play “Lightly Row.” For 16 weeks. I hate that song.

I’m always asked if A and J are going to take music lessons. My answer? I don’t know! J is 18 months and we’re working on him using a spoon without taking out an eye. A is 4 1/2 and that’s who people are usually asking about. These people obviously don’t know my oldest son very well. He’s not ready for music lessons, not even short ones. Maybe in a year or so, but we have other, more pressing issues with him than if he starts piano before he’s 5. NOTE TO PARENTS: you know your kid best. If the kid can’t sit still without the assistance of duct tape, he/she is NOT ready for music lessons. I don’t care if the kid is 4 or 14, same rule applies.

As I said, I’m getting grumpy. I love teaching lessons, but the miscellaneous crap out of my control is killing what brain cells survive my boys. And those are the strong brain cells! I’m not sure how much longer I can keep doing this. A starts kindergarten this fall at (hopefully) a school with a 30 minute commute one way. Yeah, open enrollment is a joy. But with the boys getting into school and other activities and the issues we have, I don’t see how I can keep teaching. I refuse to teach on Saturday; I think weekends are for families, and I’m not leaving mine to go teach. So this plate may drop. I just hope it’s a strong plastic plate, so it doesn’t crack and break. I’d like to spin it again in the future.

Hey, this rant was a lot less profanity-laced than I thought it would be! I’m getting better with my potty mouth! LOL

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