I’m very much blessed to have students that are really intrinsically motivated to practice, have a real love for the instrument and the learning and development process. As a result I’ve not had to do too much of the cracking of the whip!
In fact, my students are most apologetic when the big important things such as family, health, work or life(!) mean that their practice has taken a back seat for a week or two. This is so sweet and so endearing that they place such a high value on their learning process, and always makes me chuckle. I tell them that it’s ok – they certainly don’t have to seek my approval or “OK” for having done or not done practice during the week – and to take the pressure of themselves. It’s not all about the guitar all of the time – it’s true!!
I have had, however, the occasional student where practicing has started to lapse over a greater period of time. This is frustrating for me as a teacher to go over exactly the same ground for a number of weeks with the same student. More importantly it’s disheartening for me to see the student become increasingly disheartened with their own playing and lack of progress.
In discussing this issue with a friend recently, they said to me “Why does it matter? So long as they’re paying you money, and they keep turning up.”
Well, I’ll tell you why it matters to me.
If I took that attitude I might as well go and work at MacDonald’s (no offence to Macca’s workers – I used to work there myself in my yoof), or a consulting firm or in a shop or do any other kind of job. This is not just about money for me. This is my passion and I so dearly want to pass on my own skills, knowledge, learnings and understanding to help my students progress as players and people and to help support growth of the classical guitar.
So this, fellow teachers, is where we must be brave and ask certain questions, even if it means putting some of our income on the line. We must for the good of our students (and also ourselves) ask the question in this situation “why are we here learning the guitar? Is your heart in this and do you want to continue?” It might be that there are some issues going on their lives which are impacting them, and of course we can be very empathetic to their particular situation. Asking this question we can perhaps discern some of their story and support them.
Similarly we may also find out whether their journey with the guitar is one they want to continue on at this time. If it’s not right for them right now, this question may give a good opportunity for them. If they do wish to continue, but they just need a gentle nudge to pull themselves back in line, then you as a teacher stepping up and supportively asking these kinds of questions might just be the step to get them headed in the rigt direction again.
So, fellow teachers, I’m interested to know how you approach the issue with students that seem to be dropping off the practice. I’d love to know your approaches.