23. June 2010 · Comments Off on Quitting Time · Categories: Teaching, Videos

Every music teacher has students who quit. After all, every student quits eventually, right?

Students quit when our schedules just can’t work any longer. This happened when I stopped teaching on Fridays, and it happened for a time when I attempted to give up Saturday morning teaching too. (That’s been added back on to the calendar.)

At times I actually try to get a student to quit; I feel as if the student has gotten everything from me that I can offer, and I feel as if he or she might learn more from someone new. So far I’ve never managed to convince one to move on, though.

Sometimes it’s because they just can’t keep up with oboe and all their other activities. I understand. Really. My own kids never managed to keep up with music lessons due to their very busy schedules. This usually happens sometime in high school. If I start a student in elementary school I find it less common for them to quit, but if they start when they are older they more frequently can’t deal with things. The younger ones develop a schedule and practice routine and seem to know how to keep it up even as they get busier.

Sometimes students decide they don’t care to play the oboe. I understand that too. Oboe is one hard instrument to play. Some never really “get” the embouchure, the back pressure, the fingerings … and while some students gets better at some things, the reeds get more and more difficult to deal with as they improve. We just get pickier and pickier about reeds! Eventually some students don’t want to deal with the whole reed issue any longer.

Sometimes it’s because they are going to college. In that case I find it rather bittersweet. I’ve usually had those students a good long time, and I’ve grown fond of them, but I know it’s time for them to move on.

Recently I had a student quit because I “wasn’t a good match”. Ouch. That one hurt, not because I don’t think it’s a valid reason, but because I actually thought there was a connection made and I could really have helped her. I even gave her an extra long lesson, thinking things were going so well. It took me a while to get over that.

I had one student quit because the family didn’t approve of my “show up on time” policy. If they were fifteen or twenty minutes late I was expected to teach fifteen or twenty minutes past the time the lesson was to be over. I wasn’t about to go there. The dad was angry. Oh well.

And some students just stop showing up. They just disappear from the face of the earth, and I can email as much as I want — I won’t hear back. I find that very puzzling, and it makes me sort of sad and sort of angry and mostly frustrated.

But the worst? I had the worst about 20 years ago. And only that one time. The mother called and sent me a letter (with a check because they were skipping their last lesson) saying I was the worst teacher they had ever experienced. Boy did that hurt. I still puzzle over that one. What could I have done differently? (The student was a challenge and clearly never practiced.) Was I too demanding? Was I mean? I sure hope not, but of course I wonder if I came across that way. I tore the check up. I’m hoping that made me slightly better than the “worst teacher ever”. But I kind of doubt it. I occasionally wonder about the student. I don’t even remember the name any longer, but I wonder what became of the person.

But students quit. Student move on. Students grow up. I wonder about a number of them. Do they still play at all? Do they attend concerts? Do they love music? Very few still keep in touch with me. I’m sure I was just a blip in their lives. But each one became one of my “oboe children” and, aside from the few that gave me major grief, I enjoyed them tremendously.

And sure, this isn’t about oboe lessons, but I love The Roches and here they are singing “Quitting Time”:

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