The Griffon is a nasty little ride in Busch Gardens, Virginia that takes you 205 feet in the air, eases you over the edge, and then stops. My husband and I subjected ourselves to this ride without realizing the sudden halt was a planned feature to terrify the riders. As our legs were dangling in mid-air and our eyes were trained on the ground, we became worried that the ride was broken. You can imagine our terror when we were suddenly plunging 90 degrees straight down. I don’t think I’ve screamed so loud in my life.

As with many areas in our lives, teaching piano is very much like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, and its moments of frustration and joy. I enjoy a good roller coaster, but not every ride is for me. There are the spinning rides that threaten to relieve me of my churro and chili dog, and the rickety old wooden rides that rattle my brain into goo. My husband, on the other hand, loves these rides. And while I loved the Griffin, he didn’t care for it. I suppose we all have different preferences.

I have learned as a teacher, that while all children are wonderful and have their own surprises, not every child is a good fit for me. Just as you would assess a roller coaster ride before committing to every twist and turn, it is good to get to know a student before you enroll them into your studio. You need to get an idea if he or she will bring a smile to your face, or if he is the one who will turn your brain to goo. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Eager to fill my new studio, I accepted any and every student without meeting the parents or the student. Unknowingly I enrolled a boy who was in soccer, baseball, and karate, and oh yeah, had no time to practice.  And then there was the little girl who preferred to roll around the carpet rather than play the piano (she was 7).   Had I sat down with these children and their parents, I would have known the boy didn’t have time to learn an instrument, and the little girl wasn’t ready for piano lessons. I could have saved myself, and the families, a lot of frustration.

These students weren’t a good fit for me, but I recognize that they could have posed an exciting challenge to another teacher. You have to decide what sort of “ride” you are willing to embark upon and what sort of challenges you are willing to work with. For this reason, I have put together a questionnaire and application that all prospective students must complete before they are admitted into my studio or are put on my waiting list. I also set up a time to meet them in person. This time is used to engage the student in a variety of assessment activities that allow me to see how teachable the child is, assess their level of attention, and determine how well they take direction from me. I will outline the first meeting/interview in another blog post. Meanwhile, you can find my application for enrollment here. You are welcome to use as much or as little of it as you would like. 

Download Application for Enrollment



h pacholuk
08/07/2011 07:07

Hi Debbie,thanks for this great form! A question...if parent asks why you ask about reading/math grades and whether child needs help from teacher/parent, how do you reply?

Debbie Dee
08/07/2011 08:52

h pacholuk -

That's a good question, because you don't want parents to feel like you are prying into their child's life. Sometimes children are embarrassed about their struggles in certain subjects and may try to hide it. They'll give excuses for not understanding (I didn't know I had to do that part, I didn't have time to practice, etc.) It may appear to the teacher that they aren't trying or aren't listening,which could cause frustration on both ends. If a teacher is aware of the areas in which a child struggles, they can tailor their instruction so that child will understand the concepts better. For instance, if a child struggles in math, you can teach them rhythm and counting from many different angles - using their bodies, rhythm blocks for visual learning, percussion instruments, etc. You may spend more time teaching rhythm than you would your other students, but they will walk away from their lessons with understanding, rather than trying to hide their confusion. Explain this to the parent and let them know that you want your students to have a fulfilling experience, not one filled with frustration.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.


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