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punishing students with ___?

4996 Views 33 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  rogerb40uk
So a student comes to a lesson completely unprepared. You don't want to waste time on stuff they haven't prepared, you don't want to reward them by playing abersolds all lesson, you don't want to rail into them (or maybe you do)...what are some suggestions?
I sometimes will go hard core on scales, but it occurred to me recently that maybe I shouldn't be using one of the most important facets of music as "punishment." They always leave playing their C# and F# scales better, but I'd hate to make scale practice painful since it is so critical to acquire a positive association with scale practice. Sight-reading? Lecture on the value of hard work and discipline and success in the real world? Say "go home"?
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Ever thought to ask why they come unprepared?
Aren't you supposed to provide inspiration?
Perhaps you should try harder in future.
Wow, never had a student come unprepared? I'm impressed.
They pay to come see you right? Isn't that punishment enough?

If they want to not make progress by not preparing, then there's not much you can do once they leave your class. In general you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so be nice to them, and try instill some enthusiasm in them to go practice.

When all is said and done as long as they keep coming back and keep paying the bill, and they don't have a miserable time and decide they have had enough then what does it matter?

If you have talented students waiting in line to take their place then maybe its different and you can afford to suggest that they don't have the dedication to make it to the top, but if you don't have a ready waiting list of replacement customers, then go with making it fun and try and get them to be more enthusiastic in there own time. The more boring you make it, the less enthusiastic they will be, and you create a vicious circle.
Is the assigned lesson the only thing left remaining for them to learn?

If you refund the cost of the lesson and place greater value on your time, send them home. If they have paid for the lesson, TEACH THEM SOMETHING.
lol i make some of them do push ups with their parents' permission! sometimes we as teachers have to teach them to use time wisely because they always say they have no time but some of them are in 5th or 6th grade.. -.- sometimes i let them practice on themselves or even practice with them and most importantly, teach them how to practice efficiently!
Come on, everybody has students that every now and then come unprepared...regardless of quality of teacher. I am just talking about creative ways to use an hour productively without making them feel 2 inches tall--which many good teachers do (not saying I'm one of them). Brainstorming here...
I actually will admit to going to a lesson unprepared a couple of times. Oddly enough, my teacher noticed it.

Learning isn't linear, sometimes a student needs time to digest something, or there is something else going on in their lives besides saxophone (I know it's hard to believe).

It's when a student comes unprepared several times in a row that I become concerned.
You haven't told us what level of student you are teaching. An hour lesson is a long time for a beginner.

Suggestions: sight reading, breathing, ear training, tone production, horn maintenance, reed preparation, critical listening to recordings...
I ask them a lot of questions about their week. I then use the lesson to show them how to practice the material. I'll just have them start practicing it right there and I'll guide them on the steps to take and what is the best way to learn the material. I give them a goal for the next week and hope they practice.:)
I want to study with you, Steve! I found that motivational. Really.

I like the student endorsements at your website too. Those kids are digging their experience with you.
Thanks G. I have some great students. The reality is that some just don't practice. Some practice like crazy. Do the best you can to motivate them with what works for them. Some of my students want to be just like Charlie Parker and it motivates them. Some just want to play the Pink Panther in front of their friends and that motivates them. Some don't seem to be motivated by anything but...... they like being there. I don't think in terms of punishing kids. Punishment doesn't motivate and if it does it's only a for the short term until the kid quits. They have enough of that going on in their lives. I want music to be the thing they think is fun and an escape from all that other pressure. It is hard and frustrating at times as the teacher but I just think of my first couple of years of playing. I never practiced that I can remember. It took a couple of years to kick in for me. Good Luck.
homework ;) (jk)
When I was in high school the only practicing I did was improvising on the one blues scale our band teacher taught us (concert Bb-G on alto). Boy do I know that scale inside and out now.
I actually played quite a bit just with an incredible lack of focus.
I've only ever had to throw out one student, It just costs too much to practice with me week after week.

For other students who didn't meet their potential for the week I had all sorts of activities based on who and where the student was. Reed prep lessons are good, sight reading duets, scales with alternate fingerings, listening to recordings while watching the scores - all types of music, not just sax. Have the student read a clarinet or flute part to a symphony while listening to a great performance and try to play some of it. There are so many things to be learned I couldn't imagine not being productive in a lesson (until "that" student came along, that is).

The last lesson of the day was always extra long unless I had a gig to get to. Just so much to do and with a good kid you hate to end a session.

Some times I really miss teaching lessons.
Carl H. said:
Some times I really miss teaching lessons.
me too.

You're a lucky guy, and I'm sure a terrific teacher, Neff.
When I was in high school, I was transcribing John Klemmer, Boots Randolph, Chicago Transit Authority, and Blood, Sweat and Tears (we had a minor horn band that emulated the latter two). I guess I lacked focus too. ;)
If punish was the word suiting your intentions, you may want to evaluate your motivation.
Kids will do what they want to do, regardless of their parents or teachers threats or punishments. The trick is to get them to want to play, and be better than they are. It's not easy to do, but it pays off in the end, unless they become a starving pro musician too and get your choice gigs!
Interesting thread, like bugging the teacher's lounge.

You all sound like serious, knowedgeable instructors.

I dug NatureColor's mention of efficient practice and
identified with Canadiain's overall take. It seemed
to me that vivace1's use of the word punishment was
more sardonic than literal, sounding of weary frustration.

I start to get how much you guys must invest
yourselves in this, hoping to share what you love,
know & can do, trying to sparking a bit of inspiration.

Good luck, you wretched devils.
I spent a lot of my working life learning
that it's largely (not completely) hopeless so I
could just 'get over' it want to do the work anyway.
But I didn't have to do it for other folks' children.
To me that sounds tougher than doing weddings
or bars!
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Nefertiti said:
I ask them a lot of questions about their week. I then use the lesson to show them how to practice the material. I'll just have them start practicing it right there and I'll guide them on the steps to take and what is the best way to learn the material. I give them a goal for the next week and hope they practice.:)
I like this approach. There were a few times when I was studying with Charlie Banacos where I was underprepared (I would at least have some of the lesson covered). Granted, my wife was pregnant and in the last trimester. However, no excuse, right? Anyway, his approach, if I recall correctly was to sort of review the previous lesson and discuss time management technics. I have found over the years that it is not so much an interest to me as to what certain people practice but HOW they practice. Working with the time you do have (even if only 30mins).
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