Chefs and Contractors
Would you go into a restaurant kitchen and, just because you cook at your home and people like the food, tell the chef how to cook your food? Do you tell your contractor, because you built a birdhouse in your junior high school wood working course, how to build your home? Of course not! Then why do parents feel it is okay, with limited knowledge of the piano, to tell their music teaching professional how to do their job?
Here is the simple answer: because music teachers let them!
That’s right, we let them. I’m pretty certain that if I approached my home contractor with home building advice or opinions (because ultimately when a parent interferes with our curriculum for their child, it is their opinion, not their knowledge that they are stating) he would at best laugh at me, at worst, hit me in the head with his hammer! But music teachers let them because as educators, we were trained to be compassionate, to be the "voice of reason," to understand, to be patient and tolerant. Most of those attributes do not necessarily reference the "professional respect of our job.
How can a minimally educated parent derail our work with their child? By:
- supplementing material (“They liked that song”)
- writing in finger numbers or note names (“They were having trouble remembering them.”)
- prescribing exercises (“Hanon was great for me when I was taking lessons.”)
- supplying You Tube videos, (“I thought it would be easier for them.”)
- giving a child a set of mnemonic for memorizing the lines and spaces (“That’s how I learned it.” - SIDE NOTE: that was probably 45 years ago, hopefully we have evolved because that is one of the worst ways to learn how to read music!)
What should we do?
Because it is in the best interest of our student.
Two laces on a shoe create a knot, two teachers simultaneously teaching a student (professional teacher and parent), can create a mental knot called confusion. Often, when we arrive at such a lesson, our time is wasted because we have to untie this mental knot created by someone else. And simply put, I do not like undoing another person's mess.
So how do we do educate the parent, keep the student, maintain our status as a professional and get the parent to back down while thanking us?
“Mr/Mrs. X. I appreciated your intention in working with [Student Name] this week. If you are interested in helping [Student Name] during the week, and assuming [Student Name], is okay with that, the best thing to do is to let me know, so that I can provide you with the most effective tips based on the curriculum I have created for [Student Name]. My ultimate goal is that [Student Name] doesn’t get confused, continues to feel successful and I’d be concerned that if you present material in a way that doesn’t coincide with the curriculum I have for her, she may lose any of the gains we have had in lessons. So here are some things you can do.”
Then tell the parent how you want her to interact (or not) with you and your student.