Every teacher has written “same as last week” in a student’s assignment book many times. It happens when your student hasn’t practiced a bit – or very little.
You give the lesson, and maybe you touch on some different topics that you didn’t get to last week – like technique, scales, or theory. But when it comes to writing in her assignment book, you cross out the old date, write in the current date, and write same as last week.
But what happens when you find yourself doing this a second or third time? How do you help the student get unstuck?
Here’s the letdown – I don’t have the perfect answer. I think one of the answers has to be to get the parents involved. It’s important to let them know that progress has stopped since they are funding the lessons. There is some risk in this approach, in perhaps losing a student sooner rather than later. However, this approach keeps my reputation intact.
I think another answer is to dig deeper to uncover the issue. In my experience, it rarely is pure laziness. It might be the repertoire, and that can be remedied by assigning a piece of a different musical style. I was about to quit piano lessons when I was about 13, though I had progressed quite far and had even played for church services and weddings. A book of highlights from The Sound of Music kept me going.
For younger students with difficulties learning how to read music, I have a different approach that works. I take a short break from the method books and design some activities using colored pencils.
Sadly, the main reason a kid gets stuck is that she is overbooked. She really wants to do better, but just doesn’t have enough time left over from school and all of her other activities to practice. Sometimes this leads to her quitting the piano altogether, but more typically it just results in a long plateau that has to be suffered by both student and teacher until a spark happens, practice picks back up, and growth resumes.
What have I missed? What are some other approaches to getting unstuck? What is your experience with this issue, whether in music, school, or even life?