I have a young student who I've been teaching for about about 3 years. He started in a group musicianship (Kodaly) class with me, and then switched to private voice lessons, where we have continued with musicianship and gradually introduced some work on vocal technique etc, as appropriate for his age. I also set him some straightforward "homework" and songs/activities to practise at home each week. He has never done much practice, and homework was rarely done the week it was set (if at all), but he loved his lessons and I knew there were some difficulties at home, so I have persevered.
However, over the past few months practice/homework has all but ceased entirely, and I am finding it difficult to work with him in lessons because all I can do is go over the same things again and again, because he never reaches a point where we can move on. I warned him (and his parents) that if things didn't improve, lessons would have to stop at the end of the school year, and there has been no real change. He apparently loves music/singing and doesn't want to stop, but that's not enough to induce him to do anything at home. His parents don't practise with him but do remind him every day and try to support him, and he just refuses to do it. There are also some behavioural issues, which I have no problem dealing with (it's rarely an issue in lessons now, though I know it still is at home), and it's not something I would ever stop lessons over, but it does add to the general sense of fatigue I have over his lessons. Put simply, teaching him is hard work!
I had a long conversation with his dad a couple of weeks ago where he said he wants his son to switch to piano lessons - because they believe he might practise more with an instrument than "just singing" - and give it a few more months before calling it a day. I really expected them to want to stop lessons, since they had made numerous comments before about wasting money etc, so I wasn't prepared for his suggestion, and I let him talk me round - but I am now regretting it. If it hadn't been for that conversation, I would be certain about calling it a day now.
This boy is capable and I'm sure he could do well - with either singing or piano - but I don't see any evidence that changing instrument is going to magically induce him to practise at home. At his lesson last week I actually had to walk out for a few minutes (I left him doing an activity) because I had an overwhelming sense of "I just can't be dealing with this any more", and I really don't want ever to convey that to a child....I know as teachers we are only human, but I still feel ashamed to think that way, even for a moment. I know my own health (as many of you know) is very much a part of all this at the minute - I'm so exhausted I have fewer reserves for dealing with things like this that normally I'd just get on with. But when a student turns up each week and absolutely nothing has changed, and I have to think of a way to fill the next 30 minutes and choose work to set at the end, knowing it won't be done, it does end up feeling rather pointless, and that can be pretty draining.
However, I never like to give up on any student, especially a child, and if switching to piano would actually make a difference, then I would be over the moon! I don't want to feel as though I've given up without trying. I have seen this child shine at the points where he has actually put work in and done well, and I get the impression he doesn't get many chances to shine in life, and that is what has made me persevere for this long with him. I don't want to take that away from him. So I am in two minds.....
I guess I have two questions: firstly, should I go with the parents' plan to switch instruments for a few months, or go with my initial gut and stop lessons now? Secondly, if I did make a decision to stop lessons now, how could I go about having that conversation with his parents, given they think we've already made a decision to carry on?