The concert went really well – more of that later.
Well now I really am in a pickle. I have received from you all very sensible and intelligent advice which I know perfectly well I ought to follow. But I don’t think I am going to be able to. As you know, despite the difficulties with mother both children got good exam results. They turned up at the concert without father. They were impeccably dressed and both played their piece exceptionally well, in particular the boy. He obviously took great pleasure in playing and then turned to me with a lovely smile which hit me below the belt. It was the confirmation of what I have suspected for a long time – that his music is, for him, a safety valve.
I was at the village hall early to do some last minute preparation. The first person to arrive was a man whom I didn’t know. He seemed a bit confused about the venue and the timing of the concert. I asked him who he was and he said he was a friend of the X family who had invited him and his children. (I had asked parents to bring along friends who might enjoy the concert.) Mother X had made a generous contribution and joined in to help the other mothers. I avoided her until the very end when I went into the kitchen and found her there with her elder daughter whom I met three years ago. Mother had obviously forgotten that I had met the daughter and introduced her to me – she was helping with the clearing up – and I got a big smile from the daughter. (At one time I had been asked to take her on too but as she was between boarding schools – having been expelled from one – there were too many timetable complications and it couldn’t be managed.)
So now I am stuck. Mother and children behaved perfectly and I also overheard a group of other mothers talking together and one congratulated her on the way her children had played. This mother is a relative newcomer to the area and may not know of the difficulties people have had with Mother X. So with this public show of good will and good playing I am not going to manage to sack this family without possible repercussions. Next question – is this manipulation on the part of mother X or is she really unaware of the results of her behaviour?
I had originally intended to get a letter to her or hand a letter to her myself stating that in view of our differences of opinion I felt she should look for another teacher. But the carpet has been pulled out from under my feet. So I have decided to take another course.
She asked me if there was another lesson before the end of term – though the notes for parents on programme clearly stated that there was – so I imagine she will bring her children on Wednesday. I think I will make myself a list of the difficulties she has caused and discuss this with her face to face. I think I will take the line that maybe she has not understood what I require of parents. I will tell her that if she can’t agree then she is at liberty to withdraw her children.
If she wants them to continue she will have to conform to the spirit of my teaching practice, as do the other parents and that any further problem will lead at once to the removal of her children. Somehow I have to construct a situation in which the sword of Damocles is hanging over her head, and not mine. I have no idea if I will be able to convince her, but at least I will have made my points. I will have to stay calm and professional and if she explodes again I will simply have to close the matter there and then.
In answer to Norway’s question the concert was great. All the pupils - from the tiny “Piano Adventures Primer” group through to the Rachmaninov Prelude were played with enthusiasm and authority. The group of poems and music from Walter Carroll’s “River and Rainbow” was very much appreciated (though for my part I found several of the readings a bit “dum-di dum-di dum” rather than the expressive way they had read in lessons.) The Rachmaninov drew a lot of applause though the Agitato was a bit chaotic I don’t suppose anyone but me noticed – and it was a valiant attempt for a teenage boy. One of the most musical moments was when a seventeen year old girl managed to hold the audience spellbound with Debussy’s “Little Shepherd”. I got the child announcing to explain that this was a piece in which the silences and the holding of a single note were expressive moments to be savoured. Despite the number of young children in the audience you could have heard a pin drop. There was a “cute” moment when an older sister played a chopstick style duo with her little sister. They had prepared this all by themselves and it was quite touching to see how the older girl “managed” the little one. The little boy in charge of the CD player (Piano Adventures accompaniments) got it all right. One or two pupils really excelled themselves and the one girl who is always terrified of playing in public had a restart and a panic but once I had set her en route again she courageously got through her Beethoven Bagatelle without further mishap – though the speed was what an examiner would probably have called “prudent.” On the other hand she played “The Chrystal Stream”’ beautifully in the Walter Carroll group and she did actually read her little poem sensitively.
The buffet afterwards was plentiful and tasty. Parents and friends stood and chatted, the teenagers clustered themselves into conspiring groups and the younger children raced around with popcorn falling out of their pockets. (I brought 2 enormous bowls of the stuff and it disappeared in seconds!) Afterwards everyone helped clear up and it was hugs all round and “See you next year.” I got home just before ten and the only person who had not had a good day was the dog who made it quite plain that concert or not, being confined to the kitchen for an afternoon and an evening was not fair play.
If anyone has any suggestions or warnings about how I cope on Wednesday please do post. I’ll update afterwards.