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Past bad experience during home visits, positive outcome


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#1 RPassacaglia

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Posted 25 October 2019 - 12:48

I just thought I’d share one of my experiences with a particularly unstable parent I used to have to deal with. I must stress that most parents I deal with are lovely. This was a particularly notable experience, and also contributed to me wanting to give up doing home visits. I am now gradually teaching more from home, and honestly believe that it works better because I am on my own turf and thus have better authority, and children seem to focus more when they are taken to lessons as opposed to being interrupted during their playtime at home.

This is an experience I had at the beginning of this year.

One Saturday, I was round a pupil’s house as usual, where I taught a 9 yr old girl and 7 yr old boy. The boy had been saying he didn’t want to have lessons for quite a long time, and I tried to get him interested, but I don’t believe in forcing children to have lessons if they don’t want to. So that Saturday, when his sister finished her lesson and it was his turn, as usual he was in his playroom and saying he didn’t want to have his lesson. His Mum got angry and started physically trying to force him to come into the piano room, actually dragging him along the floor, all the while he’s shouting “no I don’t want to!” (He was also giggling at this point because he found it funny that his Mum was dragging him along the floor. Nevertheless he was quite serious about not wanting to have his lesson.) Then the Mum started shouting at me for not joining in! She yelled various things at me about how I should go and fetch the boy when its his turn after his sister’s lesson (he was always in a different room in a house I was not familiar with, as a visitor in that home), and how I should have been helping her make him do it. After her torrent of abuse had finished and she’d calmed down, (quite some time later) I calmly explained why it’s not my policy to force children to have lessons, then I left.

I also have a policy of never accepting abuse or shouting from clients, and such a situation results in termination of piano lessons with immediate effect. This is set out in my terms and conditions. Needless to say I terminated lessons with that family and sent a formal email explaining.

Anyway, my stance is this:
I do not force children to play the piano if they don’t want to.
I do not intervene in the disciplining of another person’s child while the parent is right there, in their home. That is the parent’s job.
I do not lay hands on a child that I’m teaching. Ever. I certainly would not drag that child to the piano.

This was the first time anything like this had happened to me in more than 20 years of teaching, and I was quite frankly shocked. But it did drive home the realisation that home visits aren’t always a great idea.

I’m just wondering if anyone here has had any similar experiences?

Reflecting on this experience has made me very grateful that I’m in a better situation now due to some perseverance and a real effort to completely change my schedule and actually start to phase out home visit lessons. I probably wouldn’t have done it without the support of people on this forum who made me realise that I wasn’t being unreasonable in feeling that home visits were an absolute nightmare. (You know who you are, thank you for your support and advice.) As I’ve said before, I love teaching music and feel very privileged to be able to do it, but consequently that has made me feel like I don’t have the right to complain about my situation. The truth is, home visits were a bad idea on many levels (not just because of this one experience, see my earlier thread), and I’m glad that I’ve been able to move my teaching into a better situation. Well. I’m getting there.
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#2 Banjogirl

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Posted 25 October 2019 - 14:15

Gosh, well done! I hope you feel like a million dollars. It takes real guts and a calm head to resolve a situation like that. And it sounds like your change to teaching from home will give you further benefits.


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#3 Aquarelle

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Posted 25 October 2019 - 15:08

You have done very well Ruth. I am sure you will go on from strength to strength and wish you all the best.


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#4 ten left thumbs

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Posted 25 October 2019 - 15:12

Wow, that's quite an extreme situation. I'm glad you got yourself out of it, and glad you are happier now. I have to say, I do think it begs questions of child protection and whether there might be situations where we might need to protect a child from a parent, or alert social services to an incident. 


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#5 RPassacaglia

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Posted 25 October 2019 - 16:04

Wow, that's quite an extreme situation. I'm glad you got yourself out of it, and glad you are happier now. I have to say, I do think it begs questions of child protection and whether there might be situations where we might need to protect a child from a parent, or alert social services to an incident.


I do see your point, but I genuinely don’t think the children were being abused in any way. Although the mum was very angry during the incident, the boy didn’t seem to be distressed. He was laughing away, probably because he and his mum often used to have playfights in a similar manner. I think most of her anger was directed at me.
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#6 jpiano

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Posted 25 October 2019 - 21:50

Ruth, I really feel for you- I've not had to deal with anything so extreme, but I do remember one home visit where the boy who didn't want to do piano would grumble and take ages to come out of the bedroom into the room for his lesson. I like your really professional and firm but courteous response to this family. I went through a similar process some years back of phasing out home visits (which had been necessary originally for various reasons) and I love working from home. I find it so much easier to stand my ground professionally in my own home- not to mention the pupils having the benefit of a calm and quiet teaching environment with all my learning resources to hand.


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#7 ten left thumbs

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Posted 26 October 2019 - 09:46

 

Wow, that's quite an extreme situation. I'm glad you got yourself out of it, and glad you are happier now. I have to say, I do think it begs questions of child protection and whether there might be situations where we might need to protect a child from a parent, or alert social services to an incident.


I do see your point, but I genuinely don’t think the children were being abused in any way. Although the mum was very angry during the incident, the boy didn’t seem to be distressed. He was laughing away, probably because he and his mum often used to have playfights in a similar manner. I think most of her anger was directed at me.

 

Yes, absolutely, and you were there, I wasn't. You have the full context. I'm just thinking, "wow, this has the potential to get out of hand, and how would I handle it?" Thanks for sharing your story.


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#8 RPassacaglia

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Posted 27 October 2019 - 10:42

Thanks for your replies and kind comments. Thanks also for the insights in general on this forum which helped lead me towards changing my situation for the better. When it comes to home visits, I learned from this experience why the dynamics are all wrong when it comes to authority and relationships between teacher, student and parent. That combined with a highly strung parent with a lack of clear boundaries allowed the situation to escalate, as illustrated by my story above.
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#9 Norway

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Posted 27 October 2019 - 11:00

I had one Captain von Trapp type dad burst into a lesson once, brandishing his daughter's trousers and yelling "Sarah" (not her real name) "Are these your trousers?" Sarah whimpered "Err....yes.."  Dad barked "You left them in the washing machine. Don't leave them in the washing machine!".  I don't miss the home visits. Some families really do their dirty laundry in public!


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#10 Iulia

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 15:38

I mostly do home visits and it works for me because 1. I live in a flat and the parking is a nightmare :-) and 2. not many other local teachers round here do so it makes it easier for me to find students, but the plus and minus of home visits v your own studio are not really the issue here but an extremely rude and disrespectful parent who absolutely you should terminate immediately (as you did).

 

Its not your job to fetch any child from anywhere and get them into the lesson room ... and certainly unacceptable for her to shout at you. Its a shame for the older child if they were keen, but sometimes you just can't fix things for everyone. Maybe you will have made them think. Maybe not :) either way not your problem any more ...


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#11 DMC

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 10:52

Gosh Ruth what a horrible experience. Quite right to terminate the lessons. The parents' lack of self-awareness is frankly astonishing.


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#12 Dorcas

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 12:26

I used to have a regular conversation, between a young person and their parents about corporal punishment.  The parents' attitude was to invite me to go ahead.  I never did.  Finally, I discussed my options for discipline in front of one parent with the young person.  The young person agreed, I had never applied physical force, even though their parents thought it was a good idea.  My position was, even if the parents invited me to smack their child, I had no idea whether I could run fast enough to get away from the parents.  At this point the parent doubled over laughing.  Just because you are invited to do something, does not mean it is a good idea.  All this happened in my own home.  I have taught in people's homes, but always found it a bit tricky, students always stopped after six months or so.  I know not all tutors are able to work from home, and I liked Iulia's remarks.  Whether or not the parent is unstable is a matter for debate, but their demand. for the teacher to join in a wrestling match. is clearly not tenable.  


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#13 RPassacaglia

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 13:03

I used to have a regular conversation, between a young person and their parents about corporal punishment.  The parents' attitude was to invite me to go ahead.  I never did.  Finally, I discussed my options for discipline in front of one parent with the young person.  The young person agreed, I had never applied physical force, even though their parents thought it was a good idea.  My position was, even if the parents invited me to smack their child, I had no idea whether I could run fast enough to get away from the parents.  At this point the parent doubled over laughing.  Just because you are invited to do something, does not mean it is a good idea.  All this happened in my own home.  I have taught in people's homes, but always found it a bit tricky, students always stopped after six months or so.  I know not all tutors are able to work from home, and I liked Iulia's remarks.  Whether or not the parent is unstable is a matter for debate, but their demand. for the teacher to join in a wrestling match. is clearly not tenable.


I had worked with this family for a couple of years, and witnessed the mother’s instability many times in different situations, this was just one occasion. She also lacked the ability to set clear boundaries. One minute she would be letting her children get away with murder, the next she would be shouting at them for the smallest transgression. I could never tell what she expected of me either, and expecting me to go marching through her house in order to seek out and fetch her son when it was his turn for a lesson - apparently this was something she expected me to do without being told. Or she had just decided that day that that is what I should have been doing. It’s hard to tell, like I say she was never consistent. I wouldn’t say that her instability was debatable having known her for a couple of years.
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#14 RPassacaglia

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 13:13

Its not your job to fetch any child from anywhere and get them into the lesson room ....


Yes quite. I think that’s the bit that surprised me the most, even more than the shouting - just the fact that she was angry with me for not going marching through her house looking in every room to find him and fetch him for his lesson, and the fact that apparently I should have been doing that all along (according to her). I mean - what!? Most people would consider that rude and intrusive. It’s not my house after all. And I’m not a nanny.
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#15 Dorcas

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 13:43

 

I used to have a regular conversation, between a young person and their parents about corporal punishment.  The parents' attitude was to invite me to go ahead.  I never did.  Finally, I discussed my options for discipline in front of one parent with the young person.  The young person agreed, I had never applied physical force, even though their parents thought it was a good idea.  My position was, even if the parents invited me to smack their child, I had no idea whether I could run fast enough to get away from the parents.  At this point the parent doubled over laughing.  Just because you are invited to do something, does not mean it is a good idea.  All this happened in my own home.  I have taught in people's homes, but always found it a bit tricky, students always stopped after six months or so.  I know not all tutors are able to work from home, and I liked Iulia's remarks.  Whether or not the parent is unstable is a matter for debate, but their demand. for the teacher to join in a wrestling match. is clearly not tenable.


I had worked with this family for a couple of years, and witnessed the mother’s instability many times in different situations, this was just one occasion. She also lacked the ability to set clear boundaries. One minute she would be letting her children get away with murder, the next she would be shouting at them for the smallest transgression. I could never tell what she expected of me either, and expecting me to go marching through her house in order to seek out and fetch her son when it was his turn for a lesson - apparently this was something she expected me to do without being told. Or she had just decided that day that that is what I should have been doing. It’s hard to tell, like I say she was never consistent. I wouldn’t say that her instability was debatable having known her for a couple of years.

 

 

Fair comment.  


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