Closing Out the 2014 Teaching Year

Another year gone and [insert clichés here]

The interesting thing about the end of this year is that the teaching schedule didn’t turn into a complete farce. Despite my day job having its end of year social on a teaching night which resulted in me moving it a day earlier, all 12 students were able to come to their last three December lessons (minus the adult student that forgot but he paid so it doesn’t count)

I don’t think that’s ever happened. I’m pretty sure that at the end of last year about half of my students disappeared overseas or throughout the country for holidays. Either that, or annoying instrument rental companies had my students handing back their instruments well before the 20th of December. Come on guys, yes, you want a holiday too but you’re not just providing a rental service but also enabling student learning. You don’t just take things back before the year’s learning is complete.

You lose some…

As it stands, I’m definitely going to lose one of my students for next year and once again, competition with other extra curricular activities is the main reason. As an avid competitive swimmer, this student trains 5 times a week! To me that sounds crazy for someone who starts high school next year but if she enjoys it, who am I to discourage that.

When I learnt the news I did my best to share the merits of continuing clarinet, including that High School is when it starts getting really interesting on account of all the bands and orchestras. Deep down though, I appreciated the reasons; her clarinet skill had peaked somewhat whereas her beginner-intermediate violin lessons were still offering good value for money and swimming is the sport she’s keen on at the moment. Folks only have so much money to pay for their kids, the parents have to drive them everywhere and then there’s finding time in and around everything in order to practise and school homework.

I remember as a kid having something every day of the week. I have no idea how I fitted everything in.

Her clarinet ability is crazy good for a 12 year but time and maturity plays a big part in allowing a musician to take their playing to the next level. Unfortunately she isn’t quite there yet and I can’t bring myself to give someone so young a whole bunch of technical studies in order to get their fingers speeding through the instrument. The last thing I want to do is compromise enjoyment by doing such a thing. Short of giving her grade 6-8 pieces of music that will sound really good but never be mastered, there’s not much more I can offer at this time. No hurry; she has 5 years of high school to do so there’s plenty of time to get back into it.

On the plus side though, the school bands will keep her playing. Also, her violin lessons will keep her in musical learning mode. There’s great merit in learning other instruments. Saxophone and trombone did great things for my clarinet playing.

You might lose more…

Unfortunately there is also the chance of losing a student. One of my youngest students when he started, this young chap was super keen and certainly not shy. He even played clarinet in the mall while sitting inside a shopping cart as his parent pushed it around while shopping. I think interaction with kids at school has made him more self conscious. At one point he had a pink coloured book folder and then suddenly he wanted his dad to carry it because he didn’t want to be seen with it. “But this was your favourite colour,” his dad said. No more it seems, because pink is a ‘girls’ colour. A very topical discussion at the moment.

But he’s also become very fidgety and unfocused as if anything slightly challenging is not worth his effort. Even with music he does like (LoTR), he’s happy to play it how he wants to play it, which is often riddled with errors that are well within his skill level to fix. The lack of focus led me to invite his dad back into lessons just so that he’s more aware of what I’m trying to do. The dad tries to get the son to practise but I think he’s as baffled as I am as to where the child’s mind is at sometimes. “Mornings,” I said. “Try and get him practising in the mornings before the day gets hot and all his energy leaves him.” I can fully appreciate why the dad will stop lessons if the young man can’t get a practise routine happening during the Christmas/New Years break.

We’ll see how it goes.

Christmas loot

With the end of the year also comes Christmas presents from students. Presents that don’t last very long because they’re edible… nom, nom.

The Ferrero Rochers didn’t last long; I think I gobbled up 16 of them in 2 days. Then there were the Whittaker’s Mini Mix which only lasted 4 days. The epic fruit cake is also slowly diminishing and I only got it yesterday but it’s oh so good. And then I didn’t actually give out all the little chocolate bars so I’ve been munching through the spares.

Whittaker's Mini Mix and one of the best fruit cakes ever!

Whittaker’s Mini Mix and one of the best fruit cakes ever!

My contribution are little chocolate bars to each of the students, maybe two if they’re especially awesome. “I’m contributing to childhood obesity” I joke to them, “so make sure you go for a run or do some push ups or something.”

Will I win some…

The important thing about knowing who’s resuming next year is so the gaps in the timetable are known when prospective students enquire as to available times. Hopefully I can keep that timetable full for what will be my 15th year of teaching clarinet and saxophone.

On a completely different note, I found out one of my former students who did Grade 7 Trinity last year, was dux at her high school. Well done to her.

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