Is there a way for us poor teachers to get pupils to practice?

Is there a way for us poor teachers to get pupils to practice? I have tried reminding the pupils that they have paid a lot of money for the lessons and here are some of the responses I’ve received.

• “It’s okay, mum pays for it.”

• “But it’s so boring.”

• “I just didn’t have the time this week.”(Which I then hear every week.)

And my favourite.

• “Can’t we just use lesson time as practice time?”

I’ve also had one pupils tell me that it was too much trouble to get the sax out of the case and if only it was easier to set up she might practice more.

I’ve also tried the show-off method. This one can be fun all you have to do is play something that sounds flashy and then tell your pupils that that could sound like that too if they practiced every day. However, it can backfire spectacularly when your pupils tries to copy you, realised they can’t and then get disheartened.

Now, I’m not a teacher that likes to berate or degrade my pupils. If they don’t practice I tell them that the only thing wasted is their own time and now we will have to do much of the last lesson again. If they do practice then I like to encourage. When things are right I get (probably over) excited. It works well with all my students except those who don’t practice in the first place, because they never see the reward.

One thing I haven’t tried is empathising. After all, every muso in the world has been there. I’d put money that even Mr. Mozart has. I was talking to guitar legend and fellow teacher Jessie Jordan and he told me that when he was learning he had such trouble with the D chord that he seriously considered ignoring it all together. I felt that way about long notes on the sax but it has never occurred to me to tell my pupils that.

I think that’s what I shall try this week.

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