Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A month of no excuses.

I have just completed the most amazing month of my entire teaching career.  In the month of January, I had exactly zero students come to their lessons unprepared.  That means no one came into lessons last month with an excuse ready for why they didn't practice as much as they should have.  How remarkable is this?  Well, I have been teaching private students since 1993, and it has never happened before now.  I have had good weeks, sure.  But never an entire month.

So, it is time to reflect.  How did this happen, and more importantly, can it happen again?

Hypothesis #1: My student's parents don't make excuses.

In the past, I have always had a few parents who tend to make excuses for their kids.  I don't have that problem this semester.  Kids who have parents that make excuses, have kids that make excuses.

Corollary to Hypothesis #1:  Our studio kids have awesome parents.

Hypothesis #2:  Self evaluation.

All of my students complete a quick, self-evaluation at the beginning of each lesson, and give themselves a rating based on the following criteria:

10 points are possible.  A score of 10 indicates perfect preparation.
Subtract 1 for every day that no practice occurred.
Subtract 2 for any item not practiced that was written in your notebook.
Subtract 3 for not doing assigned theory.
Subtract 1 for any item that you forgot to bring to your lesson.
Subtract 1 for Long Fingernails .
Subtract 1 for each excuse you make for not coming prepared.
Subtract 1 if you use our bathroom.
Subtract 1 for arriving 10 minutes late, 2 for 20 minutes and so on.

Students results are plotted on a graph, that over time, might look like this:

 There are two lines because they get a score from me as well, which is based on my perception of whether they have made sufficient progress over the course of the week.  Gaps in the chart show either vacations or missed lessons.  The student above is fairly consistent about getting to the piano during the week, but has dropped the ball a couple of times.  When students hold themselves accountable for their work during the week, they take more responsibility for making sure that they practice.  I have noticed marked improvement in my students' performance since I implemented this chart last summer.

So, can this happen again?  I'm not betting on it.  But, at least now I know it is possible.