Saying Good-bye

Diane said: Dec 14, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

I’ve said “Good-bye” to 100’s of students over the years. 99% of the time it’s a warm, heartfelt experience; complements shared, reminiscing together, promises to stay in touch….

But the 1% of uncomfortable “Good-byes” unfortunately are the more memorable ones!

I had one of those this week that I still can’t shake off!

A high school student came to her last lesson before winter break. She was having one of those clumsy days and was having a hard time focusing. Knowing that she’s usually on task I just shrugged my shoulders and we agreed it just was “one of those days”. We proceeded through the lesson in a typical style. We made improvements, wrote down her lesson notes and made assignments for the next lesson despite her being slightly off focus and clumsy. At the end of the lesson she packed up, turned around, looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said “This is our last lesson, I’m too busy to keep up with violin but I do plan to keep playing.” I asked her why she hadn’t told me earlier and she said that their family decided a few weeks ago to cease lessons but thought that I wouldn’t take the last lessons seriously so they didn’t tell me!

All I can think of is “Wow”. That poor girl had to keep that secret in front of me! What unnecessary stress she had to endure. The poor soul! They could have just as easily told me a few weeks ago and asked me to stay strong to the end (which I would have done anyways!)

I told her that of course her school work is the most important thing and I’m not struck by her moving on—I’m struck by the way she is saying good-bye. Then she left and that’s it!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Jonathan said: Dec 15, 2010
 11 posts

That’s a really sad story, Diane. I can see why you’re having trouble shaking it off. Even after just hearing it secondhand, I’m going to have trouble shaking it off!

Sara said: Dec 15, 2010
191 posts

Wow. How very sad that they were that inconsiderate to you and to the girl. Would sending her a kind note in the mail and wishing her the best in her future, and thanking her for being the kind of student she was help you shake it some?
That is a disturbing way to quit. It could have been worse, she could have just disappeared and never told you she wasn’t coming back.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Diane said: Dec 16, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

I’ve thought about writing her a note but am at a loss for what to say. I’m sure I’ve only seen the tip of the ice burg. She only shared a small amount of information with me. Who knows what else was buried in there that she didn’t express.

We live in a small town. I’ll be seeing her and her family in the future for sure. It could happen at any time, any place (grocery store, concerts, cross country skiing…). My thought was to give her some breathing room and the next time we see each other hope that she’s had time to process her feelings. If I see her parents without her then it’ll give us a chance to talk. (Which by the way—that was the other strange thing—complete silence from the parents!)

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Diane said: Dec 18, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

Everything unfolded as I suspected.

I talked to the Mom in a parking lot this morning where we were dropping off our sons to go skiing. Turns out—it was her daughter’s idea to handle saying good-bye to me alone. She wanted to make the most of her lessons up to the end. She was projecting her thoughts onto me by saying she wanted me to teach consistantly to the end. As a young woman—she didn’t fully realize that keeping such a huge secret from me would actually compromise the lesson because she just couldn’t focus or get coordinated. So her idea backfired. The Mom said that when her daughter got into the car after the lesson she was just as inarticulate with her as she was with me. The Mom was happy that I told her what actually happened and now it gives her a chance to talk with the daughter and help her make sense of her thoughts and feelings. The Mom also told me how concerned her daughter was about what I would think of her quitting mid-year. Long story short—I told the Mom to please share our conversation with her daughter. Let her know that my opinion of her hasn’t changed one bit. I honor her choice to not spread herself too thin (”A” student, voice lessons, drama and ski team!) Also to let her know that she suffered extreme discomfort with me unnecessarily. I suspect the next time I see this student—a simple hug will put closure on the whole experience! Whew!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 14, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

…I’ve taken to putting the following in my studio policies, and pointing it out and talking about it to every family in order to avoid this very problem…

How to Quit (or change teachers) without hurting my feelings or my budget: LET ME KNOW at least four(4) lessons in advance so we can schedule an exit interview (parents only) and a last lesson date. Tuition is due for the four (4) lessons following the date you notify me, regardless of whether or not you take those lessons. If you prepaid for the year, I will refund you for the lessons starting four (4) lessons after the date I’m notified.

I’ve also been trying to make sure to ask every parent and student what their goals are in the initial interview, and periodically at parent teacher meetings, to find out whether or not they are thinking of long-term (open-ended) lessons or if they have a specific time period in mind. I’ve been surprised a couple of times by students who (apparently) only ever intended to take lessons for a single school year and were, from the start, intending to quit 9 (or 12) months later.

If I’d known the right questions to ask, I could have found this out, despite the students and parents thinking that it wasn’t something they should have told me at the first lesson…

I’ve also been considering, off and on, the possibility of actually creating an exit plan for each student within the first parent-teacher meeting that we have. Not sure how it would go, yet, but something along the lines of setting a goal which the the whole suzuki triangle is committed to, after which we would plan a parent-teacher meeting to discuss the next step, whether it’s setting a new goal that we’re all committed to reaching, or ending lessons, switching teachers, changing instruments, etc.

Cynthia Faisst said: Jun 16, 2011
Cynthia FaisstViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
126 posts

That’s an interesting idea. I wonder if parents will remember reading this information by the time they need it.

Some of my students have left because they knew the family was moving back to their own country or a different geographical location which was too far away. One family knew all along that their child was returning home to get treatment for a life threatening disease which she did not recover from. The parent kept it from me and I had no idea they did not expect to return to the US.

So many of the families I have had in the last 4 or 5 years have been going through much more stress than usual. Some were kind enough to say that they needed a break, which often meant that they were struggling financially. When a family disappears suddenly with out notice I try not to take it personally, although it puts limits on the work I want to do with underserved children in Santa Ana.

All one has to do is open Google Maps and press on the real estate button to see all of the red dots in Orange County. Some of these families have been so stressed by the time they leave your studio they have far more serious things on their minds to worry about. I just have to keep these families in my prayers and know that for every child that didn’t have the opportunity to continue violin lessons in our studios there are many more families out there trying to stay together and make it financially.

I am only now starting to get occasional phone call from families out of state saying things like “We are moving back Home??? again and we would like to continue violin lessons when we get there.”

I hang up and wonder if they have actually been shown housing in Orange County by a real estate agent or if they will be staying with grandparents until they find a house that isn’t 45 minutes to an hour commute from Tustin/Irvine/Santa Ana area.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

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