Tuesday, March 24, 2015

We Value Open and Honest Communication

It’s April, and that means you may have played (or suffered through) a few tricks on April Fool’s Day!  Let’s Play Music teachers are some of the sneakiest folks you’ll meet, but even at our trickiest, we encourage and practice transparent, honest and open communication with respect for the hearer and the listener.

Sneaky?

Our teachers are super sneaky, but that does NOT mean we toilet-paper your house or put plastic wrap on your toilet seat.  It DOES mean that we play fun and silly games during class and our students are tricked into thinking that's ALL there is to it! (bwah-ha-ha) 


During class, you WON’T hear us expounding lengthily about the purpose behind each activity, and we WON’T spend tons of time demonstrating.  We just get right into the games and keep things moving.  Our trickery is revealed years later when students notice, “hey, I have a fantastic ear for identifying notes…where did that come from!?”  That’s right, we value fun in our classes (read about it here); we sneak in loads of complicated theory with every game, and the students sometimes don’t notice!

Let’s Be Honest
We get a bit sneaky with the kids, but we certainly strive to be open and honest with you parents.  We DO want to educate YOU about everything going on behind-the-scenes in the Let’s Play Music program.  This blog is one tool that was created to help reveal our magic, so I plan to reveal things here such as:
  • What do we value, and how does that shape class format?
  • What is the purpose behind each activity?
  • What else can I do at home to help my child learn the concepts?
  • Why is each skill useful, and how will students use it in the future?
Sometimes you’ll have questions that aren’t answered here on the blog, but your teacher is there to chat with you.  I sincerely hope that if you don't feel confident about what your child is learning, you'll contact her so she can help you get there.

We’re Open for Business
We value open and honest communication.  Of course, communication is a two-way street.  That means YOU have an opportunity and responsibility to speak up, too.  Let’s Play Music teachers are encouraged to seek feedback (usually via surveys) each year, to find out what you're thinking. 

I can tell you, my first few years as a teacher I was pretty nervous to solicit feedback.  I put my heart into my work. I loved my students and gave them 100%.  I wasn’t sure I had energy to handle any suggestions.  With some coaching from the Let’s Play Music trainers, I came to value the honest opinions and use them to improve my studio.  

One survey response I received included a suggestion that I start a blog or send out weekly emails so parents could have a better understanding of the activities.  Excellent idea!! Thanks for letting me know what you needed to get the most from class.

Now it's up to YOU to take the time to give thoughtful feedback when your teacher asks.  Don't hold back on telling her something, kindly, that she can really put to use and make her program better.  In the long run, you don't help by being silent.

The Good Times and…
Okay, folks.  Some day you may have a tough topic to discuss with your teacher.  It might make you nervous to approach her, and it might make her nervous, too!  Whatever your topic, your teacher has been trained to address your concern openly, honestly, and professionally.  Please meet us halfway- tell us honestly what you are concerned about, and give us a chance to meet your needs.

The good news is, your teacher has a huge supportive network of teachers across the nation.  Whatever question or issue or problem you may need to bring up with her, someone has probably dealt with something similar before! I don't tell you this to minimize your concern, I tell you this so you'll know that you WON'T break your dear teacher's heart or business if you talk to her about what's going on.  She will get support and find ways to work through it.

Don't Let This Be You
I've had a few students over the many years who simply VANISHED from class.  They stopped coming, with no communication about what was going on.  I tried calling one parent, and she wouldn't answer!  She ignored my calls and emails for months and months and never told me what had happened.  A few YEARS later I saw her in a store and, although it was awkward, I did want to talk to her.  I told her, "I was worried about you…whatever happened back then?"  She told me that making the payments was a struggle so they'd stopped coming to class.  I suspect her embarrassment and awkward feelings were overwhelming, and just got worse over time.  DON'T LET THIS BE YOU. Don't let something spoil your child's music experience when it might be resolved.

I have had a few other clients with that same struggle handle it differently. Sure, myriad things happen that affect a family's finances.  When those parents came to chat with me, I discussed some creative solutions.  Most of the time we were able to figure something out so the student could stay in class.  Occasionally we couldn't, but we separated with an amicable and compassionate feeling between us.  This is how we prefer to operate- let's communicate.

Convos With My Teacher
Here's a sample conversation to help you get started IF you have a tricky subject to bring up!  Perhaps there's something in class that's happening (or not happening) that could be better.  Trust me, I have had a few of these conversations.  Being THIS CONNECTED to the students and parents is one thing that I love about our program.


You: Hi Ms. ____.  I have been wanting to chat with you about something- do you have a few minutes now?

Teacher: Why, yes. I'm so happy you called. What's on your mind today?

You: Well, one thing I really value is _____.  I really care about making sure that ______.  So, one thing that I have been thinking about is __________.  

Teacher: Okay. I'm glad to hear that ____ is so important to you. I really want to make this class a success for your child, and knowing exactly what you care about helps me.  Now that you point it out, I can understand your perspective about ________________.  I really care about making this work for both of us; is it okay with you if I take a couple days to think about this and consider what you've shared with me.  I'm also going to do a little research and see if I can come up with some strategies to share with you- can I call you back on Friday?

You: Sure.  I'm glad you're willing to talk to me about this. I really feel like we are a team.

Teacher: Of course! I'm on a learning curve to becoming a fantastic teacher- I'm sure this isn't the last time I will have to confront _______ , so I'm glad you're friendly about helping all of us figure it out.

You're My BFF
Right now my daughters are really into the phrase "BFF."  They're wearing BFF necklaces, but tell each other, "it's really BSF because we're best sisters forever!".   

Your music teacher strives to have great customer service, but she's also someone you're going to get to know pretty closely after 3 years (more if you have more children.)  I hope she can become your BTF: Best Teacher Forever.  You know- the kind of teacher you can really talk to about your child's progress. 

Really importantly: when she does something you like, tell her that, too! "I loved it that you made those treats for the kids.  It meant a lot to me that you stayed after class to talk to my child.  I value that you took time to show me again how to do that skill."  

Thanks for telling me that! Now I know how to help you enjoy class the most.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher



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