Parent engagement is critical for a music student’s success.
There is a reason why a parent has chosen to send their child to you to learn music. To keep the child and parent invested in whatever reason that was, it is necessary to completely engage the parent in their child’s lessons.
There are several ways to get and keep a parent more active in their child’s learning.
1.) Be consistent in attendance.
Your prompt attendance sends a strong message to parents about the value of what you are teaching. Arriving late, canceling lessons, or not showing at all without warning shows the parents and the students your lack of value in what you are teaching. It is disrespectful of their time, money and desire to learn to flippantly cancel lessons or arrive late.
When emergencies do arise, explain what is necessary and be prepared to offer a make-up immediately. Having an alternative in mind before canceling shows forethought on your part and shows that you value the time and energy you are being privileged to pour into your students.
2.) Have a plan.
Learning music is a journey. When teaching children, you have to get the parents on board. They want to see the full itinerary before they commit to this journey. You should have clear goals of what you’d like for each student to accomplish including the various techniques and skills. You need a checklist of success- a written one. Your own written plan should be gradual, comprehensive and realistically attainable.
List each skill you want to accomplish as well as method book examples and repertoire that incorporates the skill. When choosing repertoire, make sure you have several pieces for each skill you’re trying to have the student master. A method book is great to start out a student, but they’re limiting and somewhat boring.
For the parents, you don’t have to be quite as specific as listing all of the choice pieces for each skill goal, but having a sample plan laid out as a checklist for the parents is extremely beneficial and helps them completely buy into your teaching.
While you are aware of the minute moments of advancement, it is difficult for the parents to follow along and they are easily disenchanted if they do not see the noticeable progress in their child that your trained ears and eyes see and hear. With this plan of teaching, you have a concrete syllabus to hand to parents so they know where their child is headed in their musical advancement.
This one, as simple as it is, is difficult to accomplish if you have the efficiency of back-to-back lessons. This is also where the written plan comes into play. Balancing your goals with parents’ expectations and keeping them both within the confines of realistic expectations of progress is quite an act. Giving them the checklist and holding the child as well as yourself accountable to it helps you communicate with the parents the progress their child is making even when you are unable to communicate face-to-face with the parents who drop off their child and go shopping.
If you are blessed with parents who wait close by for the conclusion of the lesson, invite them in when their child has achieved something exciting. Watching you be thrilled with their progress helps them stay engaged in the process as well.
Also, pointing out specific techniques the child is mastering such as arm and finger placement gives the parent something to look for in practice time as well as letting the child know you are watching and noticing their hard work.
Parents have a reason for committing time and money to children’s activities. As early as possible, find out the reason. There is something the parent wants to see in their child when they bring them to you. Sometimes, they are checking off a box, but most times, they just want to see the joy in their little ones. Work to give them that.
Be present in the lesson and be cognizant of what excites the child to play the instrument. Listening for parental verbal cues or even straight up asking the child what they want to learn makes the whole process more enjoyable for all involved.
5.) Arrange opportunities to play.
It is critical for parents to see their children in a different environment playing their music. Leaving the safety net of their home or your studio and presenting their education to strangers is an important part of their development.
Arrange a recital with the opportunity to mingle afterward. It’s good for parents to talk to each other as well as you about the challenges of raising a young musician.
Arrange an outing for several students to a senior residence or nursing home. This opportunity for outreach will not be better received by any other audience. Our aging population loves to feel special and especially loves to see young people doing something they love and see them doing it well. Your parents watching this occur will enable them to see the benefit of crossing the generation gap and they will likely be as engaged in watching the residents as they are in watching their own child.