What to do in that final lesson…
We all lose students. It’s a sad truth. They all move on eventually, some sooner than others. Our students are in our lives only briefly, and then they are off to other things. Sometimes, maybe this is bad, but sometimes when a student leaves, I breathe a sigh of relief. (Don’t judge me, I bet you’ve had those students too.)
Most of the time though, it’s heartbreaking when they go. We invest so much emotion, energy, and effort in our music students, and when it is time to say goodbye..it can be so hard.
It doesn’t matter if the departure is expected—graduating high school and going to college for example, or sudden, a hasty move to follow a parent’s job prospects. Saying goodbye to our music students is tough either way.
I recently lost a lovely little student. Her family suddenly found their dream home in another city, and understandably didn’t want to trek all the way back for violin lessons. I was pretty sad, she was so delightful and fun. It’s hard to know how to handle a final lesson with a student, but I just have to remember my last lesson mantra:
Have fun. Be positive. Encourage and inspire them to continue their musical education.
First, acknowledge all the progress they have made. I try and do some recordings of my students periodically, (though sometimes I forget), so I like to revisit older recordings and compare to a recent one or we might make one that day. If you don’t have recordings, try to remind them of where they were and how far they have come.
Second, if the child is already a decent note-reader, sight read some fun duets. (Here are my favorites!) I do not recommend doing this if the child is a new reader, or not a confident reader. The last thing you want for this lesson is for the child to leave feeling discouraged.
Third, review old favorites. Let the child pick which pieces she (or he) wants to play. If you have the Suzuki duets, you can do duets for their old Suzuki pieces. Or Martha Yasuda has some lovely duets for the Suzuki pieces that are very fun to play.
Fourth, play a game. End the lesson on a super fun note. A theory game or playing battle is perfect. One of my favorite games is The Perpetual Motion Duel. Without any hesitation between notes, one player plays the first note of the piece, and the other play plays the second, and so forth. Go on back and forth each of playing one note, alternating until someone plays a wrong note or hesitates. It’s crazy fun, and the kids love it. Even my teenage students like this game. (You can play this one on one or in a group, works either way!)
I also like to give the child a card expressing my gratitude for being their teacher, and my hope and faith in their future. It’s especially sad when we feel like our students are being stolen away prematurely due to lack of parental commitment, or a wish to rush through the repertoire, but we cannot take it personally. We don’t know the whole story from the end, and must remember that we don’t know how the music or our influence may shape their lives later.
Have a good cry about it if you need to. I have.
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- Make sure your studio parents know what they are getting into (with the Suzuki method) by sharing this free download with them.