This post about helping students find time to practise piano was originally published in August 2016, and updated in November 2020.
For a lot of teachers, one of the biggest stresses is over-scheduled students. With school, swim team, scouts, and babysitting, who has time to practise the piano??
We’ve all heard it before:
“I didn’t have time to practice this week!!!”
While this may feel like the truth to the student saying it, it almost certainly isn’t. The truth is most likely that they didn’t prioritise their piano practice this week.
Time management is an important life skill. A lot of the time parents take responsibility for this with young children, but with teens it can get stickier. It comes naturally to some teenagers, and others have to work at it.
If you have a student who is time-management challenged, here are some steps you can take to help them find time to practise piano.
Try it Their Way
Don’t jump in right away if they don’t think they need help. If this is the first time this is happening, it might just be an ‘off’ week for your student. We all have off weeks from time to time.
The first, second, maybe even third week this happens I would just opt for a no-practice piano lesson.
But, if the weeks start to creep on…and on…and still there’s no practice happening? That’s when I get my project manager cap out and ever so gently suggest I help them find some time for practice.
Find Pockets of Time
Take some lesson time and help your student to plan their week. This planning time should take about 10 minutes or so, but it could pay off big in the long run.
I know, I know: There’s a little voice inside your head saying this isn’t what their parents are paying you for. I would argue that it is. They’re paying you to teach their child piano, and that can’t happen without regular practice.
Have your student fill out all of their regular activities on the planner – everything from doing homework to sports to family dinner time. I like to use a highlighter to fill in the boxes so we can easily see how much of the day is still available.
Then you have opportunities to help them find the time they need for practice. If it’s only a 15-minute block on Tuesdays, that’s OK. 15 minutes is SO much better than no minutes.
If your student has their own phone, you could even have them add a reminder alarm. That way when Tuesday rolls around, they don’t forget to practise the piano during that 15-minute block.
Call In Reinforcements
Even if your student now has a clear schedule in their minds, it’s still entirely up to them to actually practise. But if they haven’t yet developed that practice habit, they’re probably going to need some extra support at home.
If the parents are at the lesson, you can have your student explain the plan to them right then and there. This has the added benefit of solidifying the piano practice schedule in the student’s mind simply by describing it out loud.
If you’re not able to talk to the parents in person, take a snapshot of the schedule and send a quick email to them after the lesson. Simply say how you know Sally Jane has been really busy lately, so the 2 of you put your heads together and came up with a few times when she can practice piano. Be sure the email sounds like you’re excited about the new plan, not like a reprimand.
If you bring the parents into the circle and ask them to be cheerleaders at home, the student is more likely to follow through by actually practising, creating a routine which will stick.
Once you’ve helped your student find time for practice, teach them how to make the most of it with the helpful ideas and resources on my ‘Teaching Piano Practice’ page.
What do you do with your busiest bees?
Do you ever spend lesson time teaching time management? Share your wisdom and experiences in the comments 🙂.