Accountability in Piano Lessons and Life

What comes to your mind when you read the word accountability?  For me, I think of getting in trouble.  I think of fiery sermons where I trembled at the Almighty holding me accountable for bad deeds.

Here is the definition




subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable.
capable of being explained; explicable; explainable.
Yeah, it sounds pretty intimidating to me. 
I have seen piano lessons become a place where accountability creates burn out, a sense of too high expectations, and rigidity.  What the definition does not tell you is who is setting up the rules under which a person must report, explain, justify, or answer.  Some things are cut and dry.  If my son does not have any clean clothes, I am answerable for not having them washed.  The standard being one wears clothes in daily life.  It sounds silly, right?  But think of the things which we make ourselves and our children answer for that are not cut and dry.
Have you found yourself as a parent or teacher saying these things?
  • This student should be here (this level of scales, this spot in the book) by now!
  • I want my child to be as good as ______ or I am wasting my money.
  • These lessons are only worth it if my child plays well and others are impressed (and maybe intimiated?) by them.
  • Am I, the teacher, accountable to my students if they don’t learn?  Is it all my fault?  How much do they need to have learned to be considered a good teacher?

What all of these inner thoughts and questions have in common is a misplacement of accountability.  There is also a lack of two other qualities that can completely change your persepctive.

Partnerships and Acceptance

When students sign up with me I become their PARTNER.  In doing so, a good partner accepts the strengths and weaknesses of the student.  At the same time, students will bring out my strengths and weaknesses.  As the teacher, it is my responsibility to become inspired and strengthened in those areas of weakness.  Let’s say I have a student who loves music by Burgmuller and I only know a few songs.  My goal becomes strengthening my expertise in this area to benefit my partner in this musical journey.  We are in this together. 

 The student does not scream at me that I should already know everything.  AH!  Can you flip this idea?

Acceptance is powerful.   It can be difficult to get quiet and really notice why you feel disappointed in your child or a student if you are a teacher.  Students come with their own set of abilities and strengths.  It can be  very easy, almost too easy, to impose on them rules and expectations which never end.  Do we ever stop to question where we are receiving our expectations?  Sometimes they are from other parents, other teachers, the school system, and educational background philosophies.  These sources can inform us and give us information but the child on the bench comes first and then I am informed by my education and experience.  Imposing expectations based only the ideas of another is not fair to the student.

What does accountability looks like in my piano lessons?

Students are given assignments every week.  Should they come back the next week with things undone, my response is not disappointment or chastisement.  I want to know, partner to partner, what happened.  What is a busy week?  Did they find the song difficult once they got it home?  Did they get caught up in another song?  We discuss and make decisions together.  You may be thinking, “What does my child know?  You are the teacher!” 

 Here is what your child knows that I don’t – what it is like to be them.

 Do you see how this is so much more than setting rules and seeing that everyone follows them?  Life is nice when we are all working together and everyone’s voice is heard. 

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts on this subject.  Where do you fall when it comes to accountability?

For more reading on this topic of parent partnerships and accountability head over to Donna Vail’s blog post called “Partner With Your Children.”


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