If progress can't be made because little or no work has been done, it's best to check the usual things, about motivation, illness, family events etc first, of course. These things aside, how do we confront issues of procrastination and/or excuse-making when it becomes obvious nothing much happens between one lesson and the next? What makes good practice has been covered in many professional blogs, including this one, but time is often taken for granted. Before the all-important telephone call to parents takes place, I've been through a process that has made one or two pupils wide-eyed with astonishment - and you can't argue with maths. It leaves no room for wriggling out, and thankfully has worked. Under normal circumstances and if commitment is there, finding time for practice isn't difficult and excuses (rather than good reasons) are revealed.
It goes something like:
How long is your lesson with me? 30 minutes.
How many minutes are there before I see you again? Uh?
Do you know how many minutes there are in a week? 60 minutes in an hour x 24 hours in a day = 1440 minutes in a day. That means there are 10080 minutes in a week. Really?
Yep - you see me for 30 minutes, so there are 10050 minutes left until I see you again. Let's see how we might use that time. What things can't we normally change?
Sleep - let's say minimum 9 hours a night x 7 = 63 hours = 3780 minutes.
Eating - 1 hour a day, say, so 7 hours = 420 minutes ( I include lunch in the school timetable)
School - including potential travel time - 8 hours x 5 days = 40 hours = 2400 minutes
Bathing etc (hilarity ensues) 30 minutes x 7 = 210 minutes
Homework (groans) say 2 hours a day for 7 days = 14 hours = 840 minutes
Add all these up and we have 7230 minutes used up. Let's add on a few hours for star-gazing, about 300 minutes, and we have about 2500 minutes left - how else do you spend time?
I share some of my other commitments as examples, so we end up factoring in social clubs/choirs, sports, outdoor activities, shopping trip at the weekend, because they are important. That uses about 1000 minutes, then it's crunch time - there are still approximately 1500 minutes. If we divide that by 7, it's over 210 minutes a day = 3.5 hours. I am generalising, of course, as we all have different demands on our time and who am I, someone who can allow a coffee break to last too long, to cast a stone?
Social media? Let's not go there...
The point gets across if we're light-hearted enough about it, but the message is a serious one. Time management is a learned skill - time must and should be set aside to enjoy music, and I hope practice can be included in that.
So the next time Ms X or Mr Y arrives saying that they haven't had time to practise...