Recently, a disgruntled parent complained that my expectations were unclear.

I scoffed. To me there is not much  that’s more important in the teacher – student – parent triangle than to set clear expectations so I have always been extra careful to communicate these.

I checked with some other parents who immediately reassured me that my expectations were in fact very clear.

Except, they are not really. Clear.

What is clear are my instructions – they are detailed, very specific, aimed at that particular student, written down in the assignment binder, broken down into easy-to-follow steps. The “what to practice” is only a very first step. What follows can be an entire paragraph of “how to practice what you’re supposed to practice”.

I include the student in this process – “What should I write down to help you remember at home what we are working on?” – “What’s a good word to describe the most important thing here?” etc and so on.

But I hardly ever say, “By the next lesson I expect you to be able to do da-da-da.” I guess I assume that if the instructions say “m. 5-8 RH alone” that means that by the next lesson I expect to hear m. 5-8 RH alone.

I did have one student some time ago who during the five-lesson trial period came back to a lesson and said he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with the assignment that said “New: Minuet”. I was baffled: did I really have to spell out “Learn to play the new minuet”?? Apparently so.

My expectations have more to do with – behavior? I am trying to be polite, friendly, considerate, prepared, I start and end lessons on time, and I expect students and parents to be and do the same: they are polite, friendly, considerate, prepared, and they show up on time.

I expect my students to habitually show a high level of enthusiasm, motivation, and commitment. Which means that most of the time they are enthusiastic, motivated, and committed, but not all the time.

One of my high school students, some time ago, apologized for not having been well-prepared for several lessons in a row. Wide eyes when I responded, “I don’t care.” Say what? I explained that I assumed he was doing his best and that I understood that there’s only so much time in a day / week, and that I was glad and proud that he was doing so much other extra-curricular stuff so naturally piano took a backseat for a couple lessons, and I knew he’d get back to spending more time with piano as soon as the other stuff calmed down. But I also appreciated that he recognized that he wasn’t as well-prepared and that he said something.

I guess that is my expectation then: that students (and parents) do their best, and their best is good enough for me.