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#1199282 - 05/14/09 06:31 PM Mean teachers
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
There is a thread going in the Corner about a student who had a nasty teacher in her past, and how such lessons with this person affected her.
This prompted me to start a thread over here about Mean Teachers. Were you brought to tears at lessons yourselves?
Have you said something that you know caused your student to cry? How have your own teachers taught you how to teach: are you patient,when that kid simply cannot count 3/4 meter after the 85th try?
I had a teacher who told students ahead of each lesson that she would bring them to tears. She did.
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#1199308 - 05/14/09 07:33 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Barb860]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4783
Loc: South Florida
One of my 3rd grade boys almost cried today. I feel cranky today, and my voice got a little sharp.

I asked him if I sounded angry at him. He said, "Yes."

Well, I felt like a real jerk, because this is a really cool, cooperative kid. So I kept on teaching but totally stressed the fact that even though one little thing was wrong, and that happens to everyone, his work was good. And I REALLY stressed how much I like him, which is true.

And he left with a smile. Whenever a student leaves very upset, I feel as though I have handled something very badly—except in very unusual circumstances.

Anyone with a strong personality *could* bring just about any student to tears, but not only do I think it is wrong, I think such a teacher has a serious mental health problem.
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#1199319 - 05/14/09 07:50 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Barb860]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
I remember my first teacher as being brutal! I still have a scar on the back of my hand where the metal edge of the ruler cut into the back of my hand.

My brother had a hard time with a section of Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" and to this day I see the red ink scrawled across that part " FORGET IT STEVE!". I wonder how he would feel if he knew his writings had such a negative impact.

I have had kids "tear up" a few times. But like Gary said, I always make sure it's all good before they leave. Sometimes it's because I "barked" that them, but usually it's the same few, and they are just really touchy.

Originally Posted By: Barb860
I had a teacher who told students ahead of each lesson that she would bring them to tears. She did.
Why would she do that? Power probably...? I think that we probably all have the "power" to do that, but why would we want to?

Originally Posted By: Barb860
There is a thread going in the Corner

Okay, what/where is that?
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#1199321 - 05/14/09 07:53 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Gary D.]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
There are teachers who take pride in having the reputation of making students cry. Some say that this means the lessons are truly meaningful due to the intensity. Of course I think this is ridiculous but it does happen.
A friend of mine in high school studied with such a teacher for many years, even into the college level, as this teacher taught at a university. My friend cried at every single lesson she had.
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#1199323 - 05/14/09 07:54 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
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Loc: northern California
"nervous at lessons" by cherry coke
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#1199324 - 05/14/09 07:55 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Barb860]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Quote:
I remember my first teacher as being brutal! I still have a scar on the back of my hand where the metal edge of the ruler cut into the back of my hand.


You're not the only one with rulers in your past. No physical scars, though!
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#1199507 - 05/15/09 12:01 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Piano*Dad]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4783
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
[quote]
You're not the only one with rulers in your past. No physical scars, though!

Was this a private teacher?

How do these monsters get away with it???

<shaking head>
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#1199539 - 05/15/09 01:29 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Gary D.]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
One of my 3rd grade boys almost cried today. I feel cranky today, and my voice got a little sharp.
In inner-city class teaching one can easily become an ogre. Years ago I found myself shouting at a boy 'sit down' as he came walking toward me - until the point of shouting in his face! It had no effect (he was special needs). At that point I realized there's just no point to that abuse - I've not raised my voice to an individual since. Nor, in one-to-one, had one even mildly upset - my heart just isn't in it.
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#1199616 - 05/15/09 07:14 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: keyboardklutz]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Gary, this was the early 1960s. Nobody ever told the six year old me that the joke about some RC nuns using rulers as ...... uh ..... encouragement, wasn't a joke.

After that introduction to piano, which my mother wisely (and angrily) interrupted as soon as she discovered what was happening, it took almost three years before I would agree to trying another teacher. Fortunately, that kind-hearted gentleman was able to bring me back to the table of music. Unfortunately, I think starting at age nine is a bit too late. Oh well, in another life.
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#1199618 - 05/15/09 07:20 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: keyboardklutz]
BSP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/07
Posts: 209
Loc: Hudson Valley, NY
I've had some experiences with crying at lessons.. with some very wonderful teachers, who were just encouraging me to do my best, a bit puzzled at why I was having problems with something, and my own frustration just got in the way and I'd cry.. frown

OTOH, the last teacher I had in my teens was so mean, negative and stern, that he made me quit. I never remember him having anything positive to say about my playing, and I finally gave up and quit. I remember him standing in the crook of the piano, smoking, with that mean screwed up face, as I must have butchered another run in a Beethoven sonata, and sneering, "This is NOT difficult!"...well, obviously, it was for me... When I returned to the piano as an adult, my teachers were all so positive, I just couldn't believe there were people like that out there.. OMG!

I guess this thread really could be reversed. How many of your students

bring YOU to tears???

I vowed to be a positive reinforcement type of teacher, but I've brought a student close to tears already. It appears to me that she has ADD or something, but she constantly interrupts (I've posted about her on this forum before) me, and distracts my flow. One day I simply stopped teaching and asked her "Why don't you listen to me?"..I know this wasn't the best thing to say, but believe me when I tell you, I simply asked... I didn't bark this question, or yell or anything. I just was so frustrated with her interruptions. She stopped, and hung her head. I figured the tears were coming, but they didn't fall. I continued, "I can tell you love to play the piano, but I can't teach you if you're not quiet when I speak." She said, "sometimes I don't understand". I felt horrible. But then,
I said, "If you don't understand, you can always just ask me.."
We did end the lesson on a good note (excuse the pun), but wow, I still feel badly about it.

BevP



Edited by BSP (05/15/09 07:22 AM)

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#1199643 - 05/15/09 08:38 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: BSP]
Morodiene Online   content
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BevP,
Obviously those words had to be said. Tears and conflict aren't always a bad thing. It is how they learn that what they are doing affects others. It is also how we grow as teachers. With my very frustrating ADD student (see the ADD thread) I've gotten to the point where whenever he is playing while I'm talking I don't speak, I say "SHH" really loudly. It saves my voice, and it's something different than my speaking voice so he pays attention to it. I think in your case, this needed to come out so that she knew to ask questions when she didn't understand, rather than distracting you. smile

I don't think I've ever made a student cry. I've had a few perfectionists who cried, but I teach them the same as I did others. One had a serious issue and cried at every little wrong note, even when I told her they weren't bad and that we could learn to be better from them. We soon stopped lessons, though, and I'm glad for that. I told her parents she needs counseling or it would only get worse. As for the other one that comes to mind, he started out being very nervous and upset about mistakes. He still seems to get nervous at lessons, but he's gotten much better about the mistakes. Again, it's nothing that I've said or done, it's the pressure they put on themselves.
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#1199665 - 05/15/09 09:16 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Morodiene]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Perhaps I should add this to the "unsolicited advice" for new teachers post.

The old adage, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," applies to teaching as well.

Always, always, always find two or three items about a student's playing to praise, before you start working on the deficiencies.
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#1199682 - 05/15/09 09:38 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
I've made students cry roughly... 3-4 times in my short career so far. Here are the cases:

1. New student. Ran diagnostics on him. He was nervous, but was doing well so far. Got out some staff paper, quickly drew some notes, asked him to grab a pencil and name them. After a few minutes of shuffling he began crying because he couldn't name notes. Verdict: not my fault.

2. New student. Ran diagnostics on her. She was 4 at the time, and I warned the parent that it was unlikely she'd begin. Before the door even closed, I asked her, "Do you know your ABCs?" She nodded yes. "Could you show me please?" Cue screwing up of the face and bursting into tears. Verdict: not my fault.

3. New-ish student with a history of being squirmy and flighty on the bench. Spoiled rotten, always got his way - except in my studio. He gets on the bench, plays his song in an agonizingly slow time with no rhythm and many wrong notes. After he finishes, he looks at me and says, "Do I pass?" I tell him no. He turns on the waterworks. "But all - all my other t-t-t-teachers they - they pass me when I p-p-play!" I tell him I only pass if the piece is up to the standards of both student and teacher. More sniveling and crying ensues until I calmly put my foot down: keep whining, and the lesson is over immediately, or stop whining, and I will work with him to make the piece better. He shuts up. Verdict: not my fault.

4. Current student, has been mine for well over a year. Both of us were touchy that day, it seems; I get up in his business over a misunderstanding (for which I apologized profusely), he is unusually sassy. Working through a section, he gets frustrated with counting. I take down the difficulty, I encourage him, we're making slow progress until he just quits. "I can't do it!" he wails, and then starts whining about how hard it is. I calmly tell him that I understand, and I'm here to help, let's work through it slowly a little bit at a time. There's no need for whining. "But I WANT to whine!" he continues. I give him a stern look and tell him pointedly that I do not tolerate whining in my studio, and he can feel free to get out if he wants to keep up with his behavior. "I'm going to whine!"

"Okay, lesson's over, get out." His dad sighs. My student's eyes start to fill up with tears once he realizes I am not joking. Eventually I pass him a tissue and tell him that I won't ever give him a challenge he is absolutely unable to complete, and that I am here to help, support, and encourage him to improve. Lesson is definitely over, though. Verdict: kind of my fault.

Other than that, my students haven't cried. Myself, I've cried in enough lessons just because I've been too hard on myself (well, once a professor of mine told another professor within earshot of me that I was hopeless and my playing was going to give her a heart attack and kill her, and that caused me to cry, which then caused her to tell me not to cry, it's her that should be crying because of my playing).


Edited by Minaku (05/15/09 09:38 AM)
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#1199684 - 05/15/09 09:39 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Perhaps I should add this to the "unsolicited advice" for new teachers post.

The old adage, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," applies to teaching as well.

Always, always, always find two or three items about a student's playing to praise, before you start working on the deficiencies.


This is something I constantly have to remind myself because I get so worked up about finding solutions to problems that I forget to congratulate them on what they do well. I'll say something like "good" or "ok" after they play, but then I go right onto the problem areas. There's always something to work on wink
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#1199752 - 05/15/09 11:07 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Morodiene]
R0B Offline
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Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
As a child, I was often brought to tears by my teacher, (she was a ruler rapping type) but she was also an aquaintance of my mother's, so any complaining, and my mother would have backed her up.
My music teacher in school, for whom I have, and always will have, the greatest respect, had a habit of smashing old wax 78 records over the heads of pupils who were slacking.
Thankfully, I didn't suffer this.

I have one student ( a 12 year old girl) who sometimes tears up, more from her frustration at getting something wrong, than my approach.
Puberty is a difficult time for all young teens, with hormones raging all over the place.
I try to diffuse the situation, by totally changing the subject, and trying to lighten the conversation.
It seems to work.

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#1199857 - 05/15/09 01:22 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: R0B]
keyboardklutz Offline
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An interesting aside is that classes of children are very much an emotional barometer. If you teach 30 at a go, 5 or 6 times a day they are pretty much always the same. You go into work feeling much as always and bang! You start reacting adversely. Then, as the dust settles you realize you must be ill, didn't sleep or have a big problem on your mind. If you're not 100% in health, they'll take no prisoners.
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#1200154 - 05/15/09 10:50 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: keyboardklutz]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
At that point I realized there's just no point to that abuse - I've not raised my voice to an individual since. Nor, in one-to-one, had one even mildly upset - my heart just isn't in it.

I feel about the same, but even an edge in the voice can be too much for the wrong person at the wrong time. smile
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#1200159 - 05/15/09 10:54 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Piano*Dad]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4783
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Gary, this was the early 1960s. Nobody ever told the six year old me that the joke about some RC nuns using rulers as ...... uh ..... encouragement, wasn't a joke.

After that introduction to piano, which my mother wisely (and angrily) interrupted as soon as she discovered what was happening, it took almost three years before I would agree to trying another teacher. Fortunately, that kind-hearted gentleman was able to bring me back to the table of music. Unfortunately, I think starting at age nine is a bit too late. Oh well, in another life.

I think the biggest problem is going back at age nine. I was eight and a half when I started. There was not doubt as soon as I started that I could have begun years ago.

And I know all those stories about nuns and rulers is not joke. I've heard SO many adults talk about it. The mother of one of my favorite little girls was hit that way. No arguments from the mom about my having a better way of teaching! smile
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#1200203 - 05/16/09 01:09 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Gary D.]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
At that point I realized there's just no point to that abuse - I've not raised my voice to an individual since. Nor, in one-to-one, had one even mildly upset - my heart just isn't in it.

I feel about the same, but even an edge in the voice can be too much for the wrong person at the wrong time. smile
Yes. The teacher resides is an interesting emotional domain. The non-conscious pupil takes in all.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#1200564 - 05/16/09 06:57 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: keyboardklutz]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
This teacher is currently a violin professor at a major university:
When I was 16 and just started driving to my violin lessons, which were 45 minutes each way, this teacher took pride in making her lessons tough enough to make her students cry. One Saturday afternoon during my lesson, she said, "You are sounding so pathetic that it's not worth my time to teach you. My ears cannot stand the sound of your disgusting playing. Let's end this lesson and oh, could you take me over to the dress store downtown so I can pick up my dress for the concert tonight that I'm soloing in? At least you will have then done something right for this day".
Granted, not a ruler rap but....verbal abuse, yes.
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#1200578 - 05/16/09 07:25 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Barb860]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Barb860
This teacher is currently a violin professor at a major university:
When I was 16 and just started driving to my violin lessons, which were 45 minutes each way, this teacher took pride in making her lessons tough enough to make her students cry. One Saturday afternoon during my lesson, she said, "You are sounding so pathetic that it's not worth my time to teach you. My ears cannot stand the sound of your disgusting playing. Let's end this lesson and oh, could you take me over to the dress store downtown so I can pick up my dress for the concert tonight that I'm soloing in? At least you will have then done something right for this day".
Granted, not a ruler rap but....verbal abuse, yes.


Jeez, tell me you're kidding!!

And, you didn't actually drive here did you? I think I would have driven her off a cliff!
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#1200598 - 05/16/09 07:45 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: Ebony and Ivory
Originally Posted By: Barb860
This teacher is currently a violin professor at a major university:
When I was 16 and just started driving to my violin lessons, which were 45 minutes each way, this teacher took pride in making her lessons tough enough to make her students cry. One Saturday afternoon during my lesson, she said, "You are sounding so pathetic that it's not worth my time to teach you. My ears cannot stand the sound of your disgusting playing. Let's end this lesson and oh, could you take me over to the dress store downtown so I can pick up my dress for the concert tonight that I'm soloing in? At least you will have then done something right for this day".
Granted, not a ruler rap but....verbal abuse, yes.


Jeez, tell me you're kidding!!

And, you didn't actually drive here did you? I think I would have driven her off a cliff!


Yes, I did drive her to the store to get her dress!!!! keep in mind I was only 16 years old. I can still remember (I'm 48 now) sitting in my car outside the dress shop. I could see teacher in the front window of the store, trying on her gown and twirling around in it for the whole store to see. footnote to this story: oftentimes, parents would sit through this teacher's lessons, watching their kids cry and fall apart.
"But your teacher is so good and quite famous" was what they would tell their kids.
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#1200832 - 05/17/09 09:06 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Barb860]
BSP Offline
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Registered: 09/03/07
Posts: 209
Loc: Hudson Valley, NY
Barb,

You know, I get the feeling that this particular teacher was taught by someone probably even more abusive than she turned out to be. Where else would she get such ideas? That's probably how she became so tough on herself.. Imagine having the teacher you could never please, then breaking your neck to try to please them, and in the process becoming an excellent pianist. Without having anyone else to compare to, you might begin to think that that's the only way to teach.

Alas, not all brilliant pianists are great teachers, though..

WRT the post I wrote earlier in this thread, my Mom has always
told me that I really improved during my time with the teacher I loathed so much.

And, then, Barb, for her to ask you to drive her somewhere is... outrageous! What a way to take advantage of someone..
*shudder*

BevP

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#1200878 - 05/17/09 11:28 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: keyboardklutz]
razzigirl Offline
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Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 65
Loc: Canada
Keyboardklutz,

How could you ever have remotely imagined that it would be okay to yell at a special needs child, especially in his face?

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#1200944 - 05/17/09 02:30 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: razzigirl]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2893
Loc: UK.
razzigirl, I don't know if you have ever been a classroom teacher in a tough school. I can tell you that dealing with groups of unruly teenagers drives you to act in ways which can be completely out of character. In fact some kids will make it their business to wind you up to the point where you will snap.

I got out of the classroom because it made me miserable. I found the only way I could keep discipline was to be as mean as possible. But it just wasn't me and I could not put on an act. If I was mean and strict I would go home feeling horrible.

KBK did mention that shouting in that kids face was the wrong thing to do and is in fact pointless. But sometimes you find yourself shouting and screaming because that is what it does to you.
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#1200975 - 05/17/09 03:46 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Chris H.]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Sorry, but I gotta go with Keyboardklutz and Chris on this one.
I'm fairly certain no one ever went to class with the intentions of getting in someone's face.

I work with SpEd kids and I can tell you there are no kids on the planet that can push buttons faster than these guys. Like someone said earlier, "lack of sleep", "feeling ill" etc... and it doesn't take much to push you to your limit some days.

As long as we apologize for outburst and let them know that we all have "bad days" we are also teaching these kids that we all have limits, we are not perfect either and it's okay. I'm not condoning yelling all the time, but it's good to let kids know the boundaries.



Edited by Ebony and Ivory (05/17/09 04:32 PM)
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#1201017 - 05/17/09 05:08 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: razzigirl]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
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Originally Posted By: razzigirl
Keyboardklutz,

How could you ever have remotely imagined that it would be okay to yell at a special needs child, especially in his face?
In those situations you don't exactly have the presence of mind to 'imagine' anything. Try it.
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#1201035 - 05/17/09 05:47 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: keyboardklutz]
Roxy Offline
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Registered: 11/19/08
Posts: 478
Loc: Whittier, Calif
Teachers can be firm without being mean. And if you have to make your student feel bad about their playing and musicality in order to make your playing and expertise seem better there is something wrong with that picture. Teachers need to remember there is other things going on in students lives also no matter their age or playing level and sometimes they have a hard time dealing with things so that when they come to a lesson perhaps they are not trying to be difficult but it is one more thing to handle and that day they are on overload so a little understanding can be in order to keep them on the right path or practicing the correct way so that they are not totally discouraged. And if one doesn't realize that a special needs child has to be taught from many different angles sometimes every single lesson and yelling isn't one of them then they need to not teach special needs children or find another method that will work because that one won't.

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#1201060 - 05/17/09 06:34 PM Re: Mean teachers [Re: Roxy]
razzigirl Offline
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Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 65
Loc: Canada
I worked with mentally handicapped children for over 3 years, which is why I was a bit upset when I read Keyboardklutz's message. I also taught English in Asia to kids for 5 months. I know what it's like to want to scream my head off. During these moments though, I just took a deep breath and reminded myself that these children weren't intentionally trying to anger me.

I didn't mean to pass judgment on you Keyboardklutz. We all have our bad days and deal with things differently. When I was a kid, I used to scream at my little brother sometimes and not let him play with me. I really do regret that now.


Edited by razzigirl (05/17/09 06:40 PM)

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#1201250 - 05/18/09 12:37 AM Re: Mean teachers [Re: razzigirl]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: razzigirl
I worked with mentally handicapped children for over 3 years, which is why I was a bit upset when I read Keyboardklutz's message. I also taught English in Asia to kids for 5 months. I know what it's like to want to scream my head off.
Are we talking classroom teaching in an inner-city school? Five classes of 25 - 30 a day? It's extreme, and I recommend the experience to all who are privileged to teach one to one (as I now am - though I prefer 2 or 3 to one) in nice places.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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