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#1256524 - 08/26/09 01:44 PM Tough Student
MrsCamels Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Los Angeles
I have a really tough student that I need some advice on - especially from parents please!

He is about 11-12 years old and has been taking from me for a year and a half. Prior to that he took piano for a few months. He's extremely bright and knows it - spent his summer building robots and doing math. He's also very independent and has a boisterous personality. I.e. he's in that boy stage where farting and burping are hilarious - he doesn't do that in his lessons FYI, but he's in that stage.

Our lessons are a drag for both of us. As he gets more and more independent, he ignores what I say. He does practice, but only about 20 min/day and I can tell that it's just playing through things as fast as he can and not really thinking about all the notes I've written down. As a result, he hangs on to pieces for MONTHS with little progress.

At his last lesson, he tried to rip up a piece he doesn't like and yelled at me - in that way that starts as a joke and halfway through he realizes that it's not funny. He does this alot, talks in voices, etc and other behaviors where he's imitating younger behavior as if it's funny (it's not). I let him know that was unacceptable behavior and called his mother after his lesson to discuss it.

She was upset that he did that, but also expressed her frustration that he doesn't like anything he's working on. She said it's a constant battle at home to get him to practice, etc.

I said that I was surprised he doesn't like anything, b/c I try to find pieces that will excite him. He's a level 4 (macgrath) and thinks he's an expert. So, he's asking to learn rustles of spring, etc, but has trouble mastering bach's minuet in g. I did give him solfegietto to work on thinking he'd like the quick pace, but he said he doesn't like it.

I think that alot of the behavior is due to his lack of practice. He comes in acting several years younger than he is, I think, in an effort to detract from the embarrassment he feels at not practicing. Yet, despite that, he doesn't practice, etc. He kept asking why he had to learn a certain piece that he hates . "If it's just to learn staccatos and stuff, why can't i just learn that in another piece?" This was a great question - but what he really meant by it is, "I don't want to practice this one, and i'm not going to want to practice another either, but can we try another one just for variety's sake?" I said that the purpose of this particular piece was to show him how much he's learned that even when he has no passion for a particular piece of music, he can master it b/c he has a strong skill set.

Anyways, I'm not sure what to do. It sounds like his mom is not going to be much help b/c they seem to just argue over practicing (not like in my day where I couldn't eat dinner unless I'd practiced - that cut through my independence pretty quick!). So instead, I'm considering scraping most of his stuff and spending most of the lesson on theory, scales and only assigning 15 minutes of practice every day on 1 piece ONLY. Hoping that this will give him a chance to reverse the cycle of not prepared-misbehaves at lesson - not prepared - etc. Slowly over time increasing that practice length and adding new pieces in until he's built up some practicing habits.

Suggestions please - at my wits end
_________________________
Teaching since 2004
Private studio owner since 2008
www.ecsorota.com

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#1256527 - 08/26/09 01:55 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
Rachel J Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
I haven't posted much on here, but I am a teacher, so here I go with advice... wink

I have had a very similar situation with a boy about the same age. I've been teaching him for a while, and we used to go through the same sort of thing. He was clearly just going through the motions at home... not actually working on fixing the things I had pointed out to him. He would just play the same sloppy way week after week.

I did something very like what you suggested at the end of your post. It has made life easier for him and me, but his mother is less than impressed. She wants him to play more difficult pieces. I wouldn't be surprised if she pulls him out of my studio. In the meantime, I explain to her what I am trying to accomplish and hope for the best. I work with him now on rhythm exercises, scales, and one piece at a time at an easier level than what we were trying to work on before. The lessons are more pleasant, and I believe he is getting more from the experience and feeling more positively about music. What's the point in pushing more difficult pieces if it just results in frustration?
_________________________
Rachel Jimenez Piano teacher in Brooklyn, NY / Author of Fundamental Keys method
My professional website: FundamentalKeys.com
Latest blog post: "A marvelous pianist and mentor"

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#1256561 - 08/26/09 02:38 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Rachel J]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
I know it is tough. I think I am going to start a Worse Student Ever thread. I bet we all have good stories.

I think this student might be the type that would be excited about earning a medal or trophy for his efforts. Consider auditions or asking another teacher to critique your students. You can easily order your own medals. WHEN someone else write the critique and says “You MUST strike staccatos consistently” they listen.

I participate in two auditions a year (not required) the students who participate have learned that I know what I am talking about and the details count. Dangling that carrot helps. Just an idea.
_________________________
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1256578 - 08/26/09 02:52 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Mrs.A]
MrsCamels Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Los Angeles
That's a good idea Mrs. A. His mother would like him to go for the NCMA testing which may really motivate him. Perhaps bringing someone in soon to observe lessons would show him how much preparation the NCMA would need. great idea
_________________________
Teaching since 2004
Private studio owner since 2008
www.ecsorota.com

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#1256615 - 08/26/09 03:40 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
Karisofia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/08
Posts: 201
Loc: Wisconsin
Auditions or exams might be just the focus he needs. One other thing that worked for some "resistant" students: I created a score sheet for each lesson. A specific task goes on each line (e.g. play page 12 with no mistakes) with a number of points for that task. At the next lesson, I hear the piece and determine how many points were earned. If there are 10 points possible, a couple little slips might be an 8 or a 9. There's a section for jobs to be done each day (exercises) earning one point per day. There's also a section for bonus points.

I add up the total "possible" points and all points earned. We then figure a percentage grade. (I sometimes let them punch in the numbers on the calculator.) This means something to them since they get grades in school. A 90% or higher earns a prize.
_________________________
Private Teacher
Member MTNA, WMTA, CVMTA
Local Association President
The Achievement Program Center Representative

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#1256634 - 08/26/09 03:59 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Karisofia]
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA

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#1256656 - 08/26/09 04:24 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17778
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: MrsCamels
He kept asking why he had to learn a certain piece that he hates . "If it's just to learn staccatos and stuff, why can't i just learn that in another piece?" This was a great question - but what he really meant by it is, "I don't want to practice this one, and i'm not going to want to practice another either, but can we try another one just for variety's sake?" ... I'm considering scraping most of his stuff and spending most of the lesson on theory, scales and only assigning 15 minutes of practice every day on 1 piece ONLY.


As a parent, and as a strong-willed adult beginner myself, I'd suggest taking a different tack. I think focusing on scales and theory and lowering your practice expectations will only backfire. He seems to be bored with the material he's learning. Giving him more boring stuff is not likely to solve the hearts and mind problem. wink

You say he's very bright. Here's what I would recommend. Tell him that he doesn't have to play pieces he hates, but he does need to learn certain skills. And then give him the challenge of identifying pieces he likes that use the skills you want him to learn. In other words, give him the responsibility of finding another piece that will give him the experience with staccato you want him to have. He may find doing that kind of musical research to be a fun and interesting challenge. And once he takes ownership, as it were, of his progress in piano, he may be more motivated.


_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1256660 - 08/26/09 04:36 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7384
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: MrsCamels
Our lessons are a drag for both of us. As he gets more and more independent, he ignores what I say. He does practice, but only about 20 min/day and I can tell that it's just playing through things as fast as he can and not really thinking about all the notes I've written down. As a result, he hangs on to pieces for MONTHS with little progress.


But this isn't practicing, it's playing, and not very well at that.

I would also challenge the assumption that he is really bright. He may be a quick study, but it's definitely not smart. Smart students don't waste their time by day dreaming, idling, undertaking non-productive activities, etc.

You know your student better than any of us - so you might want to give this a try, if you think it will goad him in the right direction.

By the way, do you remember reading this when you were in school? It used to be posted on the walls of every high school:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Here's both a direct and indirect approach:

"Sam, what would you say about a student who might have ability, but fritters it away, achieving nothing day in and day out. Do you think this student is smart?"

"Sam, you think you're smart, but smart kids don't waste their time with activities that give them nothing in return. A smart kid would not sit at the piano for 30 minutes and come away having learned nothing."

Here's a really direct hammer:

"Sam, monkeys can learn to do many tasks just as fast as humans, but they cannot sit a table or piano, and practice on their own. They always need someone to show them what to do. Smart kids can sit at the piano and study, and make huge progress in 30 minutes of focused effort. Nobody thinks monkeys are smart. So, are you smart or not?"
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1256699 - 08/26/09 05:22 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5500
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
"Sam, monkeys can learn to do many tasks just as fast as humans, but they cannot sit a table or piano, and practice on their own. They always need someone to show them what to do. Smart kids can sit at the piano and study, and make huge progress in 30 minutes of focused effort. Nobody thinks monkeys are smart. So, are you smart or not?"


Let me steal this quote. Priceless.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1256711 - 08/26/09 05:35 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Bottom line:

When students willingly cooperate with me, I feel like eventually we can accomplish almost anything, so that's my number one goal.

When I don't have student cooperation BUT have parents who will work with me in changing that, chances of success are still reasonable.

However, when parents either do not realize there are problems or acknowledge them but will NOT dedicate themselves to solving them, failure is almost guaranteed.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1256820 - 08/26/09 08:37 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Mrs.Camels,

TOUGH STUDENT? YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN!

This young man is certainly not a credit to your reputation, I’m sorry to say. Why are you invested in working with someone who is so contrary and disrespectful to you? Are you a martyr?

You have already expressed the complaints:
Our lessons are a drag for both of us
He ignores what I say
He just plays through things as fast as he can
MONTHS with little progress
He doesn't like anything he's working on
It's a constant battle at home to get him to practice

There are some things I’d like to counter:

1) You say, “His behavior is due to his lack of practice.”
I say, maybe his behavior is to sidetrack and distract you from being the disciplinarian you need to be. He is trying to make the fault all your about why he isn’t practicing. Call him to account.

2) You say, “He’s not really thinking about all the notes I've written down”
Ask him to write down the notes he needs to make about his assignment and wait until he does them his way. I recommend you stop writing his assignment all together. He needs to take responsibility for the outcome of his music lessons by stepping somewhere into the role of a learning musician.

3) Philip Johnston has a great web site about practicing and books for kids as well as older and serious students of piano. www.practiceopedia
Get some great ideas from him and ask your student to find something that would help him want to practice. Ask for 3 ideas he gets from the website.

4) 5 Finger Major Scale Positions (12) with graphics is a very helpful step. When a student is missing these exercises which come first before one octave scales it usually is a significant problem to students being able to play piano well. From this position, the major chord roots and arpeggios are formed. From here come the cadences and inversions.

5) Give him rhythm exercises such as “Basic Timing” by Allan Small which are written in one line structures, numbered and progressing in difficulty. All are in Key of C, but you could ask him to transposition to other keys using the 5 Finger Major Scale Positions.

6) These above kinds of preparatory assignments for his future may be part of the links missing in his education. I don’t think he’s so bright or independent at all. I think he’s undisciplined, immature, blames others for his shortcomings, and hasn’t proven that he can do anything at all to your standards. How can he live with his inner stress?

7) I question the assignments you have given him if he has only had 1 and a half years of lessons. I think some background and formative pieces are missing. I would get him out of the classics temporarily and into music written by education composers – there is so much structure there – I am talking music supplements, not method books. In classics, the pieces would be of the easy works by the early classical teachers, not the classical masters.

8) Considering his invented difficulties and the fact that he is getting away with it means that he is way ahead of you in power plays and he’s looking forward to the win of seeking you totally at your wit’s end. Vicious isn’t it!

9) I would not set a minute time for him to practice. It would be 5 x each line/section/or piece (depending on where he was in understanding the construction of it). He obviously can waste time if it’s a solid chunk of time he has to “practice”. He would have trouble getting through 5 times each piece because it may be tedious sometimes, but it is effective, and 5 times is going to have him sitting on the bench much longer than the projected half hour for practice. He would have to apply himself to get the assignment done this way. If he refuses 5, then 3 times. If he continues to argue with you, he is enjoying the arguing and becoming a maestro at being oppositional for the sake of it. To me, this really seems like the creation of a monster.

10) I would ask him to compare identify and compare sections of his pieces using form and analysis – then he has a reason to look at and study the music. If he gets good at it he will learn to recycle (a favorite word with kids) measures, lines, and sections. This process also helps them recognize that there are repeatable parts that work in their behalf. If you do this section well one time, it comes back 3 more times in the piece and you’ll be prepared. What a bargain, 3 for the price of 1!

11) All comments I’ve made are with the intention of capturing his curiosity and involvement, trying to show him there is depth of thinking and planning required in playing the piano, not just once through and fast at that as he is doing.

12) He should have been stopped each and every time he acted out and upset the lesson continuity. His parents should stop paying to support this sad situation.

13) There is possibly hope if you can get his cooperation and interest but he is enjoying himself so much with the way things are, why would he want to do that and lose all his power over the situation.

14) You need to protect yourself from continuing in a very unpleasant situation or you need to find the beginning of solutions that will make a change for the better for both of you. But, I think you do have to draw the line in the sand now and mean every word of what you say to the student and to the parent.

I hope that your choices work for you soon.

Betty Patnude

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#1256826 - 08/26/09 08:46 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
How about just dropping him? Unless you really need the money, that's what I'd do. Yet another reason I don't teach children. Who wants to spend their time policing kids?
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1256839 - 08/26/09 09:12 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: eweiss]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
I'd rather work with children any day than with adults. It all depends upon POV. smile
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1256919 - 08/27/09 12:15 AM Re: Tough Student [Re: Gary D.]
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Sounds like a change in repertoire is in order. I agree with the guy who said to get the student to pick out his own rep!

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#1256929 - 08/27/09 12:30 AM Re: Tough Student [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
MrsCamels Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Los Angeles
Thanks for all the great suggestions.

i will definitely get him to write his own practice notes (although i know the first few weeks will be him attempting to write "do not practice anything" at every opportunity).

i've gone ahead and adopted the 15min practice limited to 1 piece only. i agree that without a parent to support things at home, there's little chance of him doing anything i assign. The 15 minute option sure appealed to him and his mother - fewer battles. Also, although he certainly has grabbed too much power in our lessons (you all are right about that!) he's never developed a consistent practice habit. in the time he's been with me it's always been a battle - on again/off again, 3 days this week, 5 days the next, 2 days the following week, etc.

so, i can see I need to step back and show him how to develop that habit. we'll start with 15 minutes and slowly add time as the weeks go on and he becomes acclimated to it. If he doesn't latch on to this opportunity, then it really will be time to let him go. but as a teacher, i feel its my responsibility to help him form a habit rather than just tell him what the habit should be. A student who's used to ignoring, sliding by and procrastinating is not going to change over night.

I think he became so consumed with NOT practicing, I'm hoping he's surprised about how easy it is to ACTUALLY practice.

As for picking his own repertoire - there's no way. He can always tell me things he wants to learn, but like i've said, his choices are far far beyond his level. I pick pieces with similar qualities as those he requests that ARE at his level and he "hates" them - surprise - because he has to practice them.

today we spent 30 minutes discussing his 1 practice piece, 15 minutes on a tom petty tune that he doesn't have to practice (but he was so excited about it - i'm sure he'll be playing it every day) and 15 minutes working on an improvised character sketch of a harry potter character. I think activities like these in his lessons will also help him see why he's taking lessons, and make the lesson time more enjoyable.

I did have to correct him on sarcasm and inappropriate behavior, but that's my own fault for letting so much slide through in the past in his case.
_________________________
Teaching since 2004
Private studio owner since 2008
www.ecsorota.com

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#1256971 - 08/27/09 01:42 AM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
Since he seems to be a bit of a joker, I know there are pieces out there that fit directly into this (though I'm afraid I can't think of any off-hand.)

You could also show him some Victor Borge and/or Igudesman &
Joo. Who *isn't* inspired by them?


Edited by Sal_ (08/27/09 01:44 AM)

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#1257098 - 08/27/09 09:57 AM Re: Tough Student [Re: Sal_]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11968
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Sounds like you have a good game plan worked out for him. Something that is very important as a part of this plan that I hope you will consider is that there must be consequences. He is testing the boundaries and finding he can push them very far. All children do this to some extent, and those who have any success with it continue to go further with the testing.

Any time he treats you with disrespect, you call his mother and the lesson is over with. His mother can deal out whatever punishment she deems necessary at home, but you should refuse to teach him any more that day once he does that. No warnings, no second chances. He will learn very quickly not to act that way during his lessons. You may even want to have a limit as to how many times he is sent home before you permanently remove him from your studio.

As far as practicing at home, I agree with the idea of him writing down his own regimen. But again, have rules such as "you are not allowed to write down anything that we have not discussed in the lesson, such as 'don't practice,' or jokes to yourself." You'll need some sort of consequence, such as an extra theory assignment to do or extra time required to practice if he does this.

Lastly, practicing can be tons of fun if it is done correctly. It doesn't have to be mindless repetition, and you can show him during the lesson exactly how to practice. Playing a line 5 times in a row may be required, but it doens't have to be that way. You can have him play with the metronome and tell him what tempo to begin at, and then upon the repetitions he can increase the tempo by no more than 5 (or if he has a metronome that skips numbers from one setting to the next, he can go up one setting on each repetition). You can also tell him to practice the opposite of what he should do. For example, if it says forte, he should practice it piano a few times, then play as written. Or he can play it backwards. Practicing in rhythms is a lot of fun too. These techniques can keep a student occupied with practice for a lot longer than repetition alone, which can in some students be mindless work. These techniques engage the mind and the time flies.

I think if he learns that practicing is not only fun to do, but that the rewards of being able to progress and get closer to the goal of learning those pieces he wants to learn, he will get excited about it. Success breeds success.


Edited by Morodiene (08/27/09 09:58 AM)
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1257197 - 08/27/09 12:06 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7384
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
For the most past (no insult to colleagues intended here), most of the suggestions appear to me nothing more than band-aid type fixes.

A couple of points. First, of all my 7th & 8th grade teachers, the 60 year old female who brooked no nonsense in her class, and was actually borderline treacherous (we hated her with a passion) is the one teacher I look back on with the greatest fondness and appreciation. I learned more from her than all the "nice guys" with their mushy psychobabble approaches.

What this boy is saying is, I'll only do in life what I perceive to be fun. If it's work, no thanks. This is exactly the age that boys need to have this attitude clipped. His classroom teachers won't do it, but your in a position to do so. He, like all kids his age, need to learn that success in life requires work and effort. And doing things you don't like (paying taxes comes immediately to mind). As you took the softer approach initially, it's going to be much, much harder to reverse course. And you'll need to explain to parents what is going on and what you intend to do about it. If they pull Junior, you've lost nothing, if they agree, you can help a young man on his way.

I believe I mentioned this before, but a few years back, I got a boy much like this, and basically I told his parents that to get him up to speed, we'd have to spend a year reviewing and polishing the basics. This might be uncomfortable for him, so they needed to think about it, and if they (student and parents) agreed, we'd get going. BTW, they all agreed and for a month or so, there was a slight negative attitude, but as progress became really evident, the attitude disappeared, and real work and success followed.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1257245 - 08/27/09 01:41 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
What this boy is saying is, I'll only do in life what I perceive to be fun. If it's work, no thanks. This is exactly the age that boys need to have this attitude clipped. His classroom teachers won't do it, but your in a position to do so. He, like all kids his age, need to learn that success in life requires work and effort.

So piano teachers are supposed to be parents too? I don't think you guys get paid enough to do that job as well as teach piano. But if you want to be the parent for someone's unruly kids, be my guest.
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1257259 - 08/27/09 02:03 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: eweiss]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7384
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I don't deal with elementary students the same way I deal with high school students. Each student needs his or her own approach. This boy may have a high IQ, but he's not smart. His parents either do not see it, or more likely, don't know how to deal with it. They could use a little help.

At this point, Mrs. Camels could just as easily say to the young man, "Well, we tried it your way. You made no real progress, you learned practically nothing. If you were being graded, an F would be too high. Now, do you want to learn to play the piano? If you do, this is what you'll have to do. Your choice. Let me know."

And then, terminate the discussion. Student makes decision, teacher proceeds. If student fails to produce, student is released. She really doesn't need to suffer week to week.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1257297 - 08/27/09 03:28 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
MrsCamels Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Los Angeles
John, I agree.
This is my first time really encountering this type of personality+immaturity on a consistent basis from a student, so I definitely got myself off on the wrong foot with him. And yes, it is going to take some elbow grease to reverse the situation. in the end, it will still come down to what takes place at home. So it may very well be that the student and his parents throw in the towel, or I do.

Thanks for all the tips everyone - it got me through this week and ready for another one!
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Private studio owner since 2008
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#1257302 - 08/27/09 03:34 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
MrsCamels Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Los Angeles
haha
just noticing the # of views a post gets when it begins "tough student" "stubborn student" "student from hell" "overly-independent student" etc etc

guess we all deal with those wink
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Teaching since 2004
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#1257324 - 08/27/09 03:59 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: MrsCamels]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Funny, those are usually words I use for the PARENTS who give me no cooperation, try to tell me how to teach, always show up late, always argue about paying… laugh
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#1257428 - 08/27/09 07:16 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Gary D.]
Pianos_N_Cheezecake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Okay so Ms. Camels you said that he was interested in a Tom Petty tune that he wants to play all the time. This is a sure sign that he needs a switch in repertoire to something, well, Tom Pettyish. If this is the stuff he digs then this is what he needs to be playing, especially if he is picking it up so quickly! Through tunes like this it becomes easy to teach him scales, intervals, theory USING the tune. I grew up learning classical and never touching my books even 1 time in a week, yet I was playing piano for hours. If this is not the type of style that you teach then I wouldn't "drop" the student but hand him over to someone who will guide him in the direction he wants to go.

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#1257434 - 08/27/09 07:26 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Just remember that there are limitations to what people can play based on what they know.

If a child (or older student) is dying to play a particular piece, that same thing can turn into something very negative if the ability to learn it is not (yet) there.

I ran into that last Christmas with a student who really wanted to learn something, and I was willing to give it a go. He just couldn't do it. I told him that by this Christmas I think he can, and we'll give it another try.

Some students only want to play what they are not yet able to play. The older the student, the more likely this is to happen.
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#1257445 - 08/27/09 08:03 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Pianos_N_Cheezecake]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17778
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Pianos_N_Cheezecake
Okay so Ms. Camels you said that he was interested in a Tom Petty tune that he wants to play all the time. This is a sure sign that he needs a switch in repertoire to something, well, Tom Pettyish. If this is the stuff he digs then this is what he needs to be playing, especially if he is picking it up so quickly! Through tunes like this it becomes easy to teach him scales, intervals, theory USING the tune. I grew up learning classical and never touching my books even 1 time in a week, yet I was playing piano for hours. If this is not the type of style that you teach then I wouldn't "drop" the student but hand him over to someone who will guide him in the direction he wants to go.


I heartily agree. thumb

And I think this would be a far better outcome than either dropping the student or continuing to force him to do something he doesn't want to do, which in all likelihood will make him end up hating piano.
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#1259731 - 08/31/09 03:46 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Monica K.]
Jennifer Eklund Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 162
Loc: SoCal
You have options:

#1 -- He needs to switch repertoire. If he has expressed something that he actually "likes" then I'd give a change of direction a whirl. That's not a band-aid that's being proactive. In hindsight you probably know that this "switch" didn't get flipped overnight. His dislike has probably been growing for some time and I'm sure you could sense it. In the future try to head them off at the pass before it gets to this level of disrespect.

BUT...if you feel this may only remedy things in the short term I would...

#2 -- Drop him and drop the stress. It's an uphill battle if you don't have the mother on board with you. Frankly the behavior you described is nothing I would put up with -- why waste your time? Unless you have a gut feeling that he *really* wants to play I'd let him go.

~Jennifer Eklund
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#1259787 - 08/31/09 04:50 PM Re: Tough Student [Re: Monica K.]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4810
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Monica K.

I heartily agree. thumb

And I think this would be a far better outcome than either dropping the student or continuing to force him to do something he doesn't want to do, which in all likelihood will make him end up hating piano.

For me, dropping a student always feels like a defeat. I'm ready to try almost anything before I accept that as the best solution.

I'm also fully behind letting students play what THEY want to play, as much as possible, but keeping in mind that even when students get to play what they want, they may hate it if it doesn't work.

This is why, for instance, that if music from video games is chosen, it usually has to be arranged in a way that makes it playable, and adapting more and more to individual student needs takes extra teacher time an creativity.
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