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#1304127 - 11/12/09 03:20 PM Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons?
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Are you aware of your facial expressions during lessons?

Do you mostly:
1) Smile?
2) Frown?
3) Keep a neutral or passive face?
4) All of the above?
5) React spontaneously?

What about your students answers to questions 1-5?

I was reading about our "happiness environment" in a New York Times Health article and wondered if our faces help set the "tempo" in our studios as much as our teaching might.

How important is "happiness environment"?
How is "happiness environment" created in a piano studio?

Betty Patnude


Edited by Betty Patnude (11/12/09 03:21 PM)

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#1304201 - 11/12/09 05:21 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
I'm not sure what my expressions are because I am not thinking about myself during the lessons. How can a teacher be aware of her own facial expressions if she is focusing on her student?

It is my goal to maintain a relaxed, positive atmosphere during lessons.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1304208 - 11/12/09 05:25 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Barb860]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Ditto, Barb.

If I thought there was something actually unhelpful about my expressions I'd maybe think consciously about them, but it seems rather artificial to me.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1304491 - 11/13/09 12:53 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
mstrongpianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 38
Hm, I've never thought consciously about this topic. I know that I greet students with a smile. A smile seems to melt away their tensions of the school day; students are responsive to that simple gesture of warmth. A smile provides reassurance needed to build a student's confidence in performance (and I do count their playing during lessons as a performance). Feeling that sense of reassurance also seems to make them better able to cope with my response to their performances.

Facial expressions, IMO, are an accurate measure of a student's readiness to try and of understanding a new concept. Of what the OP listed 1-5, I feel that my students and I react spontaneously to one another and to the current circumstance presented us.


PS to the OP: Do you have a link for this article?

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude


I was reading about our "happiness environment" in a New York Times Health article and wondered if our faces help set the "tempo" in our studios as much as our teaching might.


Betty Patnude


~mstrongpianist

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#1304562 - 11/13/09 05:41 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: mstrongpianist]
ToriAnais Offline
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Registered: 03/24/08
Posts: 244
Loc: Australia
I second the request for a link to the "happiness environment" article. Sounds interesting.

For me it very much depends on the student. If I have energetic/enthusiastic/eccentric students I can't help but grin.

Kids doing grades I probably have a neutral face as I'm concentrating hard on getting the most i possibly can out of their relatively short lessons.

There are a few kids who I feel very self concious around because I don't have a good relationship with them but I don't want them to feel bad, so I am conscious of remembering to smile and be friendly because it isn't the way I'm feeling inside.

I think the sign of a genuinely good relationship with a student is the last point though - spontaneously. You feel comfortable to frown, to laugh, to be serious - whatever the moment requires. And you know that regardless, you will come across as liking them, because you do!
_________________________
Piano teacher since August 2008.

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#1304595 - 11/13/09 08:32 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: ToriAnais]
R0B Offline
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Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: mitts_off


I think the sign of a genuinely good relationship with a student is the last point though - spontaneously. You feel comfortable to frown, to laugh, to be serious - whatever the moment requires. And you know that regardless, you will come across as liking them, because you do!



+1 smile
_________________________
Rob

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#1304798 - 11/13/09 01:11 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: R0B]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I have been collecting information that could apply to piano teacher's demeanor during piano lessons: I recently read “A Language of Smiles” and make notes from it that support of my theory about the “Importance of Teacher Smiles in Piano Teaching”. In addition other reading I've done leads me in the same direction some from Dr. Wayne Dyer and Dr. Daniel Amen which I am not attempting to be specific about here. I asked the questions because of my interest in the topic.

A Language of Smiles – (The Wild Side - Olivia Judson) New York Times 10-27-2009
http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/a-language-of-smiles/


Quotes from the article:
“Saying “eeee” pulls up the corners of the mouth and makes you start to smile.”

“The mere act of smiling is often enough to lift your mood; conversely, the act of frowning can lower it; scowling can make you feel fed up. In other words, the gestures you make with your face can — at least to some extent — influence your emotional state.”

“The notion that facial expressions affect mood isn’t new.”

Betty Patnude


Edited by Betty Patnude (11/13/09 01:12 PM)

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#1305359 - 11/14/09 11:17 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
I have a theory.

Well, lots of them. My production of wacko theories has never slowed. But this one might be relevant.

Really successful teaching may depend far more on subtle nonverbal reinforcement of the precursors to correct actions than we realize.

I am sure we see this happening with the really great brass and voice teachers. They give the same exercises and verbal instructions the ordinary ones do, but they get different results. This is also true in sports, e.g. golf or gymnastics.

How much this happens with piano I don't know. I strongly suspect it is a neglected component of all physical teaching.

Subtle nonverbal reinforcement can shape posture, relaxation, attitude, things we'd never expect. What you say may be a small part of the teaching you do.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1305377 - 11/14/09 12:00 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: TimR]
Diane... Offline
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Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3450
Loc: Western Canada
Originally Posted By: TimR
I have a theory.

Really successful teaching may depend far more on subtle nonverbal reinforcement of the precursors to correct actions than we realize.


Oh, I agree with that statement for sure! Nonverbal is the key!

Thinking back to the teachers who I trusted, they weren't smiling and all the while underneath, gritting their teeth! There was a sense that they could be trusted by their nonverbal actions! You can just feel it!
_________________________
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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#1305379 - 11/14/09 12:07 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: TimR]
keystring Offline
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TimR, you seem to be going in the same direction as my own thoughts as a student. We need feedback and communication from the teacher and that includes nonverbal gestures. An artificially pasted on smile tells me nothing. A smile of encouragement, or a sudden smile of true pleasure when you nail something are priceless. I think an attitude of attentive listening and genuine interest in your efforts will reflect in the face. Would the clip below of a masterclass with Pavorotti reflect the elusive thing you were trying to describe?

Pavarotti masterclass

The first thing that strikes me is that Pavarotti, the teacher, is listening very intently. You see it on his face. When the singer tries to do what he said, Pavorotti again listens intently, communicates with his hands and also his face. Near the end where the singer does not quite manage to stop his mouth from opening for the high note, there is a humorous shrug, and a silent communication going on between student and teacher even while he is still singing.

Of course if a teacher has a young student who is forced into lessons and doesn't want to be there, a teacher cannot be exhibiting genuine deep interest if the student herself is not putting out and is disinterested.


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#1305402 - 11/14/09 12:52 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: keystring]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Tim, Diane and Keystring have brought into the topic something that I was hoping would appear when I posted the topic originally! Yea!

I exaggerate teaching points, work with them on their imaginations, I "act it out" in so many ways using my face and body and gestures to convey the verbs and adjectives and "points" I want to make. It's not just spoken, it's left in their minds as something to remember.

If a preparatory beginner is learning from a pre-chart "Itsy Bitsy Spider" we go to the wall and walk our fingers up and down several times making spider motions with our fingers (this is an exercise for shoulder/arm/hand/fingers). We do "spiders doing push up's" on the bench top with our hands (again exercises). All the time making faces and being the spider and singing the song. Action conveys things. Words often by themselves fall short.

And Keystrings comment about "the young student who is forced into lessons and doesn't want to be there"....I would say to that...I feel it has been my job to "rescue" them and turn the situation around...and I use my whole being as though the student on the bench is my most important student, my most promising student, and it is my job to reach and teach this child right now in the present moment. I have to get through to him or her in everything we are doing...or there is no point to my teaching...and no point to him or her being here. And, my lack of effort on his or her behalf helped close the door on any potential there was to reach and teach.

And, Keystring says..."if the student is not putting out and is disinterested"....I say with all sincerity..."That is where our job starts!"

The ones who are easy to teach, I say hooray for us! The ones who are harder to teach, I say hooray for us! (In a louder voice, with my arms over my head, stamping my feet in excitement, "Hooray for us!"

Keystring is not a piano teacher but is an accomplished and avid self-teaching adult, my experiences and philosophy of teaching is probably different than many piano teachers in that my whole purpose is to self-actualize the student on the bench. If they didn't come to me that way, they will most likely leave with new sense of purpose, enthusiasm, hopefullness and something accomplished when we are done.

I think we have to make it exciting for them - smiles, gestures, actions that show continuously who we are and what we know as teachers and that we enjoy music, our work in teaching, and them.

We are at our best when we think in possibilities and potential.

Betty Patnude

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#1305413 - 11/14/09 01:14 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
IMHO
Any pupil will quickly pick up a shortfall in teacher confidence (worrying about smiles and frowns)... that’s why the best teachers boast a dazzling ability to demonstrate up-front the marvel of the piano.

As a confident Pied Piper there is no thought of introvert self-appraisal ... those long-eared rats should all be totally enraptured and energised by the spell of the music.

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#1305415 - 11/14/09 01:22 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Thank you Betty. There is something I would like to correct however:
Quote:
Keystring is not a piano teacher but is an .. avid self-teaching adult.


I have been forced to suspend lessons for over a year for health and financial reasons that cropped up, and as such I've been forced into some degree of working on my own. I do have a teacher, however, and some of the thoughts I expressed reflect that experience. I don't have a piano teacher and the 6 lessons I did have some time back are not close to adequate, but I do have a teacher for my main instrument. I have also taught one-on-one as a trained teacher, but not instrumental music.

The one that that has struck me repeatedly is the importance of truly listening, on both sides. That is what both Pavarotti and the singer in the masterclass seem to be doing.

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#1305443 - 11/14/09 02:17 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: keystring]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Thanks for clarifying, keystring. I spoke of the way that I think of you as you have done an exceptional job of continuing your music education with your own efforts - research and asking questions and clarifying answers have been things I've noticed you doing on Piano World - and I know that you are playing your piano and growing there too. I remember that you have worked with piano and violin teachers and that you are a teacher too, but I think a big complement to you is the work you have done independently. It wouldn't surprize me that you one day offer music lessons and teach either violin or piano or singing. You may have other instruments, too, that I don't know about. You have put your energies to good use when another person forced to stop lessons without a teacher would stagnate not seeing the options that you see.

I like what you said about "truly listening" in referance to the Pavarotti example: Yes, of course! That is what teaching is all about from my point of view. The lesson is not a unit of time that we have to get through - it's an opportunity to make significant input and to make helpful corrections. A teacher can't do that as well if he or she is not watching the student for indications. And, the student, if he has become captivated with piano lessons is going to give his full attention to what the teacher says about his playing. It is our job to snare their attention, make our comments valuable, and to be a catalyst to the student.

Teaching is so not about the printed pages in a method book. Teaching, to me, is about the growing relationship to each other and working together to pave the way in music for the student to become achieving, successful, and musical.

Does it help to think of our pursuits in music, whether teaching or learning, that we are relating to a higher power than ourselves? Or that we become empowered ourselves through our pursuit?

We must not think of our students as "bumps on logs in the hole in the bottom of the sea".
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea....etc.
There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea....etc.
There's a bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea....etc.
There's a bump, bump, bump, on the log, log, log, in the hole, hole, hole, in the bottom of the sea.


Betty

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#1305450 - 11/14/09 02:32 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Actually I did appreciate what you wrote in your previous post, Betty, but also wanted to give some credit to my teacher. Thank you for the support. smile I'm thinking that we are actually all self-teaching, because if as a student I expect to get stuffed full of ability by the teacher, it doesn't work. We're drawing on something within ourselves and we make the effort. Actually here's hats off to all self-teachers for whatever reason. It is not an easy thing.

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#1305586 - 11/14/09 07:53 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: keystring]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Things do go much better when the student has an interest, some personal motivation, some ability, energy, time to apply the lesson on his piano and can see where that takes him. Depending on how ambitious he is with more time and effort he's likely to make decent progress musically and also, the most important part of piano lessons that is totally unexpected, he learns a lot about himself as a piano student. Any procrastination is his, any excuse making is his, any thing he is producing is totally his to demonstrate.

The something within is "golden".

I always joke around about "teach him some motivation", "teach him some ability", but those things are at their very best when they come innately from within - not by "injection".

Self teaching is not an easy thing, you are so right.

When a self teaching adult student reaches a wall or a plateau, there is ample music to keep her busy for the rest of her life at the level she has now reached and can be successful at. So going horizontally creates depth and bredth with more music literature.

Sometimes it is wise to get off of the demand for progress that is an ascending vertical incline of constantly new materials that continually demands more new skills from us.

Then when we gear up again toward "Mount Olympus" we have regained our energy to climb, but we also have the reward of having many new pieces that we would not have had time for if we had not relaxed our efforts temporarily for the width or expansion.

I think we should have lots of experience at using the skills we have gained to establish a strong base before moving on. Deep and wide like a river.

This is where the student becomes aware of where his journey has taken him to and I think it's a very contented place that produces a sigh of relief and a big grin because he reached the moment of "this was all worth it!"

Betty

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#1306786 - 11/16/09 05:44 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
One specific thing I do:
There are a few students who continually look over at me, while they're in the middle of playing, apparently to try to judge my reactions. For them, I work to make my face look blank and distant during the performance, and then I allow myself to revert to normal immediately afterward.
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1306804 - 11/16/09 06:09 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Quote:
For them, I work to make my face look blank and distant during the performance, and then I allow myself to revert to normal immediately afterward.

Asking as a student: why?

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#1306809 - 11/16/09 06:34 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: keystring]
eweiss Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
I give lessons online so I don't have to think about that ( I probably wouldn't think about it anyway) but if I did, I'd probably come across like Dick Cheney...



I think he's smiling here.
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1306819 - 11/16/09 07:01 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: keystring]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: keystring
Quote:
For them, I work to make my face look blank and distant during the performance, and then I allow myself to revert to normal immediately afterward.

Asking as a student: why?
So that they will (hopefully) direct more attention to the sound and the feel, and less to the teacher's (admittedly very cute) expressions. smile

Or, in other words, to say: "I'm listening right now. You listen too. We'll talk in a minute."
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1306840 - 11/16/09 07:41 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
Loc: Canada
Thanks, David, that makes sense. I have a teacher who will signal things as I play, but they are when he thinks something should be communicated. But I'm also listening to my own playing.

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#1306994 - 11/17/09 02:47 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: keystring]
Frozenicicles Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/09
Posts: 1324
Loc: Canada
This is actually a very interesting topic. You may not realize it, but we actually communicate more with our non-verbal cues than our verbal ones. I actually did a workshop on this because I'm training for a job in a healthcare field. We were taught ways to make patients feel comfortable, which I imagine would apply to students as well. Here are a few suggestions that I learned:
1) Position yourself at eye level with the other person (i.e. sitting if they're sitting and standing if they're standing)
2) Don't have an obstacle (such as a desk) in between you.
3) Don't intrude on their personal space (about an arm's length away is a good distance)
4) Don't cross your arms or legs because that makes you seem guarded, having arms by your side or on your lap and your palms slightly facing up is a less threatening pose.
5) Really put yourselves in their shoes as you're listening: listen intently and be sincere in your facial expressions. A smile is generally a good expression to have when appropriate, and tilt your head slightly when listening to show that you're paying attention.
6) Make eye contact--this one might not be good for all students. I was quite shy when I was younger and found it intimidating when teachers were always staring at me while talking. I still sometimes stare at the music rather than at my teacher when she is explaining things. smile
The most important thing is to genuinely like the student. Most people can feel whether they are well liked or not by the non-verbal cues that you're subconsciously giving off, regardless of whatever expression you attempt to plaster on your face.


Edited by Frozenicicles (11/17/09 02:49 AM)

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#1307025 - 11/17/09 06:04 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Frozenicicles]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles

3) Don't intrude on their personal space (about an arm's length away is a good distance)...
6) Make eye contact--this one might not be good for all students. I was quite shy when I was younger and found it intimidating when teachers were always staring at me while talking. I still sometimes stare at the music rather than at my teacher when she is explaining things. smile
A couple of interesting ones there! I really don't like the intrusion into my personal space - I always back off, so I do try not to do that to others.
And I understand what you're saying about constant eye contact being intimidating - as if there's too much resting on your response. Sometimes you actually don't want every word, gesture, expression to be noted and commented on.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1307079 - 11/17/09 09:09 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Frozenicicles]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles

1) Position yourself at eye level with the other person (i.e. sitting if they're sitting and standing if they're standing)
That's an interesting one and explains why I intuitively spend much of my teaching time on my haunches. I've often wondered why I do that!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1307589 - 11/18/09 02:48 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Frozenicicles]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
This is actually a very interesting topic. You may not realize it, but we actually communicate more with our non-verbal cues than our verbal ones. I actually did a workshop on this because I'm training for a job in a healthcare field. We were taught ways to make patients feel comfortable, which I imagine would apply to students as well. Here are a few suggestions that I learned:
1) Position yourself at eye level with the other person (i.e. sitting if they're sitting and standing if they're standing)
2) Don't have an obstacle (such as a desk) in between you.
3) Don't intrude on their personal space (about an arm's length away is a good distance)
4) Don't cross your arms or legs because that makes you seem guarded, having arms by your side or on your lap and your palms slightly facing up is a less threatening pose.
5) Really put yourselves in their shoes as you're listening: listen intently and be sincere in your facial expressions. A smile is generally a good expression to have when appropriate, and tilt your head slightly when listening to show that you're paying attention.
6) Make eye contact--this one might not be good for all students. I was quite shy when I was younger and found it intimidating when teachers were always staring at me while talking. I still sometimes stare at the music rather than at my teacher when she is explaining things. smile
The most important thing is to genuinely like the student. Most people can feel whether they are well liked or not by the non-verbal cues that you're subconsciously giving off, regardless of whatever expression you attempt to plaster on your face.


Frozenicicles,

That's a very good piece of advice you've shared with us, I think. That's precisely the kind of information I was hoping to see in this topic that I started. I do think it matters how our students "see" and "hear" us and that a certain "comfort level" is achievable for both of us. If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint. Does that help us in our teaching? They probably are some situations when passivity and restraint are required.

Surely giving the student something pleasant to react to in their lessons might just be ourselves!

Betty Patnude

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#1307590 - 11/18/09 02:54 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1307725 - 11/18/09 11:28 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.


I'm inclined to think you need to withhold the obvious nonverbals under conscious control, and then release them as appropriate to the student.

If my teacher said, "that sucked farts out of a dead seagull," I'd laugh and play it again.

If she raised an eyebrow with my youngest child, that one would probably melt down and refuse to play.

But I think much of real teaching takes place with the nonobvious nonverbals, and that's a lot harder to control.
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#1307812 - 11/18/09 01:54 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: TimR]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.


I'm inclined to think you need to withhold the obvious nonverbals under conscious control, and then release them as appropriate to the student.

If my teacher said, "that sucked farts out of a dead seagull," I'd laugh and play it again.

If she raised an eyebrow with my youngest child, that one would probably melt down and refuse to play.

But I think much of real teaching takes place with the nonobvious nonverbals, and that's a lot harder to control.


My goodness! You are a pretty tolerant student if you can accept the "dead seagull" comments from your teacher. I'll have to try it sometime and see how that works but I think I would be risking decorum and perhaps among certain older students risking an abrupt departure slamming the door as they go out.

And, I'm amazed that a raised eyebrow would melt a child down so that they would refuse to play. I think I would live in fear that my eyebrows might do that to a kid, after all I do keep them plucked and groomed, and also the nostrils, and chin. (I'm being silly and it's coming across sarcastic, I know.) What age is your youngest child? I want to be forewarned as to which age group this might happen!

What a huge contrast between what it is that the teacher is "allowed" to do between the parents tolerance and the child's tolerance!

I wonder if I should feel insecure as I start my teaching today?

I'm feeling quite mirthful and I don't know it that's a positive or a negative. We shall see.

Betty

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#1307821 - 11/18/09 02:14 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.


Currawong,

I wonder if there is a difference in our approaches because of who we teach and what we teach.

Perhaps you are working mostly with independent students who are already skilled in musicianship and possibly working on the higher level master composers toward performance.

I work largely in elementary music education building the basics, sightreading, rhythmic accountability, fingering, techniques, and teaching how to analyse, practice and memorize. I carry many students to 6 - 8 years of study but I do not teach someone who is preparing for college majors or who wants to perform in competitions, but I have passed these students on to local college professors in their private studios once their path is determined by their accomplishments in study with me and if they and their parents are interested in transferring.

Could this be a significant difference for deciding if and when facial expression and gestures are helpful to the student or not?

I do understand there are teachers and students who choose to communicate only in words - whether the verbage is minimal or encompassing would be acceptable on both people's parts.

So many parents want the lessons to be fun for their kids - I can't imagine that there is no facial expression and no gesturing during these times when fun is being experiences. And the younger set work with puppets (Mozart Mouse) and story line which certainly require the "storytelling" role and lots of animation.

I am just thinking about the pro's and con's of the question while posting and I don't want to make it seem like a big conflicting difference between us from my point of view. It isn't.

Betty

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#1307894 - 11/18/09 04:40 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Could this be a significant difference for deciding if and when facial expression and gestures are helpful to the student or not?

I do understand there are teachers and students who choose to communicate only in words - whether the verbage is minimal or encompassing would be acceptable on both people's parts.

So many parents want the lessons to be fun for their kids - I can't imagine that there is no facial expression and no gesturing during these times when fun is being experiences. And the younger set work with puppets (Mozart Mouse) and story line which certainly require the "storytelling" role and lots of animation.

Of course I use facial gesture and expression - in a way which is natural and comfortable for me. I don't "put on" gestures because for me that seems contrived and unnatural. It may suit your style, and if so, go for it! I just don't think you can apply it to every teacher. I have taught all ages and levels from pre-school to undergraduate, and what I do with a 3-year-old is obviously different to what I do with a 20-year-old university student, or a 75-year-old adult beginner. But it is still within the bounds of my overall teaching style, which may not be as flamboyant as that of others.

I found some of the contributions rather interesting. And I can see Tim's point, that different individual students have a different individual reaction to gestures. What is trivial to one may have an overwhelming impact on another. His two extreme examples were just that - extreme examples given to make his point. I wouldn't get hung up on the actual words the hypothetical teacher might have said smile

I suppose my main problem with how the thread began was that it seemed like gesture was something you stuck on to your teaching, and that seemed artificial. As long as we remember we are all individuals with our own style, and that each style may be valid and effective, then I think the discussion has been helpful.

(I had an interesting recollection while writing this. I've learnt an immense amount from a variety of teachers I've had the opportunity to work with and observe over many years. Some were pretty extroverted. But one of the best kindergarten teachers I worked with was actually very understated, quiet and calm. And the children hung on her every word.)
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#1307898 - 11/18/09 04:45 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]
eweiss Offline
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Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.

Uh ... yeah. It sounds like Betty is talking about children here. Which may or may not work. I don't know. But I don't think any contrived expression would work too well on adults.
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#1307918 - 11/18/09 05:09 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: eweiss]
david_a Offline
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Posts: 2913
Unless the contrived expression is meant as (and taken as!) a joke between teacher and student, I would tend to avoid it even for little children. I didn't trust adults who put on false expressions for me, even when I was very small.
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#1307936 - 11/18/09 05:29 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Never ever did I say the smile, frown, neutral faces or gesture were artificial, contrived, or anything but natural.

How does something get to be so distorted in the forum?

Teaching is a communication between teacher and student. All things I've mentioned are a natural part of communicating.

I said that I "act" or "dramatize" or "exaggerate" certain things to make them more understandable to the student as well as more memorable. I have said that my students and Iuse our imaginations in music making together, too.

Every thing I say or do is from my heart and "tool box" when teaching and I apply communication/instruction/correction as needed in the way the student has shown me he learns. Sometimes I have to say the same thing again later and will say it in the same way as previously and then again in a different way if it's not being understood.

I like what currawong said: "As long as we remember we are all individuals with our own style, and that each style may be valid and effective, then I think the discussion has been helpful."

It was meant to be a helpful topic when I posted it.

I am convinced that some of our students absolutely need relief from the tension and tedium that piano lessons can be - probably more noticable when they are not well prepared than when they know they are going to ace their presentation to us. That should be a place where they can demonstrate their confidence and ability to us and I'm sure it makes them feel good. This is when genuine smiles as well as genuine words are really appropriate!

Betty Patnude


Edited by Betty Patnude (11/18/09 05:29 PM)

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#1307939 - 11/18/09 05:34 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: eweiss]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: eweiss
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.

Uh ... yeah. It sounds like Betty is talking about children here. Which may or may not work. I don't know. But I don't think any contrived expression would work too well on adults.


Exactly Ed!

I was talking about children needing other than simply our words.

I did not ever mean other than natural responses - contrived was not part of what I was thinking or saying.

And, as for the adult, the adult and the teacher can set the communication style together so there is a responsibility on both parts that contributes to the lesson and to their relationship.

I think most teachers take their clues from their students regardless of the student's age.

Betty Patnude

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#1307944 - 11/18/09 05:40 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: david_a
Unless the contrived expression is meant as (and taken as!) a joke between teacher and student, I would tend to avoid it even for little children. I didn't trust adults who put on false expressions for me, even when I was very small.


David, I don't think contrived expressions and false expressions along with sarcasm, cynicism or aggressive critcism are helpful to anyone.

My suggestion would be to run from someone who would be so disrespectful and intimidating that they would purposely create a toxic situation between themselves and their paying client. I don't think someone who communicates like that gets very far in any endeavor they undertake in their life. It just seems dysfunctional to me. And, I think it's totally unnecessary and more a personality disorder of the person using those tactics.

Betty Patnude

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#1307950 - 11/18/09 05:45 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Originally Posted By: eweiss
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.

Uh ... yeah. It sounds like Betty is talking about children here. Which may or may not work. I don't know. But I don't think any contrived expression would work too well on adults.


Exactly Ed!

I was talking about children needing other than simply our words.

I did not ever mean other than natural responses - contrived was not part of what I was thinking or saying.

And, as for the adult, the adult and the teacher can set the communication style together so there is a responsibility on both parts that contributes to the lesson and to their relationship.

I think most teachers take their clues from their students regardless of the student's age.
Betty - I don't know who first mentioned the "contrived" aspect that's possible here, but I don't think anybody was accusing you of using contrived expressions yourself. And I think your final two paragraphs of this message, beginning "And, as for...", could easily stand as the last word on the subject, for BOTH adults and children. I think children are much more adult-like in this area (that is, in the way they perceive the facial expressions of others) than we may expect.
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#1307961 - 11/18/09 05:54 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
How does something get to be so distorted in the forum?
It's because words, even the most carefully chosen (and let's face it, not all our words on this forum fit into this category smile ) don't tell everything.

Sometimes we see an implication in what someone's written which just isn't there. At other times we are not as careful as we could be about the tone in our posts. (I'm answering your question, but not directing my remarks at you, Betty, just to be clear smile ). I actually think tone causes some of the biggest blow-ups here (I don't just mean on the teachers' forum - I was actually thinking of the pianists' corner, where I also hang out).

Something I've found helpful when posting (and if I really don't want to be misunderstood!) is to hit the "preview" button and read my post as if I were reading someone else's. Of course I don't always get it right smile , and people can get me riled, but it's a good "is this what I really mean" safeguard. We don't have total control over how everyone else takes our postings, but we do have some control over how most people do...
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#1307964 - 11/18/09 05:56 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
I think what people meant by "contrived" was that humans (of all ages), as social animals tend to be VERY adept at reading the body language of others...much more so than we Realize we are even doing...and if someone is trying to put on a "good face" that is not what they are Really feeling, we notice it, even if we do so subconsciously, and it makes us uncomfortable and anxious.

This is true of non-human animals...an animal will generally react very badly to a person whose facial expression does not match the other signals (verbal, non-verbal, and...in the case of dogs...body chemistry by smell) they are giving off.

Hasn't everybody been at a gathering or meeting where someone has bad news to tell and, although they try to act like everything is fine, you can Tell and it begins to freak you out?

Forcing yourself to smile or have a neutral expression is not going to pay off in student comfort because at some level they will just be able to tell something is not quite right. The more different your 'put on' face is from your natural expression, the worse the effect will be.

Look at pictures of politicians who have been obviously "coached" to appear a certain way for the camera. Hillary Clinton looks downright frightening when she smiles for the camera many times, for this very reason (I'm not knocking her in general, I just think it's obvious her handlers have tried to change her into what they think the public will find "acceptable" for a woman politician. Fail)

I would be surprised if this is a big issue during lessons tho...I'm not looking at my teacher's face while I'm playing, I'm looking at my music or at the piano.

But then, my teacher says things like, "I'm sure the performance will be just fine. You're playing mostly right notes" so compared to that, body language is minor wink
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#1307967 - 11/18/09 05:58 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: david_a
Betty - I don't know who first mentioned the "contrived" aspect that's possible here, but I don't think anybody was accusing you of using contrived expressions yourself.
It was probably me who mentioned "contrived" first, and no, I wasn't accusing Betty of using contrived expressions. I was saying that if certain expressions are not one's natural style, then applying them because someone else has said they are necessary is "contrived".
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#1307977 - 11/18/09 06:17 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I appreciate your contributions to this topic of discussion and I feel that we are getting somewhere with it and understanding each other better now. "Your" being collectively to all posters and not personally to currawong.

It's all very interesting to me.

I can understand why John v.d.Brook video tapes his lesson for review. It would possibly be a big surprise to us as to how we look and what we say during lessons. We actually don't know how we affect the student if we haven't faced the camera before. And, maybe we would see indications from the student that we didn't catch ourselves during the lesson.

It would be a great opportunity to see each other in action at a lesson, I think. Kind of a master class for evaluation and learning from our behavior and communication styles and skills.

I vote for natural, genuine and sincere!

Betty Patnude



Edited by Betty Patnude (11/18/09 06:18 PM)

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#1307988 - 11/18/09 06:32 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]
Canonie Offline
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Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: currawong
(I had an interesting recollection while writing this. I've learnt an immense amount from a variety of teachers I've had the opportunity to work with and observe over many years. Some were pretty extroverted. But one of the best kindergarten teachers I worked with was actually very understated, quiet and calm. And the children hung on her every word.)

That relates to my experience as well. With kids I am naturally playful, animated, humourous and love getting down to their level. I mean I do this at parties too blush I'm a bit of a big kid. But through teaching children I've discovered that my very quiet and calm side is the most powerful. For a child; to spend half an hour as the undisputed focus of interest, with an adult listening to their every sound is rare and exciting for them. I have a hunch that they become more confidently themselves and reveal more, than if I am fun-animated me for most of the lesson.

But I still have a couple of moments of silliness e.g. I like to "fall over" completely flat on the couch when they amaze me with what they achieved in practice, "That was so good I fainted!" I say. But yea I wouldn't do this if it's not your style grin or clothing doesn't allow.

The extension of this quiet calm is that from about 8 years old I talk to kids as if they are adults and colleagues; I don't hold back on discussing music, composition, technique and practice techniques at as high a level as they find interesting, even if not understanding all of it. And I get a real kick out of them treating me as a colleague, e.g. bringing me a useful resource or recommending a piece of music. I love this grin
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#1308004 - 11/18/09 06:54 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: ProdigalPianist]
Canonie Offline
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Loc: Australia
I watered my garden in middle of my post, and the discussion continued...

I think I do consciously begin each next lesson warmly with a smile and very deliberately looking at the child, and asking some how was your day questions. It's a contrived moment of ceasing to think about the last student and fully focusing on this one. It is contrived, but feels natural once I begin smiling, and has become mostly a habit. I think it's been useful for me, deliberately creating a mood then feeds on itself and I feel calm and open and enthusiastic. I think it's as beneficial to me as to the student.

But ultimately I think teachers just have to be themselves and that students respect and enjoy knowing the real person. Tweaking mood or expression is ok. Re public figures and communication coaching LOL and cringe eek don't think we should go to those lengths. Imagine walking up and down your studio with hands neatly clasped in front of you and a "serious and interested" tv face on... oh and a power suit of the right shade.
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#1308033 - 11/18/09 07:57 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

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Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Never ever did I say the smile, frown, neutral faces or gesture were artificial, contrived, or anything but natural.

How does something get to be so distorted in the forum?

...I said that I "act" or "dramatize" or "exaggerate" certain things to make them more understandable to the student as well as more memorable.


If it got distorted, it's because the words "act," "dramatize," and "exaggerate" do in fact imply "artificial," "contrived," and "not natural." Acting, dramatizing, and exaggerating are ways of putting on different nonverbal expressions than you would naturally in that situation. Or, to put it another way, if your nonverbal expressions in that context without conscious deliberation would in fact be the excited, arms waving in the air, big smile displays you described earlier in the thread, you're not acting; you're being.
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#1308044 - 11/18/09 08:20 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11847
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Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
We actually don't know how we affect the student if we haven't faced the camera before. And, maybe we would see indications from the student that we didn't catch ourselves during the lesson.

Will the camera catch the look in your eye? In fact, will it catch the look in your student's eye? Does the camera have feelers out for the atmosphere of the moment?
Quote:

I vote for natural, genuine and sincere!

Make that two votes. Are you sure you need that camera? wink

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#1308145 - 11/18/09 10:48 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude


I vote for natural, genuine and sincere!

Betty Patnude



I'm not sure I'm in the same discussion. We have several tangents going.

I agree with genuine and sincere. Natural, I'm not so sure of.

Genuine and sincere, of course, you're in a relationship. It doesn't have to be profound and deep to be honest.

But natural sort of implies not learned, or maybe not learnable, and I think neither is true.

Just as we can learn not to use the negative verbal behaviors without being false or contrived, I suggest we can learn to improve our nonverbals.

I recall (and I wish I could find the reference) an example from my graduate school (Clinical Psychology) days. Perhaps it will jog someone's memory.

There was a woman who was particularly good at dealing with acting-out disabled children. Somehow she got them to behave when nobody else could. She didn't know how she did it, so she couldn't teach it, it was totally unconscious. By videotaping her sessions, a team of psychologists analyzed exactly how she was intervening, what reinforcements she was using, how she was doing it.

They were able to use this to train other staff in the skills. I'm using the word skill deliberately - these can be learned without becoming contrived or unnatural, just as we learn not to mumble while speaking, etc.

But they also showed their results to the original woman. When she was conscious of why she was successful, she felt even more confident. She was following simple rules of behavioral reinforcement just like in the textbooks, but she'd picked it up on her own without understanding the science.

Now, to use the technical term, what I'm suggesting is that master teachers make maximum use of nonverbal reinforcements for something called the Fractional Anticipatory Goal Response.

I believe they develop these skills accidentaly, but they are available to all of us with some effort.


Edited by TimR (11/18/09 10:51 PM)
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#1308157 - 11/18/09 11:00 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: TimR]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Tim said: "But they also showed their results to the original woman. When she was conscious of why she was successful, she felt even more confident. She was following simple rules of behavioral reinforcement just like in the textbooks, but she'd picked it up on her own without understanding the science."

Tim, this is all very interesting. I'd like for you to spend another 10 minutes looking for the referance about non verbals. I sense this discussion could go on for pages. I am really interested in nonverbal communication, as much as I'm interest in several other topics in the moment. I think you can link us all up with some scientific information that will be helpful to us.

Maybe some suggested reading? Or a workshop on video?

I quoted above because it is phenomenal that this woman could find the way to do what she did so well on her own without knowing the scientific principles - she was going on her observation powers, being inspired by her "work" and her "finding" and the "progress" being made. She was behaving "naturally" from her core. She was in "flow". This is how I interpret your story of her.

So give us some more things to think about, please.

Betty Patnude

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