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#1361638 - 01/30/10 01:47 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Minniemay]
DancinDigits Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 68
Loc: USA

Minniemay: "Those of us who talk about "running the show" are not monsters."

Interesting - I don't recall saying that you were.

I did write this:

"no teacher in their right mind wants to be treated like someone who is there to entertain a kid on a rainy day, or like the 'hired help'. . . ."

and:

"Some of the feelings expressed here have saddened me - saddened me that posters feel the need to 'lay down the law'." (You did see that word 'need' I wrote, did you not?)

and:


"I sincerely hope that s/he would not regard me as someone they have to protect themselves from because of the possibility of how I may treat them due to past bad experience with others."

Since you seemed to have missed it, I was saying that teachers feel a need to institute these policies as they have been treated badly in the past. That's sad. BUT I was also saying that it is my sincere hope that if I were lucky enough (I did say lucky, yes? ) to take lessons again, that such negative experiences would not adversely shade my relationship with this future instructor.

For the record, I don't think taking lessons with a 'monster' is a lucky thing (I did say lucky, didn't I?) - nor do I regard instructors who institute studio policies as monsters. My teacher had studio policies - it wasn't exactly a free for all.

I was making comment on how sad these changes in our times are and expressing my surprise. I was unaware that things had gotten this bad.

And I was expressing my hopes that such changes would not adversely influence any future teacher/student relationship that I may be lucky enough to have.

I am neither a child nor a parent. But I am an adult. I don't know how that fits into the grand scheme of things, but I think it is safe to assume that an adult student/teacher relationship is somewhat different than a parent or child student/teacher relationship.

And yes - I will continue to look for the best deal that money can buy as I, as a consumer, would be a fool not to. You, on the other hand, would be a fool to tolerate a client that does not give you the respect that you deserve.

I hope this makes my position clear on the matter.


Edited by DancinDigits (01/30/10 02:46 PM)
Edit Reason: typos, typos
_________________________
Music is the voice of the heart.

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#1361688 - 01/30/10 03:07 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: DancinDigits]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
That first interview is a must: and maybe there can be comfort taken in research that demonstrates that people figure out most of what they need to know simply from the way the other person enters the room (or piano teacher interview equivalent).

It's only natural to feel as if you don't really know someone purely from emails or telephone calls!

For the parent they need to feel confident they are entrusting their child to a competent adult/expert.

The teacher, on the other hand, needs to know what kind of interpersonal dynamic is going on between parent and child. This dynamic is the foundation for the practice that goes on between lessons, and it makes a world of difference when the teacher is aware of the pressures involved in that parent-child relationship.

In my experience parents don't care about your pianistic proficiency anywhere near as much as they care about how you and the child will get on, and whether the experience of taking piano lessons will be a joyous one in the life of their child.

And in terms of this 'who-has-the-power' question: that is something for you to determine! If you teach following the expert guidance of the parent ("I bought these books for my child to learn from this semester") you are a different kind of teacher than one whose pedagogical expertise is the touchstone for how things proceed.
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1361700 - 01/30/10 03:33 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
DancinDigits Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 68
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne


In my experience parents don't care about your pianistic proficiency anywhere near as much as they care about how you and the child will get on, and whether the experience of taking piano lessons will be a joyous one in the life of their child.


As a potential adult student who has taken lessons before, I am in a different situation than a parent or a child student. Perhaps this issue belongs in a different thread as I feel that we may be drifting OT?

Quote:
And in terms of this 'who-has-the-power' question: that is something for you to determine! If you teach following the expert guidance of the parent ("I bought these books for my child to learn from this semester") you are a different kind of teacher than one whose pedagogical expertise is the touchstone for how things proceed.


That's the problem. 'Who has the power' is something that never even entered my head until I started reading the PW forums. It really surprised me. It may not be intended to be so, but it comes across as a tug of war in the written word.

To me, it was and still is, essentially all about the music and the joy of it.

Like I said, perhaps I am a dreamer with nostalgic memories, but I always thought that mutual respect should be a given. Its a sad commentary to me that it is something that has to be enforced on either side of the issue - and using the word 'side' is a poor choice of words on my part for as I see it, it should be a relationship and not a us vs. them thing.

What I've been reading here has given me cause to adjust my thinking.
_________________________
Music is the voice of the heart.

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#1361710 - 01/30/10 03:54 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: DancinDigits]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Dancin'Digits:

I wasn't responding directly to you, just to the discussion in general.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1361714 - 01/30/10 04:02 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: DancinDigits]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3171
Originally Posted By: DancinDigits

Quote:
And in terms of this 'who-has-the-power' question: that is something for you to determine! If you teach following the expert guidance of the parent ("I bought these books for my child to learn from this semester") you are a different kind of teacher than one whose pedagogical expertise is the touchstone for how things proceed.


That's the problem. 'Who has the power' is something that never even entered my head until I started reading the PW forums. It really surprised me. It may not be intended to be so, but it comes across as a tug of war in the written word.

To me, it was and still is, essentially all about the music and the joy of it.


It should always be about the music.

However, the "who has the power" thing comes into the equation when a parent or student (usually here an adult) is a manipulative controlling person.

People who are not manipulative or controlling recognize that the teacher is the leader/authority figure, hopefully with an open door policy regarding feedback from the student or parent. This allows the proper relationship dynamic to exist and flourish.

But there are always control-freak-type people who for whatever reasons will not or cannot allow others to be in their rightful places of authority, such as allowing piano teachers to be in control of their studios, the teaching curriculum, etc.

I have had a few parents or adult students like that, and things never worked out. Instead, it was always a constant and unpleasant power struggle.

Therefore, I consider that type of behavior to be an important factor to notice when a teacher is about to enter into what could be a long-term position of authority in the other person's life.

This does not mean such people are to be turned away wholesale...but it is something to be aware of.

Originally Posted By: DancinDigits
Like I said, perhaps I am a dreamer with nostalgic memories, but I always thought that mutual respect should be a given. Its a sad commentary to me that it is something that has to be enforced on either side of the issue - and using the word 'side' is a poor choice of words on my part for as I see it, it should be a relationship and not a us vs. them thing.


Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. It should be a relationship of mutual respect, but some people will not allow that type of relationship in their lives.
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Music teacher and piano player.

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#1361730 - 01/30/10 04:31 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: rocket88]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: rocket88
People who are not manipulative or controlling recognize that the teacher is the leader/authority figure, hopefully with an open door policy regarding feedback from the student or parent. This allows the proper relationship dynamic to exist and flourish.

But there are always control-freak-type people who for whatever reasons will not or cannot allow others to be in their rightful places of authority, such as allowing piano teachers to be in control of their studios, the teaching curriculum, etc.


Not everybody feels as you do, Rocket88. I view the teacher-adult student relationship as a partnership. Of course piano teachers have the right to be in control of their studios, as well as to choose which students to enroll in their studio. But I think adult students *also* have the right to enter into a teaching relationship with a teacher who is compatible with their learning goals. I would not take lessons from a teacher who insisted on doing things only his or her way and teaching the standard classical curriculum, without allowing me any input into what pieces I'd be working on. Does that make me manipulative or a control freak? No--merely honest about what my goals for piano and what I am looking for in a teaching relationship. Maybe you didn't intend your post to come across as all-or-none as it did, or maybe I'm just overly sensitive to this issue.

Getting back to the O.P.'s topic, I agree that the initial interview is important. I also do not think it is unreasonable for parents to ask the prospective teacher to play something. The teacher should then feel free to demur, though I must be honest and say that would give me pause. One of my goals for lessons, either for myself or my children, is to teach students to enjoy be comfortable performing music in informal and formal settings. I would hope that the music teacher could model and facilitate such an attitude.
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Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1361737 - 01/30/10 04:48 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Monica K.]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3171
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: rocket88
People who are not manipulative or controlling recognize that the teacher is the leader/authority figure, hopefully with an open door policy regarding feedback from the student or parent. This allows the proper relationship dynamic to exist and flourish.

But there are always control-freak-type people who for whatever reasons will not or cannot allow others to be in their rightful places of authority, such as allowing piano teachers to be in control of their studios, the teaching curriculum, etc.


Not everybody feels as you do, Rocket88. I view the teacher-adult student relationship as a partnership. Of course piano teachers have the right to be in control of their studios, as well as to choose which students to enroll in their studio. But I think adult students *also* have the right to enter into a teaching relationship with a teacher who is compatible with their learning goals. I would not take lessons from a teacher who insisted on doing things only his or her way and teaching the standard classical curriculum, without allowing me any input into what pieces I'd be working on. Does that make me manipulative or a control freak? No--merely honest about what my goals for piano and what I am looking for in a teaching relationship. Maybe you didn't intend your post to come across as all-or-none as it did, or maybe I'm just overly sensitive to this issue.


Monica, I don't know if you are overly sensitive, but I did not intend my post to come off as you describe, which is why I put this in:

hopefully with an open door policy regarding feedback from the student or parent. This allows the proper relationship dynamic to exist and flourish.

Also, you wrote:

I view the teacher-adult student relationship as a partnership.

But I am referring to both teacher-adult student relationships, and parents of children - teacher relationships.

Regarding the parents of children, most know nothing about anything vis-a-vis teaching piano. Yet even so, feedback from them is always welcome with me.

Regarding adults, I have several adult students who "partner" with me vis-a-vis their goals and how they can achieve them. None of whom want to go pro, except one maybe, most just want to play for pleasure, and they typically play a variety of music...check my signature...I teach much more than classical...everything except Jazz.

And I tell all my students, young and older, that if they really do not like a suggested piece, there are others from which to choose.

Thus, a student sharing with the teacher one's goals, one's curriculum likes and dislikes, etc, does not make that a person a control freak in my view...it makes them a wise student.

But if the adult student or parent is a true control freak, or has some other type of issue, such as an inability to accept leadership, then there is no partnership...instead there is a power struggle.

That is what I am trying to say...such people do exist, and you cannot have a healthy working relationship with them as piano teacher/student.

In other words, true hard-core control freaks are a whole different ballgame than students sharing and communicating goals, etc.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1361770 - 01/30/10 05:49 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: rocket88]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Thanks, Rocket. I think I *was* being overly sensitive, because I let your "control freak" reference overwhelm the "open door policy regarding feedback" part of your post. Sorry! I do agree with the substance of both your posts.

The initial interview is an excellent opportunity for BOTH halves of the teacher-student relationship to make sure they have found a reasonable partner in the learning journey and not the control freak that you describe, which I also agree do exist--on both sides. wink
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1361931 - 01/30/10 10:52 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Rachel J]
KrAYZEE Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/09
Posts: 83
Loc: Los Angeles


Ms. Jimenez,

What a wonderful alternative you are to some of the other viewpoints expressed here. I'm fortunate that all of my former teachers on four different instruments have shown viewpoints closer to yours or I would despair for the fate of music education.

When any aspect of music is stripped of it's humanity or its magic and is reduced to pure commerce, it dies.

The following, written by a recorder player and teacher named Drora Bruck illustrates this.

Why studying music crucial in our lives - especially today.
I know this heading for a blog entry seems a little fancy, and maybe somewhat pretentious…but coming home after teaching quite a few hours everyday, to different people, in different manners, I remain, still and always in awe, when i see the impact good music has on people.

Being a recorder teacher and player I have the chance to work with very young children at a very basic stage. Usually I get this fantastic opportunity to make, with them, their first steps in this fascinating world, walking hand in hand with them on this new road leading to infinity.

We live in a strange world today - in which everything comes fast and goes away fast. Our food cooks within seconds, we get to places kilometers away from our house in a very short time (ok, not at rush hour), we move from one activity to the other in no time, we drown in information that is thrown at us from every direction…and life is becoming quick and in a way worthless..since everything comes and goes. And if everything is of such short value - maybe us too?

So, when we teach music, we allow little children to meet a world which has it’s own time - because music is an art form which relys upon time, needs time, is coherent only if you listen and allow the piece to unfold infront of you…one cannot hasten music - one cannot look quickly at the last page to know what was the conclusion…music is not about the ending - music is about the process…

I find myself playing for these internet oriented children, little people who were born into this world of instanity - or, if I may, insanity - and I see how every muscle in their body relaxes, how their eyes are fixed upon me, and their ears seek the next sound…

I cannot help feeling that music, and complex music, the one that operates the senses, the passions and the brain, reunites us, reunites them with what this fast world makes us yearn for - stability, solidity, lastingness, balance…

so, studying music is crucial for our inner need of feeling that something out there is worth waiting for - and giving time to - and if there is, maybe it is us?

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#1362015 - 01/31/10 02:52 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: KrAYZEE]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Hey there, adult students who are being all distressed at the idea that teaching the piano is not always an experience of mutual joy and celebration of the beauty and meaning that music can bring:

The attitude you have to learning the piano is not necessarily shared by all the children and parents of the world.

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and ask "I've been learning the piano as long as my friend - why can they play better than me? Is it because you are holding me back?"?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "My mum used to learn from this book when she was a piano student, and this is the only book I want to learn from."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "I've been learning for 12 months now, I think it's time you gave me a loyalty discount."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "I know you asked me to practice it this way, but my grandma plays the piano and she told me that I should do it like this."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "My boss thinks I should learn different pieces to the ones we are preparing."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "I didn't do the practice you assigned because I think you are wrong."?

Or any number of RIDICULOUS suggestions which imply that the student and/or parent of the student has decided to disrespect you as a teacher.

The difference in one's ability to actually teach when students and parents deeply respect your expertise and integrity (as compared to when students and parents are constantly second guessing you) is phenomenal.

Maybe you are uncomfortable with the idea that piano teachers experience manipulation and disrespect - well, hello, piano teachers feel the same way.

Don't start me on the disrespect that piano teachers are shown - and the very real and deep need for piano teachers to value themselves enough to refuse to be treated with that (or any other) kind of disrespect.




Edited by Elissa Milne (01/31/10 02:53 AM)
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1362021 - 01/31/10 03:18 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Reading this last post, one can't help but come to the conclusion that perhaps the problem is that piano teachers are too much of loners with underdeveloped interpersonal skills and are too insecure? Or, perhaps they are too little schooled in pedagogical concepts that are based on the hard science that learning can only proceed from the motivation and involvement of the student? Or perhaps they should have been born 150 years ago in Russia or Germany when people and culture was very different indeed than today and they could have lain down the law demanding silence and issuing corporal punishment?

If your judgement of questions that parents and students DARE to ask is that they are RIDICULOUS and DISRESPECTFUL!!! of you as a teacher, then perhaps the problem is not with the parent/student but with YOU?

If you think you have it tough being a piano teacher, think about being a physician or a business consultant in the internet/google age when everyone can (attempt to) educate themselves, second guess you and "play doctor." However, ask yourself, is it really such a bad thing when people try to educate themselves, think for themselves and want to take an active role in their learning process? If you are diagnosed with cancer and you try to educate yourself on your options, can you imagine your oncologist having a tizzy fit because you had the gall to ask him questions based on your own process of becoming aware?

Perhaps instead of having a negative emotional reaction and playing the role of victim, you could use these personal interactions as learning moments to better understand your clients and as opporunities to educate your students and/or parent customers?

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#1362026 - 01/31/10 03:39 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: theJourney]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
HAHAHAHA!!!!!!

Yeah, I think the "but grandma says it's like this not the way you said" kind of sums it up re how much the child/parent thinks the teacher knows what they are doing.

I also think that NO ONE would suggest to a doctor that after using their services for a while that they be given a discount!

As compared to the professionals you list, many piano teachers work in their own homes, and having someone come into your place of residence with an aggressive attitude can be somewhat more daunting than in an official place of work. And somehow the parents of students can be terribly more aggressive in the piano teachers home than they ever would be in a school environment.

Honestly, get over it, non-piano teachers!! The range of attitudes parents respond in relation to piano lessons is amazing. Some parents genuinely want their child to prosper as a human being and music/piano education is part of that prospering. Other parents, on the other hand, expect the child to become a competitive performer from day one. Other parents are only providing piano lessons for the child because they 'don't want to feel they didn't give them a little music', and these parents have no interest in supporting the practice required for the child to make progress. Some parents only get involved when they realise some other child at school is more advanced in piano than their child is.

Freak out all you want about piano teachers discussing how to maintain an appropriate authority in the piano lesson. It's not your line of business, so you honestly have not had the experiences the lead to teachers having these kinds of discussions. It doesn't change the fact that it is important for piano teachers to understand how to communicate with confidence, especially when faced with belligerent determination to not follow the instructions of the teacher.

To piano teachers: If someone doesn't want your instruction, let them cease lessons. If someone does want your instruction, let them engage with you on respectful terms. There are no other alternatives.

To TheJourney: are you serious? Are you saying that is acceptable for students to say "I didn't practice the way you asked me to because you are wrong"? I like your comparison between piano teachers and oncologists, but I don't think you've taken each question I posted and thought about it in a cancer setting.

Do you really think a cancer patient would say to their doctor "I want to use the method they used on my mum when she had cancer thirtyfive years ago"?

Or, "I've had cancer longer than my friend, and she's getting better while I'm not - are you keeping me sick deliberately?"

I'm fascinated to hear your response! (And yes, piano teachers are very isolated, and that's why they need encouragement to respect themselves).
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1362028 - 01/31/10 03:40 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
And TheJourney - nice try suggesting the problem might be with me. Not buying into that kind of interpersonal powerplay!
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1362031 - 01/31/10 03:50 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
Frozenicicles Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/09
Posts: 1324
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne
I also think that NO ONE would suggest to a doctor that after using their services for a while that they be given a discount!...Do you really think a cancer patient would say to their doctor "I want to use the method they used on my mum when she had cancer thirtyfive years ago"?

Or, "I've had cancer longer than my friend, and she's getting better while I'm not - are you keeping me sick deliberately?"


You'd be surprised. There are people who are that bad and worse. They simply don't know any better, and I believe it's wrong to take immediate offense to their ignorance.

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#1362032 - 01/31/10 03:53 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5551
Loc: Orange County, CA
Unfortunately, the definition of "respect" changes from country to country, from culture to culture, from situation to situation. I almost hesitate to use that word because it's so loaded with connotations.

For example, in my own culture, because I'm younger than the parents of my students, I'm not supposed to get any "respect" from them. However, there's this other cultural norm to "respect" all teachers, so I am being treated like god by some of these parents. Seriously. Like god. As you can imagine, the most respectful parents produce the best piano students.

I'm currently working with students from another culture whose definition of "respect" is not found in the dictionary next to the word "respect." What do I do with them? I don't bother to use the word "respect." I have to use words that they can understand and terms they can relate to. "Respect" is not one of them.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1362034 - 01/31/10 04:05 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5551
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne
Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and ask "I've been learning the piano as long as my friend - why can they play better than me? Is it because you are holding me back?"?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "My mum used to learn from this book when she was a piano student, and this is the only book I want to learn from."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "I've been learning for 12 months now, I think it's time you gave me a loyalty discount."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "I know you asked me to practice it this way, but my grandma plays the piano and she told me that I should do it like this."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "My boss thinks I should learn different pieces to the ones we are preparing."?

Would you ever turn up to a piano lesson and say "I didn't do the practice you assigned because I think you are wrong."?


Wow! This just amazes me. I'm way too short-tempered to accept any of this.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1362051 - 01/31/10 05:27 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: AZNpiano]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5961
Loc: Down Under
Well I've just reread the thread and I have to say I'm puzzled as to where all of Elissa's anger is coming from. Have those things actually been said to her? Or are they just made-up examples of the sort of questions teachers shouldn't tolerate? Maybe my mind is a bit foggy tonight but I just don't get it. I don't see any of the non-teachers on this thread expressing anything of the sort.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1362062 - 01/31/10 06:05 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: AZNpiano]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Judging from a number of the "chip on the shoulder" posts from teachers, I am sure you are not alone.

However, the question that you might want to ask yourself is:

How might a mature professional respond to reality and react to these questions?

For every short-fused, personally affronted, outraged victim answer there are an equal or greater number of thoughtful, mature, intelligent, relationship-strengthening responses that allow everyone to "be respected."

"I've been learning the piano as long as my friend - why can they play better than me? Is it because you are holding me back?"

Do you feel you are being held back? How?

At the end of the day you are the one who will determine how fast and how far you go, I can only help you with that process. Shallwe discuss together potential ways for how you can be making faster progress?

Comparing yourself to someone else is a sure way to disappointment. Even a professional basketball player or concert pianist can point to someone else who plays better. Sometimes it is more effective to focus on you and your own playing rather than trying to make a competition out of it.

Have you talked to your friend about how he or she is practicing? Perhaps you might pick up some good tips. I bet they would also really appreciate it if you were to compliment them on their playing., You could also ask them for help to understand how they are achieving it. The practice room is usually where the biggest gains can be made. Most people are very willing to help someone when they ask for help.

"My mum used to learn from this book when she was a piano student, and this is the only book I want to learn from."?

How wonderful that your Mum also has taken piano lessons. I am sure she is quite proud of you for following in her footsteps. Let's take a look at this book together and see if we can find a piece to work on together right away that she might recognize -- I bet your Mum would be pleased! Would you like that?

Followed up by a call later to Mum to discuss.

"I've been learning for 12 months now, I think it's time you gave me a loyalty discount."?

Are you having trouble coming up with the tuition amount?Perhaps we can arrange shorter lessons or lessons less frequently to help you through your financial difficulties? I have several people on waiting list who would be delighted to hear there might be some lesson times freeing up.

OR

I only start giving loyalty discounts after 10 years, doing so earlier wouldn't be fair to the other students.

OR

I would be very happy to give you a loyalty discount which I always relate to loyalty for the coming year! By paying a full year's tuition in advance now I will provide you with x extra lessons for free which you can plan in at different times during the year, for example in the weeks leading up to exams.

"I know you asked me to practice it this way, but my grandma plays the piano and she told me that I should do it like this."

How wonderful that your grandmother also plays piano. What a wonderful legacy of music your family enjoys. You are so lucky to have family members who love you and encourage your piano learning. Why don't you show me exactly what your grandmother showed you and then have you compare it to what you remember me showing you and how you practiced last week. Perhaps we can both learn something! Or, perhaps the two methods are not so different after all. Let's take a look together!

"My boss thinks I should learn different pieces to the ones we are preparing."?

(joking) Gosh, is he your boss from work or your boss for everything?
What do you think about your bosses advice?
What kind of music would you ultimately like to be able to play well?


I didn't do the practice you assigned because I think you are wrong."

Perhaps the assignment was the wrong assignment for you right now. I thought you were ready for it, but I might have been wrong. This practice is after all more for the bigger boys. Maybe we need to go back a step.

OR

You might be right. After all, no one is perfect.
However, you need to help me understand you.
What is wrong about it?
(silence, get specifics)

OR

What did you do this week on the piano? Can you show me?

OR

(Personal Story time) When I was your age I thought the same thing as you at one point. But you know what I found out? Simply not doing the practice and telling my teacher she was "wrong" didn't help me and it didn't help her either. By not doing anything that week it just made me lose a week of practice. However, if I came back and gave here specific feedback about what worked, what didn't work and asking for her help worked better for both of us. Perhaps you can keep a notebook that you write in during and after each practice session so you can remember your thoughts to discuss them with me here. Don't be afraid to be honest and tell me whatever you see as being a block.

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#1362070 - 01/31/10 06:39 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: theJourney]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
(Edited because I wasn't enthusiastic enough about TheJourney's responses above!!!)

These are GREAT suggestions for responses to each of these points, TheJourney. In fact, they are a PERFECT guide to teachers who feel they don't know how to manage the powerplays that go on in lessons.... Every single one of your answers does all the right things to get the ball back into the teacher's court: acknowledge the question/statement being made by the parent/student, tackle the issues implicit in it right up front, move on to suggestions to move forward. Brilliant. And I would say, make this list mandatory reading for any new teacher as a guide to handling these moments.

My point was not that appropriate responses are impossible, simply that each of these types of question presupposes the teacher has not given thought to the lesson in the first place, or for some reason does not have the interest of the student at heart (i.e. they are disrespectful). This is very confronting for inexperienced teachers especially, who really do have an enormous desire to do good with their teaching, to impact positively on the lives of their students, and so forth - but then they are made to feel (by some parents) that their expertise, their research, their planning is irrelevant.

Maybe this is a cultural issue: most of the parents I deal with come from certain cultural backgrounds where teachers are treated with high respect, a few parents I deal with simply treat teachers with common decency. A few parents along the way have behaved abominably (my favourite in this category was the suggestion that because I was single and childless I should charge less for tuition than if I were raising children).

Currawong, not angry (sorry if anyone felt scorched by wrath). I've posted in amazement at the self-righteous responses from those who are not teachers to the idea that a piano teacher needs to be careful as to how power relationships play out. I suspected that maybe these people had no idea the kinds of things that are said to teachers which very much go against the vibe of "isn't music wonderful". I have heard so many stories from piano teachers around various (non-North American) parts of the world, and many many teachers struggle with these issues in their day-to-day teaching. Lots of teachers just love the piano and want to share that, but are not quite up to the stress of students actively doubting their ability to teach, or parents announcing that the curriculum needs to be changed.

I don't think that finding these things hard to handle proves that piano teachers are dysfunctional, TheJourney. I think it proves that one-on-one aggression can be hard to handle, especially if the teacher is somewhat inexperienced, and the lessons are occurring in the teacher's home.


Edited by Elissa Milne (01/31/10 06:52 AM)
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1362071 - 01/31/10 06:44 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Meantime: "chip on the shoulder piano teachers": well, that's one way to interpret teachers being honest about the issues they face (frequently without collegiate support of any kind).

It's not a particularly understanding judgement on the struggles being discussed in this forum, but there you go.
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1362141 - 01/31/10 10:53 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
MomOfBeginners Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 119
Loc: California, USA
Presumably, not all your parents feel like they have to tell you how to teach. Out of curiosity, how many parents ask you "My boss thinks I should learn different pieces..." type of questions versus the parents who have total trust in your decisions?

Of course, the way you've worded these questions ("my grandma plays the piano this way...") is humourous and offensive at the same time. All questions probably lie in some range within the tactfulness spectrum.

Really, what would your recommendations be for a parent who feels that something isn't being covered? Maybe it's that you don't feel it's the appropriate time for that material to be covered. I think the parent can be put at ease with that proper explanation. It's not necessarily the parent second-guessing your decision, but just that the parent wants to know you've already thought about it.



Added afterwards: By "offensive", I did not mean that I am offended. I meant that I can see the teacher feeling offended.


Edited by MomOfBeginners (01/31/10 12:24 PM)
Edit Reason: Added for clarity
_________________________
Mom of Two Girls Who Used to Be Beginners

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#1362151 - 01/31/10 11:04 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11803
Loc: Canada
There are thousands of people with umpteen background reading this thread in myriad ways. Some may be (prospective) parents or students identifying with the same, read the frustration and anger and feel it will be directed at them. One can't have a proper picture unless "walking in someone's shoes" (though sometimes maybe we can have an idea). While there are pitfalls to the staff room coming into the open, this is also a chance where we can learn from each other. It may be that someone having read and understood some of what has been posted here can approach a teacher with more understanding and less chance of miscommunication. Or vice versa.

There is a chance that we can harbour preconceptions about the role, the person, or the process - teacher, student, or both - never get past those preconceptions, see things through the lense of those preconceptions, and continue to miss each other. If a dent can be made in this where it exists, that would be a good thing.

I realize that this is condensed to the point of barely being comprehensible. I have written way too much in the past two years and am not convinced that I made sense during my own journey of coming to grips with some of these things. So it stays condensed. At best maybe it makes a bit of sense.


Edited by keystring (01/31/10 11:06 AM)
Edit Reason: (added "or vice versa")

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#1362175 - 01/31/10 11:23 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: keystring]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
I am not a piano teacher but I do not find Elissa's experience too peculiar. The questions she listed probably reflect genuine ignorance, with a dash of mean-spiritidness and distrust. This is not all that uncommon and I find that it more commonly targets women professionals.
But such inquiries should not be taken personally , nor should they be allowed to undermine the teacher's self confidence. That is a bigger problem than the silly discourteous questions.
By the way, I find Journey's repsonses to be too passive aggressive and sometimes frankly mean. smile. Not always a good strategy. Even ignoramuses will pick on that..
In my profession, I get questioned a lot because I do not fit the stereotype in people's minds. I get interrogated about my training, I receive advice as to how to do my job and people do not hesitate at the end of a 30 minute discussion to ask me again if I am really the "only" person they are supposed to meet.All this and they are meeting me in a very professional place where I would not stand a chance to be if I were not properly credentialed and high performing..
So take heart..

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#1362178 - 01/31/10 11:26 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: MomOfBeginners]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11803
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: MomOfBeginners

Really, what would your recommendations be for a parent who feels that something isn't being covered?

Two words as both someone who has taught one-on-one, and who freelances (and is/was a student)

Client education.

The trouble with "what isn't being covered" is that there is also an underlying idea of what should be covered, how you will see that it is being covered - a concept of the educational process itself. I am thinking both as a teacher and as student / parent of student (now grown).

As teacher I once brought a girl labeled as LD up several levels in reading by addressing where her problems actually lay. It had something to do with timing, trying to see everything at once, and fear. We did some unconventional things, and in the third month the girl came skipping up the stairs, saying she had tried reading every book in the classroom and saw that she could read them all. Her mother was disturbed because learning should be tedious, not fun. The child was withdrawn and placed in a program that used workbooks because it "looked like education".

As student & parent it was not always clear that we were being taught because some things can come in subliminally through the back door. You may be asked to do something that seems trivial or senseless, and not know that while you are doing it you are acquiring an understanding of some aspect of theory which later you might learn formally. It may be that the teacher next door who seems a fount of efficiency is actually teaching less deeply. (or not)

Another word: Trust

This one is tricky, because there are teachers who know how to teach, others who don't, and some who do it so-so. If something doesn't seem to be going well, maybe it isn't. Or maybe we just have the wrong expectation of what should be happening. On the other hand, take the "transfer student" we read about who comes in playing three or four pieces impressively with every hand motion choreographed and numbers written in the sheet music, but who cannot read music, interpret music, or have any of the basic skills that teachers say this student should have after several years of study. Has that former teacher cynically (or naively) taught toward parent expectation and abandoned what is necessary in the way of tools - because those tools are uninteresting and not readily understood?

You must entrust yourself to the teacher and work with that teacher, doing what they suggest, how they suggest it, for it to work. But some teachers are not trustworthy and how can we tell? Our "four piece virtuoso" who has the next teacher pulling out her hair was convinced he was progressing.

What do we need? To educate ourselves?

(Dang - verbose after all)

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#1362198 - 01/31/10 11:47 AM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: keystring]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5639
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I'm one of the non-piano teachers who read this thread and got the impression that some of the teachers here are angry, defensive, and that they think piano teachers are a group apart smile I've gotten that impression from other threads. I don't think *all* of the teachers are, but many in this thread sound that way to me.

My thoughts -

Yes, this is often like a teachers lounge. But it's - public. So, if one uses a name by which one can be identified it's probably a good idea to respond to this thread with that in mind. If you would only normally say these things in a teachers-only-it-goes-no-further-than-here teachers lounge, then it probably shouldn't be said here. At least not in some of the ways it's said in this thread. Just a caution.

The internet is a written medium. So it is in many ways easier to read something differently than the writer thinks they mean. We have no body language to help interpret the words. Sometimes we have some history, here on this forum, with a poster, that influences the way we interpret them. Sometimes not. So it takes more thought about how a post is going to be received than, again, talking with other teachers in a teachers lounge.

And, responding to the way I've interpreted some of these posts - piano teachers really aren't any more special than any other group smile They get the same kinds of comments from their students and those parents that - retail clerks get, or math teachers, or auto mechanics get, or accountants get, or preachers get, or golf pros get, or any of us get from colleagues and acquaintences at some time or another. To react to the "rudeness" or "disrepect" one gets from others as if it's somehow because one is a piano teacher to me distorts the situation, and sounds, again to me, like one is playing victim. It's just life. And, as several others have pointed out, it's not *always* disrepect.

Just some thoughts.

Cathy
_________________________

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#1362209 - 01/31/10 12:06 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: Elissa Milne]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19584
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne


These are GREAT suggestions for responses to each of these points, TheJourney. In fact, they are a PERFECT guide to teachers who feel they don't know how to manage the powerplays that go on in lessons....


Why does one have to think of them as "powerplays"? I don't think Journey's responses sounded like they were being interpreted that way.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/31/10 12:06 PM)

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#1362226 - 01/31/10 12:25 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: pianoloverus]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13812
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I don't really get what the whole "powerplay" thing is about. Sometimes parents have questions and concerns, so they voice them. Sometimes I have questions and concerns, so I voice them.

I had a difficult situation a few years ago, so I talked to the parent about it. She was upset, and though I was not at fault, she decided to discontinue lessons. That's her prerogative. I felt bad for a few days, but I got over it.

This, by the way, is another reason I hold two recitals each year and have students enter festivals. My students' performance success is the proof in the pudding. It's the feedback I need to know I'm doing a good job, and it's the feed back parents need to know they're getting quality lessons for their kids.

If my students played a recital and they all crashed and burned, had memory slips and didn't sound any better than they did 6 months ago, then I would be very worried indeed.

I'm about to get another report card next Sunday. Our state auditions are next Sunday, and I have 90% of my students entered. (I usually don't enter first year beginners. I think it's too early for an adjudicated event.) We'll see what the judge's comments say. Then we'll get back to work for our next performance, and my next report card, at our spring recital in May.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1362243 - 01/31/10 12:49 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: pianoloverus]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Elissa is very clearly to me, an experieced piano teacher with huge talents. I say this just from her postings in the piano teachers forum, not from the reputation she holds in the world of music which I am just beginning to learn about.

Elissa is savvy and reality oriented. I find myself almost completely in alignment with her views. I'm sure she knows pedagogy and teaching to the max and has many, many things that work in her teaching, she is responsive, she is organized, structure, thinks, walks and talks like an educated and aware piano teach with lots of experience and a fine reputation. When someone things Elissa or I are "angry" they are completely wrong about that: we are representing ourselves and what we know to be true in a calm and calculated voice. The problem is that no one is listening to our viewpoints only using our viewpoints to continue to aggravate us about having a viewpoint which contrasts to theirs. I would, at this point, having been immersed in enough of it here in PWF, call this "bullying" teachers.

What is not being understood in this topic by people who are not piano teachers is that 1) we teach, many of us in our homes, and 2)we conduct a self-employed business according where we are the sole proprietors.

These two things are separate entities. Both of these things require a strong sense of values and operations. Our intentions are to accomplish your goals and to teach to the best of our abilities within the framework we have devised for ourselves. It is not debatable in our private studios, it stands as policy and method of operation.

We have to be well prepared and well disciplined in both areas.

In both areas we are operating from our professional level of what we deem important and necessary to conduct both the teaching and the business enterprise.

We are not open to every person who would ask us to make changes for them, nor are we open to allowing a difficult, negative, or undermining person into our enterprise. The minute there is true disrespect or someone making waves they need to be dealt with and perhaps removed from our enterprise. We do not have to suffer fools.

The music pathway is precious to all of us as musicians and as teachers. It is a challenging and adventurous path to want to become a musician and it is a seriousness of purpose both on the part of the teacher, the student and the parent who supports everyone in this endeavor.

We need to base our experiences together on trust, building a working relationship with each other, communicating to understand each other and to resolve issues or problems when they occur. We more forward with purpose.

What the adults and non-teachers do not understand about us is that we have a purpose, a passion, a lifetime dedication to bringing musical accomplishments to people who only dreamed about it.

All the other "crap" we get is about people's ego's and wanting to be heard, or to actually be incontrol of what happens during their piano lesson. Well, shop for that and find it if you can if that is your main criteria for having lessons. Recreation would be a good name for that. It is a different kind of teaching than giving someone a music education.

But, when you see a tried and true blue piano teacher, don't think that you get to decimate our chosen work, our attitudes, our philosophies, based on our long term experiences in music, which is usually from our childhood forward to today's present moment, with idle chatter and somewhat limited experiences and attitudes to music education.

I don't think people such as the one's we are hearing from really belong in our studio's - they need the alternative in music. So if we accept only the students who present their best foot forward to us, we don't really have to under take trying to educate the lesson common denominators who would only cause us flare and discontent.

It's easy enough to spot positives and negatives in interviews, don't you think, teachers? And, it's easy enough to spot them here on the forum. We don't owe one more word to defending ourselves to anyone. And, unfortunately, it's getting to be almost daily around here!

Betty Patnude

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#1362260 - 01/31/10 01:15 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: jotur]
DancinDigits Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 68
Loc: USA
As you pointed out, jotur, we only have the written word to go by around here. It has its limitations and through them, its problems. I am at an added disadvantage for I am new here and don't have the benefit of 'knowing' the other posters.

On a separate issue and addressing some points in general:

We live in a world of all types, and as such, all of us are going to encounter them in just about every walk of life. No one group of people is made up of the nice guys. You are going to find the pains just about everywhere you go no matter who you are and what your profession/line of work is in life.

The trick here is to not allow the bad experiences to shade other relationships, esp. those relationships that are new and have yet to develop. And I think that that is part of the problem that I am seeing here - some people have 'had enough' and so they are taking the 'never again' stance. While this is understandable, defensiveness, suspicion and the need to take control so that it doesn't happen again can negatively impact a relationship.

I have no problems with being regarded with a certain amount of questioning and uncertainty when I am a new acquintance. We are new to one another and there is a 'getting to know' you period.

OTOH, I do have a problem with being regarded with suspicion and with the attitude of 'if I don't lay down the law NOW, this new student will take advantage of me so I better let them know from the start who is in charge here' type thinking. It is an insult to me to judge me by either 1. the bad behavior of others in general or 2. by the bad behavior of those who may, in some way, be associated with me (such as the bad behavior of adult students). It would be the same as if I walked into the studio of a new teacher, and because I had a bad experience with a past teacher or teachers, I must now protect myself from this new teacher who just may behave as badly.

Teachers can indeed behave just as badly as students and/or parents. Like I said - there are pains in every walk of life.

Distrust above and beyond a certain degree, suspicion and defensiveness does a new acquaintence an injustice and is not supportive of a good working relationship. If that relationship is to work, there must to a certain degree trust and respect coming from both sides.

The 'my way or the highway' attitude doesn't work any better then the 'you are the hired help, I am your boss' attitude. Both are obnoxious. I, personally, want to participate in none of it. Its my hope that such attitudes are the exception to the rule rather than the norm. Otherwise I'd give up on the hope of ever taking lessons again.

Minniemay - If I misread your post, my apologies.
_________________________
Music is the voice of the heart.

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#1362265 - 01/31/10 01:23 PM Re: when a parent requests an interview [Re: pianoloverus]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4437
Loc: San Jose, CA
"For every short-fused, personally affronted, outraged victim answer there are an equal or greater number of thoughtful, mature, intelligent, relationship-strengthening responses that allow everyone to "be respected.""

Thank you for that. What a scary discussion... for a person who is looking at finding a new piano teacher. Maybe, at that, it does cast some light on the behavior of my most recent piano teacher, if this is the way people behave toward teachers these days. I cast it, after a period of reflection, as "bitter divorcee syndrome," and maybe I was not so far off, if not quite in the bulls-eye; the two are kissing cousins. Whatever. I want no part of it.

I came up in a time and place where one would never speak disrespectfully to a teacher--- and indeed, my teachers (as a rule) met their responsibilities and were worthy of my respect. They were also respectful of, and patient and persevering with me as a young student. Of course, more is known about pedagogy now, thanks to research and better pedagogical education. Reading back on the state of the technology a hundred or a hundred-and-fifty years ago, it is clear that things have come a long way. Maybe the word hasn't reached everyone.

So, what is this mud-wrestling match? It is hard to see anyone who comes out a winner, and the one ends up as covered with mud as the other.

It is no great news flash that kids (and dogs; and in fact, most of us) do better when there is structure. Nor is it news that professional teachers operate a business according to a stated contract and within standards of conduct that apply to all--- at least, it isn't to me. A person could get thrown out of any hash-house if they went in and started a food-fight. But anyone who sets boundaries, no matter how healthy or beneficial, can expect to have them challenged and probed; that is how their location is defined and discovered.

Part of the expected ethical conduct of a private teacher is not to accept money by admitting students who are unable to benefit, just as the old saying about 'teaching a pig to sing' reminds us (if we could interview a pig). But every protest or delinquency is not about dissing the teacher, and those 'example questions' that get to the root of what the problem really is, are brilliant. They would work. They express the actual 'leading out' dynamic of real education; you could say they actually express 'leading beyond.'

Doesn't it beat the stuffing out of taking a snit and having a meltdown because your 'authority is challenged'? A real authority in a teacher would keep ahead of such a situation and divert this energy into a more productive direction before it came to this.


Edited by Jeff Clef (01/31/10 05:46 PM)
_________________________
Clef


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