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#2085825 - 05/20/13 03:29 PM my student is crying in every lesson
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
and I have no idea why or what to do really...

She's 13 years old, her father is accompanying her in the lessons (since he has to bring her and it's not worth to drop her off to come back later to pick her up), and regardless of what I say, good or bad (and I don't get angry to my students) she... just cries!

Today she had her lesson, came in and had studies, yet when she lost it and I told her to start over, little by little she blushed and then she started crying. I asked permission from her dad and took her in another room to talk to her and she wouldn't say why... She actually said that she didn't know why and that she didn't know if she likes crying or not...

any ideas?

I'm baffled!
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#2085830 - 05/20/13 03:32 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1023
Loc: Irvine, CA
I have three crying students so far, all are perfectionist!

In your case,
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
when she lost it and I told her to start over


She is not happy that she lost it, maybe she is embarrassed, maybe she is having a too high standard to herself. That is why she cried.

Just my two cents.
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#2085838 - 05/20/13 03:37 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Offline
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Perhaps, but for a perfectionist she's REALLY not studying or trying hard!... frown
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#2085846 - 05/20/13 03:49 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Piano*Dad Online   content
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Young perfectionists often don't work particularly hard. People sometimes think that "perfectionism" is a synonym for "hard working and very detail-oriented," but perfectionists are often quite different from this profile. A young person with perfectionist attributes often "gets" things easily enough that they get by with very little effort. As a result, they can fail to learn the repetitive detail work that leads to true mastery. And they can become quite flustered in situations that demand slowly gained skills. As a self-defense mechanism, I can easily imagine this sort of child avoiding even the attempt at hard work, both because they do not really know how to work in a concentrated fashion, and because trying opens up the possiblity of real failure that they cannot rationalize away or excuse.
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#2085854 - 05/20/13 04:08 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas
She actually said that she didn't know why and that she didn't know if she likes crying or not...

any ideas?

I'm baffled!


Kids can never answer why. "I dunno." They're not verbal and not introspective, mostly.

It could be something serious, like depression.

But it could also just be a sensitive child, who's going to cry and can still function. If so, it might work to ignore it and give her a safe place to cry.
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#2085855 - 05/20/13 04:10 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
ten left thumbs Offline
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At that age, I would cry like that, it was difficult to stop. Sorry not to be of more help.
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#2085856 - 05/20/13 04:14 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
Well... at least I'm seeing that she isn't alone in this... I didn't cry when I was 13, but I did have my urges (and I'm a male), so... :-/

Still I'm unsure of what to do.
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#2085858 - 05/20/13 04:16 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Piano*Dad Online   content
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Have you pulled the father aside to have a one-on-one conversation? Perhaps he can give you some insights into the child's personality, or into current issues that she is facing. It may be simple, or complicated, but you'll never know until you ask the parents some clear questions.
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#2085871 - 05/20/13 04:30 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Piano*Dad]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
I had a sensitive child, who would sometimes melt down if she received a stern glance. I told all her teachers not to panic, to just ignore it and give her space to recover. She grew out of it, mostly.
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#2085873 - 05/20/13 04:31 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Piano*Dad]
Saranoya Offline
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Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Young perfectionists often don't work particularly hard. People sometimes think that "perfectionism" is a synonym for "hard working and very detail-oriented," but perfectionists are often quite different from this profile. A young person with perfectionist attributes often "gets" things easily enough that they get by with very little effort. As a result, they can fail to learn the repetitive detail work that leads to true mastery. And they can become quite flustered in situations that demand slowly gained skills. As a self-defense mechanism, I can easily imagine this sort of child avoiding even the attempt at hard work, both because they do not really know how to work in a concentrated fashion, and because trying opens up the possiblity of real failure that they cannot rationalize away or excuse.


I am a textbook case of a perfectionist, and I think this characterization of a *young* perfectionist is spot-on.

Perfectionism and intelligence usually go hand in hand. Truly intelligent children are seldom sufficiently challenged to meaningfully run into the limits of what comes naturally to them before they reach their teenage years (and for some, it takes significantly longer than that). So when they do run into those limits, they tend to deal with it either by dropping the activity and trying something else, or by knowingly 'phoning it in' so that if they fail, they can still tell themselves the results would have been better if they had put in some effort. This way, it's not that there is something wrong with them for failing. It's that they chose to fail.

But they can still get very frustrated and/or emotional when they feel like they're failing, because up to this point, they've mostly never experienced anything like this. When, for the first ten or so years of your life, everything you try succeeds, then you don't learn that failure is supposed to be a normal part of life, or how to deal with it.

I think this girl is crying because she is running into her limits for what may be the first time in her life, and she has no idea what she's doing wrong that's causing her to fail, or how to fix it.

Someone needs to explain to her that it's OK to make mistakes. Everybody does, and it's not because you can't do something the way you want it the first time you try (or even the tenth time you try) that you will never be able to do it. The only assured path to true failure is giving up (or not even trying).

She might be too young to hear and really understand that message. I was, at thirteen. Even as late in my life as six months ago, I still hadn't fully grasped the concept. But you can try.
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#2085879 - 05/20/13 04:35 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Originally Posted By: Soronoya
Someone needs to explain to her that it's OK to make mistakes.


If that "someone" is parents at home, then piano teacher's job would be a lot easier!!
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#2085894 - 05/20/13 04:50 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Overexposed Offline
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Hi Nikolas,

You have my sympathy. But I admit I'm chuckling thinking about you dealing with this situation. (Please forgive me.) And I'm so grateful I do not currently have a crier in my studio.

What I've found is that kids who cry easily show the exact same behavior at school. The parent can tell you if this is the case. At least it helps to know it's not YOU.

The oldest kid I had cry in lessons was 10. She definitely had learning problems.

Another read notes very easily, but had trouble with rhythm and would cry over working on it. She would also cry when she expected to move on from a piece, but that I assigned for another week. We looked at changing that expectation and made some progress with her having fewer episodes of crying.

I think kids cry when they are frustrated. You may be able to help your student look at her expectations, and replace them with more realistic expectations. She may expect to play fluently with only 2 days of practice each week. You could ask how much practice did she do with a particular piece. And then look at what progress would be reasonable with this amount of practice.

I wish you well! Hope you let us know how it turns out.

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#2085904 - 05/20/13 05:04 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
pianoSD Offline
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Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 57
Loc: San Diego, CA
A couple other things to consider...

1. I know you said that you don't get angry with your students, but there could be other things you are doing that are contributing to her emotional state.

For some, its about meeting expectations, whether those are expectations that you, her father, or she has defined. Ensure that you look introspectively and consider what expectations you have placed on her. Are they fair given her skill level?

2. The second thing to investigate is if there is an outside issue that she is clamming up about. Maybe she doesn't want to be there but is being forced. Maybe the mistakes she makes in your lessons are the same ones she makes during practice at home that her father chastises her for. I am not saying this is the case in your situation, but I say this for the benefit of all to look deeper than what might appear on the surface.

Understanding our students and what makes them tick, whether it be personally, emotionally, or musically, is a key responsibility of us as teachers.
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#2085914 - 05/20/13 05:23 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Minniemay Offline
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Loc: CA
Or she could just be 13 and hormonal.
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#2085916 - 05/20/13 05:29 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1023
Loc: Irvine, CA
I am glad that no one has say this yet......

Something I've long meant to ask, and hope you won't take offense. Your posts nearly always suggest you are not a female, yet you work as a piano teacher. Are you male or female? And does it possibly contribute to cases like this one?

Nikolas! I am just kidding!! You know me!
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#2085968 - 05/20/13 07:55 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Piano*Dad Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
I am a textbook case of a perfectionist, and I think this characterization of a *young* perfectionist is spot-on.


Hah! Takes one to know one. grin

Me too. I did grow out of it, mostly ...

But it is a common issue among young teens and high school students.

Who knows if this young lady "suffers" from this problem. But that's why one needs to explore the issue with the parents. A bit of knowledge may go a long way toward adjusting the teaching technique to help with learning.
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#2086001 - 05/20/13 09:08 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
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Loc: northern California
Could her dad wait in another room, outside of the studio area? I had a similar situation with a 13 year old student. Just the presence of her parent in the studio stressed her. Probably hormonal, as Mnniemay mentioned, but when her dad left the studio she stopped crying.
No offense, Piano Dad! Nothing against parents in the studio! But sometimes the kids are so hard on themselves and it feels like there are 2 teachers in the room with him/her.

another thought...
a violin teacher of mine took pride in making all of her students cry at every lesson. crazy


Edited by Barb860 (05/20/13 09:11 PM)
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#2086007 - 05/20/13 09:12 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Piano*Dad Online   content
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None taken. It's a judgment call. I have argued in the past that teachers should not automatically exclude parents. They can be your best ally. But there are indeed situations in which the best option may be to put the parent in another room. I have no idea whether that tack is appropriate in this situation.
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#2086009 - 05/20/13 09:14 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Piano*Dad]
Barb860 Offline
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Loc: northern California
Yes, I agree completely. Every situation is unique. I am very grateful to have parents observing lessons in many situations.
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#2086013 - 05/20/13 09:21 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: ezpiano.org]
Saranoya Offline
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Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: Soronoya
Someone needs to explain to her that it's OK to make mistakes.


If that "someone" is parents at home, then piano teacher's job would be a lot easier!!


This is certainly true. But you never know what's going on at home.

One of the factors that contributed to *my* fear of making mistakes at that age was the fact that I had a father who would hit me (and I do mean hit me, not 'slap me') when I did things like forget to dry the dishes, pick up the phone for him but mess up the number he needed to call back, or cross the street without looking to the left first.

I had a piano teacher at fifteen who seemed to *get* my fear without my having to tell her where it came from. I will be eternally grateful to that lady for giving me a place to experiment with not doing things right the first time, even if that was just half an hour a week. I didn't *get* it, then. I still tried to be perfect in every way, and because I was playing at a true beginner level back then, I often more or less succeeded. But I knew I felt safe with her, in a way that was fairly foreign to me at that point in my life. Sadly, she retired less than a year into my lessons with her.

Right now, I have another piano teacher who *gets it*, by the way. This one told me in so many words, in my third or fourth lesson with her, that it's OK to make mistakes. And she knows even less about where my fears come from than the first teacher did. But she, too, is giving me a safe place to experiment with making mistakes in front of others, thereby helping me grow as a person.

Often, the most valuable things a teacher can teach have nothing to do with the subject matter at hand.
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Tchaikovsky 39/9

Future
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#2086056 - 05/20/13 11:32 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Offline
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Saranoya (and everyone): Thanks for your posts.

Especially Saranoya, ouch!

I have a hunch that this has something to do with the father... And I do understand that she's having plenty of hormones kicking in about... I mean when I got her in another room, and joked around a bit she kept crying while laughing at the same time...

she's definitely not getting any pressure from me, and I will try next time, to treat her extremely gentle and make her understand that erring is ok with me and pretty much everyone! Of course I have to think of a way to do it that she won't feel that "I'm expecting her" to do something wrong, and thus get emotional again.

I'll also talk to the father, when I see him (we meet pretty much every morning, when we get our kids to school (my kids and his kids go to the same school), so it will easy to talk to him and her mother as well).

EZpiano: I'm a 6'4" female with beard and a beer belly! wink (kidding of course)...
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#2086080 - 05/21/13 01:34 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Whizbang Offline
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Registered: 10/27/12
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Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Perhaps, but for a perfectionist she's REALLY not studying or trying hard!... frown


Here's my perspective as an adult "beginner".

When I was a kid, I had -no- problem in academics. Math, reading, spelling, etc., all came to me without effort.

I was also taking piano lessons at the time. It hurts a lot to say, but I really don't have a musical head. I daresay many of you teacher may have a musical head so some of us academic folks might be frustrating. But I do recall being embarrassed at my lessons as a kid, because I wanted to play something well, and... didn't.

Now, in the scheme of things, I don't think I was a good piano student as a child. I mean, in my hazy memory, I would maybe sit down a couple times a week and pick through my pieces, but my feelings are telling me that there are also probably times I didn't even touch the piano between lessons. (My parents never MADE me practice, which, on the one hand, is probably good in that I'm still compelled to play this instrument, but on the other hand, means I probably missed out on developing some strong foundational stuff when my brain was at its most plastic.)

I think I also recall my teachers introducing me to basic theory. This was unusual in that, well, an aspect of it made complete sense. Circle of fifths? Sure... I see you're adding flats or sharps. Scale patterns? Well, sure. I see the stepwise pattern. But there's a huge difference in intellectually understanding the relationships and internalizing the relationships. Furthermore, being of an academic bent, I never understood WHY this was important--it's only belatedly that I learned that these were important because these were relationships that sounded good to Western ears (because the scale changes are gradual and not abrupt).

I'm sure my teachers told me things like practicing hands separately to get something down. In my memory feelings, it always felt like a failure to not be able to just look at the music and put both hands together and make the music come out. So I didn't do much of that... or scales... or whatever.

What no teacher in childhood ever told me, and what I -think- I might have been able to accept at the time, was what I'm learning as an adult. If you learn a math skill or a reading skill, you just have to get a knowledge part of your brain to learn something. But if you want to perform music, you need to learn to use your eyes, and your ears, and your intellectual theory knowledge, and your motor skills. This means that you need to practice slowly, and you need to think hard, and it's okay to work on one hand, or to practice two measures 10 times, or play a scale, or play really slowly... because your brain needs all these little steps to build all the connections that it takes to play music. Because you're training your brain. If you were lifting weights, you wouldn't expect to lift 100 pounds right away, but you could start by lifting 10 every day, then 11 every day, and then by the next school year, you might be to 25 and then by the year after that 50... and before you know it, 100. And that if you are at 10 pounds one week and you're at 10.5 pounds the next week, that's completely fine, because you're building all these brain connections!

I'm not a teacher and I don't really know kids well, but I -think- that knowing WHY music was different from math and spelling would have helped me to become a better student and develop a better approach to playing music instead of just playing the same piece from the top over and over and over, which is what I did for many, many, many years.
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#2086098 - 05/21/13 02:53 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
BDB Offline
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Maybe you are approaching this student in the wrong way. Perhaps instead of emphasizing the way to play the piano perfectly, you need to teach her how to make mistakes properly. Reduce the music down to a playable minimum, and then add things in until it approaches perfection.
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#2086132 - 05/21/13 06:39 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Schubertslieder Offline
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Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 373
Loc: Michigan, USA
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Saranoya (and everyone): Thanks for your posts.

EZpiano: I'm a 6'4" female with beard and a beer belly! wink (kidding of course)...

Maybe if you shaved a bit and drank less beer, she might not cry as much. Also, stop beating this student during lessons, that might also help a little. laugh
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#2086135 - 05/21/13 06:49 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Overexposed Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
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Hi Nikolas,

I agree with Barb. I think having Dad sit outside the room will simplify the situation and likely improve it.

If she continues crying episodes, I would say "It looks like you need time to calm down. I'll be back in a few minutes." Offer her tissues and leave the room for a few minutes. This suggestion is based on the idea that drama gets stale without an audience to appreciate it. Plus you may want to protect your own peace of mind by stepping out of crying episodes when they occur.



Edited by Ann in Kentucky (05/21/13 09:23 AM)

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#2086145 - 05/21/13 07:20 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Morodiene Offline
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I agree with the comments that she is a perfectionist. I would also have the dad go shopping or go for a walk or something during her lesson. At that age it can be *very* intimidating to play in front of your father, and you don't know what is going on at home or at school.

At the lessons, I would set some rules about mistakes. Talk to her about how valuable they are in what they can teach us and how they can help us to improve. When she makes a mistake, try to approach it in a way that asks what she can learn from this mistake rather than just pointing it out (not saying that you do, but the approach has to be way over the top positive). It may be worthwhile to suggest counseling for the daughter.
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#2086191 - 05/21/13 10:08 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Jeff Clef Offline
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You could just tell her you're tired of it. She can cry all she wants when she gets home.
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#2086204 - 05/21/13 10:37 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
malkin Offline
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Posts: 2609
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I'm pretty familiar with depression, anxiety, and crying both as a giver and a receiver. For me, the best response is for others to acknowledge that I'm crying, and then to carry on. Stay calm and gentle but just carry on.

It doesn't help me for others to try to fix me, or to be indulgent because I'm flipping out a little bit. Be kind but not codependent.
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#2086402 - 05/21/13 06:14 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
manyhands Offline
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Right on about perfectionist fearing failure. How about celebrating errors as learning opportunities? Politely acknowledge she's crying hand tissue and keep going w learning. By normalizing you model for her how to keep going.
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#2086455 - 05/21/13 09:23 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
jdw Offline
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Posts: 995
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Good advice to offer support but not allow this to derail the lesson. I think keeping the focus on the work of learning can be helpful for dealing with less dramatic student emotions too, from anxiety to frustration. (commenting as a student, not a teacher)
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#2086484 - 05/21/13 10:32 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Posts: 1365
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Today she had her lesson, came in and had studies, yet when she lost it and I told her to start over, little by little she blushed and then she started crying.


Nikolas, all sorts of fine advice or observations already, but I want to understand your above sentence exactly. You say she "had studies" - does that mean that she played some exercises (Hanon, scales, etc.) at the beginning of the lesson?

Does "she lost it" mean she got derailed in playing the studies? Or does it means that she lost composure and started crying?

Having a piano lesson can feel highly judgmental, even moreso in front of two men you are probably close to. Even moreso when you are 13yo and a girl, and your body is hardly yours for a couple of years.

I'd say just carry on and muddle through these challenges: you're likely doing just fine. But get Dad out of the line of sight during lessons, and out of earshot if possible.

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#2087943 - 05/24/13 12:02 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
gracegren Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/02/11
Posts: 8
Loc: California
This is a little off topic, but, as an adult, I used to take voice lessons. One day I went there, starting vocalizing, and wanted to cry because something upsetting had happened. The teacher stated that sometimes her students come to lessons and just want to cry and talk.

As a former school therapist, I often felt like my individual time with the students was the only half hour in the week that they could sit with someone and feel listened to, even if it involved a lot of silence and just playing a game of Uno. She is comfortable enough to let down with you, maybe because she feels safe. That's not a bad thing for her. It would be good to get dad out of the area.

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#2088050 - 05/24/13 02:12 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1116
Loc: NJ
I had a student melt down (she's very shy and 8 years old) the last two piano lessons. I've been teaching her for almost two years. She doesn't seem to like anything I or her Dad pick for her, (I give her many choices of supplemental music), doesn't practice very much. Dad has unrealistic ideas of her ability, asking me to make conservatory recommendations for her in the future. I suspect he started putting a little more pressure on her to practice more. Mom sat in on a lesson, and when I asked the little one if she'd practiced the piece that week (I could sense she had not), she had a major crying melt down. I was shocked and very concerned. Mom eventually left the room and I was able to speak to the child calmly and she was able to finish the lesson. I called the dad and he said it was because he refused to take her to the lesson that day because she had not practiced. The next time Mom sat in, the same thing happened. They dropped after that. I can't imagine having a parent sit in on a 13 year old's lesson, and would probably attribute the emotional breakdown to that factor. I know I would have HATED that when I was a teen.

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#2088109 - 05/24/13 03:23 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
TwoSnowflakes Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1296
Ha, I was searching for another topic, and landed on this one. Just wanted to chime in that this WAS ME (well, minus the crying) as a child. Most things came rather easily to me, both on piano and academically, and as a consequence I never really worked very hard. But because I was no prodigy, there's a limit to how far that gets you and teachers found it difficult to coax change or real progress beyond quick sub-mastery of anything.

I really don't know how I might have been persuaded to change, but I suspect that getting really granular with me would have helped. That is, specific instruction on what to have accomplished by next lesson since my inability to really direct myself led to very unfocused practicing, which led to disappointment and frustration at lessons. I just really had a hard time organizing a rational approach to learning something if it lay beyond what could be acquired by simply being good at understanding something quickly. And I think teachers didn't quite know what to do with it either; after all, I was never in any danger of failing anything. And for me, the consequences of not knowing how to apply myself beyond what came easily were really too abstract for me--or any child, really--to understand. I'll share a quick anecdote: In college, I roomed with another "lapsed" pianist and we used to take our books to the music department and reserve a practice room. I learned somewhat abruptly how far 10 years of piano training gets you when you've put in some kind of focused effort. Either because she was more inherently driven to do it well, or was required to, she had skills far beyond mine despite us playing similar pieces. And while it would be convenient to say that she had inherent talent far greater than my own (her family is a recognizably musical family; her uncle is a famous conductor) the honest truth is that she probably didn't--both of us were sort of similar in that we had some adequate measure of innate musicality, and the ability to gain a quick preliminary foothold in most anything, and what came next depended on the quality of the work put in. I think that's when it started to dawn on me that those who succeed without trying are very rare. Because even when you are blessed with great inherent talent (which I am not), you are even more motivated to see how far inherent talent AND hard work get you. The hardest workers that I see are often the brightest, not the other way around. Almost as if they must honor that talent with the work to get as far as possible.

I say all this because I'm starting again now, as an adult, and for the first time in 25 years, I have a piano teacher. I obviously have matured greatly, but still can fall into the same traps. So I make myself ask questions rather than nod passively at all her corrections. I know that later I will not absorb those corrections unless I take active steps to do so. I have her write down things that make sense to me, and solicit particular exercises or approaches that I can use so I am working well when she's not there. I also make sure that at the end of the lesson I seek out a general sense of what we covered and make sure I know precisely what I will be working on and what would constitute the kind of change/progress she thinks is reasonable.

Obviously a young student won't think to do these things, so perhaps one suggestion would be, when you have a student such as this one, to be very explicit as to what you want to see, and what is ok not to have completely fixed by the following lesson. That way you're letting her know WHICH mistakes are ok in the short term, so frustration does not follow when perfection does not occur. Write down what should be worked on, and how. This way, there's no question as to what next week's lesson will build on, and what things are going to be in progress for a while. And if there's the tendency to unfocused practicing or disorganization, something that the student can always do no matter what might give her a better foothold in the task as the week progresses.

For me, it's hard for me to not get overwhelmed when I think about all the things that I need to be working on in my pieces. There's so much I need to go back and improve, and as much as I understand that progress is incremental, it can still be hard to find a cogent approach that does not flood me with too much to do, especially since one downside of adult learning is the fact that practice opportunities can be erratic. So when that happens, I always have a "go to" thing for the week to focus on, which, if nothing else, is something I can sit down and work on no matter what. Last week it was nice arm rotation on arpeggios. This week it's scales with a really nice wrist staccato. That way, when my Chopin nocturne disappoints me in all the ways that it does and I am having difficulty prioritizing my time, I can go on autopilot, get really granular with one thing, and ultimately see tangible improvement in at least one area.

If these things have practical application in my pieces, then by default, I've at least made some kind of progress somewhere in there.

Also, I have the tendency to rush to higher speeds before I've really focused on acquiring what I need to. I know people either love or hate the metronome and while I agree it can sometimes be a detraction to a natural sense of rhythm, for those students who can get frustrated, having an external limit imposed ON them could help to reduce frustration while certain other skills are reinforced and acquired without the pressure to immediately demonstrate those things at regular tempo. So, I DO use it now. Perhaps you could almost...forbid a higher speed until certain precise things are accomplished. It helps me organize my work and also evaluate progress. After all, if I can't play the piece through with no mistakes or scrambling for position, then I should not be speeding up.

Anyway, sorry to threadbomb you here. I just saw some of myself here, and thought perhaps an adult's perspective from having been a frustrated child learner would be useful. After all, frustration is simply the feeling you get when you want to do something you think you should be able to, and can't because you didn't approach the task properly. So, to help someone like that, giving small, precise goals that, individually, are not overwhelming in complexity. Even if they all add up to the same more general goal in the same amount of time. A roadmap for the short (by next lesson) and slightly longer term (by next month) on what reasonable progress looks like, and at least one particular thing that, if time or organization is lacking, can just be tackled without further thought. And for the really frustrated or unfocused student, an actual list with time to be spent doing each thing, and no more than 10-15 minutes for each particular thing you're saying to be worked on.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Off to go practice! smile
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2088571 - 05/25/13 01:00 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: chasingrainbows]
Kimsie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/08
Posts: 95
Loc: Arlington, WA
Originally Posted By: chasingrainbows
I can't imagine having a parent sit in on a 13 year old's lesson, and would probably attribute the emotional breakdown to that factor. I know I would have HATED that when I was a teen.

This is interesting. I almost always sit in on my 16 year old son's lessons. I always have. Music is the most important thing in my son's life and I like to be a part of it to share it with him. He doesn't seem to mind at all, although I think I will ask him if he would prefer that I didn't come, but I suspect that it doesn't matter to him one way or the other. I don't attend his music academy lessons that he goes to on Saturdays, though (they are too boring and his piano lessons are fun!). Perhaps the difference is that my husband and I never thought of his being serious about music, that was his choice. He got us interested in classical music and not the other way around.

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#2088580 - 05/25/13 01:34 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
Reason I've not posted is that new work came in suddenly but even more so, I'm meeting with the student tomorrow so I'll see how it goes (on a Sunday, yes). And then on Monday we have our regular lesson so I'll be able to pick up a few more things...
_________________________
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#2089026 - 05/26/13 05:44 AM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi Nikolas,

The issue of “perfectionist” got me thinking ...
particularly as my vocation as architect has steered me away from perfectionism ... as there is always something more to get right.

Perfectionism in my book, is just an excuse for pulling on the brakes,
and not wanting to go too fast.

All the crying bit makes me wonder whether there is a sufficiency of
snotty handkerchiefs.

PS Piano lessons are a bind for the young ... it’s difficult to sight-read especially as the system of notation is wooly in it’s antiquated Middle Ages concept ... and it doesn’t get any easier as the keyboard studies become more complex.

Perhaps it’s time for the little missy to play with dolls ...
or go and play in the traffic (shouldn’t have said that)...
or better still, go and visit the Parthenon ...
the wonders of the Golden Age of Greece make people fly.

I know ... my feet don’t touch the ground when I think about
Pythagoras, Archimedes, Pericles, Sophocles, Demosthenes, Plato
and the rest.

One of my matric set-work books was called “The Pageant of Greece”
to this day I find myself reading up on the thinking of these great men.

Here’s something by Aristotle on courage

“Courage has to do with fear and confidence and is a Mean.
Men may have too little fear or too much confidence:
there is a word to describe the former of these,
but an excess of confidence is called rashness.
An excess of fear or deficiency of confidence is called cowardice.”

How the heck did they expect matric schoolboys
to understand the depth of Golden Age Greek thinking?
But how I treasure my book “The Pageant of Greece”.

regards, btb

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#2089369 - 05/26/13 06:04 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
Reporting back from a rehearsal!

Ok!

So, today 7 of my students, were in my house for a rehearsal prior to their recital (to happen in a couple of weeks). The girl came, with her father (of course), but the father left.

She felt fine, she didn't cry at all, did her piece a little (though stopped at several points and I did tell her, etc), and she noticed other students were also stopping, making mistakes, etc!

Overall she was very fine and I made sure she was the last to leave, to have 5 minutes alone with her. Again not a problem at all, she played the piece a little, had a joke here and there and then her father came to pick her up.

I'm reaching a conclusion that her father's presence is making her cry... But I'll see tomorrow, and if this does happen (the crying, while today she was fine) I'll make sure not to let him in the lesson again.
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2089453 - 05/26/13 08:19 PM Re: my student is crying in every lesson [Re: Nikolas]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Thanks for the update. Sounds like the situation is being well managed.

smile

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