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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: 5246
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: 1002
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 Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
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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Registered: 08/17/04
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Loc: Virginia, USA
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: 5246
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 Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
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: 3190
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: 614
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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Loc: Irvine, CA
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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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
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
Full Member

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: 1002
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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
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
Posts: 1646
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 Offline
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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: 614
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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Registered: 11/26/07
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Loc: Europe
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
Posts: 759
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 Online   content
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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
Posts: 2647
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 Online   content
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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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Loc: San Jose, CA
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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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2521
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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Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 122
Loc: Md
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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Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 962
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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Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Why are pianos measured by external dimensions?
by smrkdown
Today at 02:11 PM
Do you "swing" your Courante?
by Cinnamonbear
Today at 01:47 PM
Kawai MP6 and settings via MIDI
by Lania
Today at 01:10 PM
Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4 in Ab - technique question
by Pistos
Today at 10:37 AM
Baldwin Upright
by MaxR
Today at 09:29 AM
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