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#937841 - 10/06/07 03:10 AM mean teachers
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5513
Loc: Orange County, CA
Is there a correlation between how MEAN a teacher is and how well his/her students perform?

In my part of the world, there are a number of teachers who are notoriously mean, yet they continue to have tons of students who play super well and win major awards! For example, I was sitting in at a competition where a bunch of 5-year-old students were playing. Afterwards, when we all left the room, a teacher started yelling at her student in front of everybody. The kid didn't play the best, and did make some mistakes, but he is FIVE YEARS OLD for crying out loud. For some reason, this teacher continues to get top-notch students who play exceptionally well. Am I missing something here??
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#937842 - 10/06/07 03:32 AM Re: mean teachers
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
No one at any age in music deserves a public reprimand or scolding at any age or level of playing. Yelling? At a 5 year old? Is it verbal abuse?

Is the teacher tolerated by the other teachers on a personal level? In a way this seems to me to be almost an ethical issue - since what goes on in association meetings reflects the whole chapter of teacher-members and all of MTNA.

When I was new to the chapter we got a letter from a psychologist in the audience (also a parent) who informed us about children's psyches and self esteem issues from a situation that she thought was grossly mishandled by the student's teacher. She held everyone in the chapter accountable, and stated she hoped that we would address the situation so it would never be repeated again.

The "Prima Donna" teachers are demanding of their students and demanding of the audience and intimidating to other teachers. They can pull some rank behavior in public in their demand for attention. Insatiably!

We are examples for each other - for what to do - and for what not to do - and you have to choose carefully who your mentors will be.

Good subject for a topic.

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#937843 - 10/06/07 08:25 AM Re: mean teachers
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
Your part of California also has a high Asian population, AZNpiano. Think about it. What sort of teacher will freshly landed Asians gravitate to? Certainly not the whole-grain hippie peace-loving beatnik teacher that I am. They probably think that teacher is strict and will keep her kids in line.

We shouldn't coddle our students but we shouldn't shame them into playing better either. I hope the teacher you witnessed gets some stern disciplinary action, as public humiliation from a grownup is one of the worst things you can do to a child.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

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#937844 - 10/06/07 10:02 AM Re: mean teachers
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12056
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I consider myself a strict teacher who holds high standards for my students. However, I am not mean. It is a fine line. I try to be very nice to my students, and respectful, even if they need a "lecture" (btw, which is something I would do at their next lesson, not right after a performance). There are some students who thrive on a more disciplinarian attitude, and some parents who want that becuase they got slapped on the wrists by a nun when they had piano lessons as a child, therefore, that is considered common practice, isn't it? I think it's a shame, really.
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#937845 - 10/06/07 10:34 AM Re: mean teachers
ninja8701 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 284
Loc: El Paso, Texas
I'm 53 years old. I like strict. Not mean. Don't want to get in trouble for not doing my homework.
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#937846 - 10/06/07 10:39 AM Re: mean teachers
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Some parents like that...

I have taken on students where the parent has told me--straight faced--that they are comfortable with me hitting thier daughter as a learning resource.

I am not comfortable with that technique...
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#937847 - 10/06/07 10:43 AM Re: mean teachers
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10385
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Hey, I KNOW mean. I was treated to the 'ruler on the knuckles' approach to mistakes when I was six. Some Roman Catholic nuns of the era still practiced that learning technique! As soon as my mother got wind of this she yanked me away, but it took her three more years to persuade me that not all teachers physically abuse their students.

None of us but AZN were there, so it's a stretch to lay out really strong views about an incident the rest of us did not witness. Nonetheless, I'll certainly agree that publicly dressing down a five year old is a bit strong. What are they doing at competitions anyway, one wonders? On the other hand, on the other side of the pond it's common for teachers at recitals to critique their students in front of all the assembled students and families, and not all the criticism is nice. There are different practices that are longstanding, and which represent potentially effective ways to promote learning.
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#937848 - 10/06/07 10:55 AM Re: mean teachers
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia
What next? As we mentally prepare for a piano recital or some other event are we to visualize being beaten and publically berated if we make a mistaken, don't play beautifully or win?

On the other hand constructive criticism can be good in a group setting as long as people are aware it is is safe. Military pilots do it all the time after missions, they evaluate and critique each aspect of the mission and each other because they know there is no such thing as a flawless event and the things that went wrong are great learning points.

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#937849 - 10/06/07 11:14 AM Re: mean teachers
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
And you wonder why some people don't want to perform in public? In the back of their minds, irrational as it is, they remember that teacher with the ruler, ready to scold them for the slightest mistake.
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#937850 - 10/06/07 11:21 AM Re: mean teachers
Tony.S Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/06
Posts: 211
Loc: Alberta
"There are different practices that are longstanding, and which represent potentially effective ways to promote learning."

Sorry Pianodad - bleeding with leeches was also a long-standing practice.

Motivation by force does work ... but does that make it right or desirable in the long run? IMO no - it is nothing more than child abuse.

The desire to learn, including learning how to do things (like playing an instrument) is intrinsic to being human ... it is part of our nature. Using force (hitting, berating, belittling) as a "motivator" makes kids hate learning. Remove the threat and they stop playing. I know too many kids who grew up playing piano under threat who hate and dropped piano as soon as they could.

IMO our goal as parents and teachers is to inspire kids and to develop a love of learning. Setting goals and expectations is fine, but follow it up with pats on the back, hugs, praise, regular practice, acceptance of mistakes, letting them learn some songs they actually like … all good stuff.
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#937851 - 10/06/07 11:27 AM Re: mean teachers
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Not to insuiate that it is, but I hope this does not turn out to be a thread promoting the correlation of being mean to students with good performance.

Of course, there are different degrees of meanness, which should should not be confused with being strict or critical. I think you can be the latter, but in a tactful way, with emphasis on tactful. There's always two ways of saying something -- I'd encourage you to pick the nicer of the two.

I don't know how bad this tongue lashing incident was, if it was an isolated incident or typical of this particular teacher, but aimed a young child is uncalled for and unprofessional. I'll bet the teacher did not consider the potential long-term psychological effects of his/her teaching methods. Of course, you want to leave a lasting impression on your students, but this is not one of them.

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#937852 - 10/06/07 12:01 PM Re: mean teachers
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1166
Loc: Singapore
all right, some of my teacher's students have called her mean because she is so strict and her students do extremely well, but it's only their perception of her as they do not get any work done at all.

my teacher would never yell at a student for a reason like this. She will give encouragement instead and say that maybe next time you will do better. She handles her 7-9 year old kids that she teaches well and they adore her.
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#937853 - 10/06/07 12:14 PM Re: mean teachers
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10385
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
 Quote:
Sorry Pianodad - bleeding with leeches was also a long-standing practice.
:D

Quite funny, I will admit. But read what I said more carefully and tell me exactly why longstanding European habits of publicly discussing student performance in front of their peers is ipso facto wrong, so wrong in fact that it bears comparison with medical practices of the middle ages. Is there strong evidence that Europe produces worse musicians? or that their psych wards have more damaged people as a result?

I would agree that aggressive dressing down of a five year old, or screaming at them, or physically abusing them is deeply problematic. But that was not what I was referring to.

Oh, leeches are back in vogue for certain problems! :p
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#937854 - 10/06/07 12:32 PM Re: mean teachers
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Hello and here is my story about my very, very strict classical piano teacher. I know now the answer. At least for me. Thank you to the person who asked this question in our forum. I would never have thought about this without your question. YES...I was more successful as a classical piano student because of my strict classical piano teacher. The reason? I was 23 years old before I studied piano, no other instruments before. I was very, very artistic by nature and by genetics too. She taught me to be very academic in my approach to classical piano studies. No playing around at all would she tolerate. Because of her strict teaching methods I knew this was my job and I did it for her as I knew she was an excellent teacher who guided me with her Master's Degree In Music Education. She moved and my next classical piano teacher had her Master's in Music Education and asked me to teach as her understudy right away. Yes it really worked for me. I will always be grateful to her and think of her often now. She is deceased, Sarah Lasonic who taught me at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, 1960's, as a private classical piano student. She once screamed at me, "No, No, No," at the piano , after several months of studies, while banging her right fist on the high end of the keys of this beautiful Steinway upright piano. She set her ground rules as I burst into tears. We made friends later with lunch, ice skating with her husband too at our near by farm. Sandy B
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Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#937855 - 10/06/07 01:07 PM Re: mean teachers
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
I had a mean teacher back when I was preparing for my Gr 10 exam. I really wanted to rush and take the exam early and she disagreed. I practiced 3 hours a day, and was making excellent progress. I went ahead with the early date, and Right before the exam, she told me that there was no way I could even pass (let alone get honors) and ridiculed my decision to continue.

Long story short, I ended up getting 87% (total mark) for the exam, and continued on with my ARCT immediately (with another teacher)

The mean teacher was the best teacher I have ever had. She refused to teach me after I passed, but I wish she had. She agreed to teach me again after all these years, and I am truly excited to continue. She was never abusive, but indeed cold and cruel. It was part of her mystique. people expect it with going to her.

I cannot emulate her, because I have a different teaching style, There is no one ultimate style.
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Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
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#937856 - 10/06/07 01:50 PM Re: mean teachers
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
High standards, yes! Constructive criticism, yes! Collaboration, yes! Transfer of knowledge, yes! With concern and vigilance to being a help mate to the student not to be their final judge and jury and say and do very upsetting things to them.

Leadership to confidence and success is a conflict in affecting good outcomes if you are going to inflict the iron hand, crack the whip, or berate a piano student.

Students should vote with their feet. If they stay and take it, that makes them a glutton for punishment, a martyr in training, and a victim.

We do have to say things strongly from time to time, but it can be done with consideration. Like in the "Hippocratic Oath"...first do no harm.

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#937857 - 10/06/07 02:04 PM Re: mean teachers
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Well, I close my case. Sandy B
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Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#937858 - 10/06/07 02:07 PM Re: mean teachers
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Akira,

Thanks for the article on Verbal Abuse. I always find your postings thoughtful and benevolent - as in giving things to think about. Very constructive.

We do have a huge responsibility to humanity in that we affect someone's growth to musical accomplishment, or we demolish their dreams by our poor choices, impulsive actions, and unkind words.

I'd like to think that we have integrity and ethics, but it seems that it's not a character trait across the board in the field of piano teaching. Doctors and attorneys and people state licenced to do business have a system of accountability to answer to.

I think we can get intense easily and it can escalate into long term habits. Reputations are formed on our outcomes with students. I think we can bring out their music without beating it into them. I'm not easy, but I am nice, like 99% of the time, I think. And, that doesn't mean that stress doesn't affect me.

It all comes down to choices about who do we want to be?


Betty

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#937859 - 10/06/07 08:09 PM Re: mean teachers
MoodyBluesKeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 258
Loc: Trent Woods, NC
I'm not a piano teacher, and it would be much different if the student was an adult, but:

If it had been my 5 year old child (or grandchild) that was screamed at in public immediately after a recital by a teacher, I would have been thinking whether it was worth a possible police charge to DECK the teacher.

My decision would have been that it wasn't worth going to jail for - but my child would no longer be a student of that particular teacher, and I would go to some length to contact local music stores, the Guild (if the teacher was a member), MTNA (if the teacher was a member), studios, and possibly even the local media. Screaming at a 5 year old in public is NOT acceptable behavior.

At least that is so in eastern North Carolina. As far as a teacher with that demeanor - they would not have much of a future here.
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#937860 - 10/06/07 08:20 PM Re: mean teachers
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1522
Loc: Portland, Or.
There is never any excuse for a teacher hurling such verbal abuse at a student, especially a sensitive child who is apt to be scarred for life.
Being strict is one thing, but shaming a child publicly is abuse, and should not be tolerated.

Gaby Tu

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#937861 - 10/07/07 09:41 AM Re: mean teachers
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12056
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Moody: LOL! I agree with you, but I'm not sure I would have resorted to violence. I think that like you and Betty said, if we hold each other accountable, then there's less of a chance for this kind of abuse.

This reminds me of a different kind of abuse that can be found in this field. There is a teacher locally who moved to the area and began teaching voice and piano lessons. However, she didnt' really teach anything. She would have her students help her out with her business, which was a clothing store of some sort. She would ask them to model for her advertisements, as well as do telemarketing for her. She once approached me to model, and I flatly refused. I received one of her students and learned about this from her. She was alos going around town claiming to me an MTNA member, which after our local chapter did some digging we found out was a lie. We sent her a letter detailing the requiremnts for joining the organization, including the dues, and said in no uncertain terms that she must complete before she can claim to be a member. We heard from the chapter in the town where she used to live, and she pulled the same kind of stuff. She's been rather silent as of late, not sure if she's still around, actually.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
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#937862 - 10/07/07 11:19 AM Re: mean teachers
Musictuary Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/19/05
Posts: 169
Loc: Aurora, Illinois, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
Is there a correlation between how MEAN a teacher is and how well his/her students perform?

In my part of the world, there are a number of teachers who are notoriously mean, yet they continue to have tons of students who play super well and win major awards! For example, I was sitting in at a competition where a bunch of 5-year-old students were playing. Afterwards, when we all left the room, a teacher started yelling at her student in front of everybody. The kid didn't play the best, and did make some mistakes, but he is FIVE YEARS OLD for crying out loud. For some reason, this teacher continues to get top-notch students who play exceptionally well. Am I missing something here?? [/b]
I am not in favor of a teacher berating any student regardless of age publicly or privately. However the original thread posting raises questions in my mind.

What are five year old's doing playing in piano competitions? I was under the impression that six or seven was an appropriate age to start formal piano lessons. Are these five year old gifted students? Is the teacher in question one who specializes in teaching gifted children most likely bound for a concert piano career? Are teachers who specialize in teaching gifted children generally stricter and possibly "meaner" than say teachers who teach children who are not really expected to become concert pianists?

Suzanne

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#937863 - 10/07/07 11:31 AM Re: mean teachers
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1166
Loc: Singapore
it is pretty common to see a 5 year old in a piano competition, not that common but still common enough...

that's not true, formal lessons can start at the age of 5, it just always depends on the child themselves. Not all are gifted, some are just self-motivated.

Well, my teacher treats all of her students the same and is as strict with every individual whether the child will grow up to be a concert pianist or not. I do sometimes ask my teacher to push me more...
_________________________
Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata

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#937864 - 10/07/07 12:24 PM Re: mean teachers
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
The sheer physical task of climbing up the piano bench, sitting at a large grand piano, and getting close enough to the keys to touch them, is an issue for young children.

The "physics" are very "off" for someone who does not have a body sized to see the music without thrusting the chin in the air, creating lots of stress on the body, holding the arms at a level where the hands can play the keys, the size and movement ability of little hands, fingers, and knuckles. It amazes me that most people think this is a "grand" experience for a child to be able to play at an over-sized piano.

In our family, we had a group of grandmothers and great grandmothers on both side who were short 5'2 to 4'8. I luck out at 5'2 and feel absolutely tall above the other women in the immediate family.

"Little Grandma" (4'8") drove a light green studebaker (a small car)and she would grasp the wheel with both hands and sit as tall as she could to see over the dashboard. You could barely see her head through the windshield. This reminds me of the very small person on the bench.

My other thought about the size of things is that Edsel manufactured a very big but short-lived car. I sat in one and felt like the windows started about the level of my ears, and the seat was deep and swallowed me up, the dashboard and controls seemed far away. I looked around and got out of the car as fast as possible, I wanted nothing to do with.

I wonder if small children feel these kinds of sensations when they are in a challenging situation for their body size and development.

If this not a faulty beginning for them?

I have seen videos of little ones, and a serverely handicapped young woman doing remarkable work on the piano. But, the difficulty factor has to be huge for them.

Anyone have any thoughts on the size of the pianist? As well as competitions for that age group?

Please enlighten me.

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#937865 - 10/07/07 01:56 PM Re: mean teachers
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
I don't know about competitions, but I generally don't encourage my students to perform in recitals until they are at least 6 or 7. I ask, depending on whether the child wants perform, but I never push the younger ones.

As for the size of the pianist, I try my best to have an adjustable bench in every studio, and I am desperately seeking a pedal extender so my students' feet can touch some solid ground. We can't change the size of the piano but we can sure change the height at which the students sit.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

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#937866 - 10/08/07 01:22 AM Re: mean teachers
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5513
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
Reputations are formed on our outcomes with students. I think we can bring out their music without beating it into them. [/b]
Betty:

Well, apparently a lot of parents want their kids to get yelled at by this piano teacher. The owner of the music school where she works told me that "I can hear her yelling in the parking lot." So I guess everybody knows what they're getting into when they sign up to have piano with this mean teacher. She thrives on this reputation. :rolleyes:
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#937867 - 10/08/07 11:55 AM Re: mean teachers
kritta Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/19/07
Posts: 109
Loc: Maryland
My college piano pedagogy teacher was one of these "mean teachers" and (as I alluded to in a previous post on a different thread), I strive to be the opposite of her in many ways. She was a world-renowned pedagogue and performer, but she would often insult and belittle her students and their parents, and her students would often leave lessons in tears. (She was russian, by the way).

She told our class that she believes that most piano students have large egos that need to be whittled down (by means of yelling, insulting, fear-mongering, etc). -- I would have to say that I disagree! This description might apply to some students (maybe ones who have been told that they are "gifted" or have been brought up to believe that they are better than others), but most students that I have met are in need of encouragement (with constructive criticism- of course).

This teacher yelled at the 7-year-old student whose lessons were part of our class. She called her stupid and threatened to send her back one level if she couldn't learn to play staccato against legato on the spot. The girl cried, and, after many tries, she finally did it -- once. After the girl left, the teacher said "You may not agree with my methods, but I got her to do it, didn't I?"

I think (especially for this particular teacher) that it boils down to an issue of pride and arrogance. The teacher wants to protect their reputation at all costs.
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#937868 - 10/08/07 12:18 PM Re: mean teachers
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I keep comparing this situation to that of high school and college sports. We all know the stereotype (apparently accurate) of coaches yelling at their players during halftime. This is supposed to motivate the team. Half of these teams then go out and proceed to win the game. This convinces the coaches that yelling at players is effective. :rolleyes:

Last weekend I was at my 8 year old son's soccer game. The opposing coach yelled at his team throughout the entire game. The content of what he said was not mean, but the volume and tone of voice had all us parents on the other team cringing. If that had been my son's coach, I would've taken him off the team after the first practice.

There is absolutely no justification for yelling meanly at a 5 year old child.

Reading this over, I realize this is more a stream of consciousness than a set of logically oriented arguments, so I'll try to redeem myself with the following: There's an important difference between high standards and constructive criticism vs. being mean. The former is good and the latter is bad.
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#937869 - 10/08/07 12:34 PM Re: mean teachers
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10385
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Pardon an off topic comment, but Monica's sports examples just brought this story back to me.

My eldest (who plays the piano) played on a travel hockey team from about age eight to age eleven. The coach was one who would get 'in their faces' quite often. I will say that in some cases he was effective. Kids at this age often go into la-la land and a sharp comment from a coach can pull them back to attention.

Well, we were at a practice one evening and the coach was in rare form. He was quite loud that evening. Then from over the balcony above the rink, the leader of a cheerleading squad leans out and starts to berate him for using foul language. The coach didn't miss a beat....

"I said 'get the PUCK,' lady, that's P-U-C-K, PUCK."

:p
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#937870 - 10/08/07 12:52 PM Re: mean teachers
jazzyclassical Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/26/07
Posts: 154
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
Is there a correlation between how MEAN a teacher is and how well his/her students perform?
[/b]
My answer to that would be not necessarily. Some people respond to that kind of instruction, but I think it's few and far between. Most students will be lost in the long run using those methods.

Throughout my music career, I've often pondered why classical music has to be so serious. I think this goes along with the mean question.

Example: In college I had a mean piano professor, he was so cold and cruel. (this was my piano lesson teacher) Well, I asked for a transfer to a different teacher, who was much better but still uber serious. I didn't have much fun in college as a music major, even my theory and ear training classes were dull and dreary.

That said, I don't think this has to be the case. I think that music is really joyous and should be celebrated. It's meditative. It's creative.

My favorite class in college was medieval choir because the professor was full of life, interesting and funny. He certainly got a lot of great music out of us as well! So it wasn't detrimental.

My point is, music doesn't have to be so dry and dull and strict. Definitely not mean. Teachers should pass the joy of music on to students. Then it would truly be a gift worth giving.
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