crying student

Posted by: ebony & ivory

crying student - 03/11/04 12:37 PM

hi! I have a 3rd grade girl that claims to really love piano. She has learned most of her notes by now (she has only been taking lessons for about 3 months ). My problem is this: after we go over last week's stuff and move to the next page, she tries it and stops. Tears well up in her eyes and she says it's too hard. We gradually do one measure at a time (breaks in between so she can get it together) and do seperate hands. I assist her in every possible way (tell her finger numbers, note names, I count the beats for her), there is no way this is too hard for her with me giving her all the answers. she gets so frustrated though. Anyone have any suggestions on how to help her? She is very adamant about not quitting and she seems to really enjoy it once she has learned it. Thanks
Posted by: benedict

Re: crying student - 03/11/04 02:20 PM

I would ask her what her favorite song is and ask her if she would be happy to play it for her parents, siblings and friends (maybe her doll too).

And then, I would answer her own questions about reaching that goal.

She obviously needs reassurance. She will be happy if you go to her rather than make her go to you.

After she succeeds doing something that means a lot to her , she'll become more and more trusting and curious.

Emotion is a sign that the piano can really help her express what she feels.

If you succeed in helping her feel competent and confident according to her own standards, she will be grateful for life.
Posted by: BeeLady

Re: crying student - 03/11/04 02:36 PM

I will always remember a discussion I had with a 2nd grade teacher in her class. She had me come once a week to teach the class to knit. So that everyone was successful, we had them make their own needles and some kids were content with just that.

She said that while observing the kids practice their knitting, those that struggle with school in general just took it all in stride, just another difficult task they often have to do.

The achievers, however, were upset, crying and frustrated. She felt that the kids who were having trouble with the knitting are those for whom school work comes easily. Without having to struggle for the answers in school, they had no practice in doing something difficult or time consuming. "They don't understand why there isn't a sweater coming off of the end of their needles immediately" I remember her saying.

Perhaps this is the case with your student. I find that my perfectionist child is easily frustrated with anything he must work hard at.... He is better able to tackle something new if we discuss it first. Perhaps talk about the title of the piece, what clues does it give, (is it happy, sad, about something she knows. Does the line of notes go up or down in pattern? What are the dynamics etc) Basically start broadly and give her time to get comfortable with the idea of the piece before she begins to play it. Have her find the things in it that she recognizes and has learned before so that she can see it is not all new material really...

Hope this helps.
Posted by: Dan

Re: crying student - 03/11/04 03:15 PM

My daughter (9 years old) also has bouts of "I can't" accompanied with crying. We've found that talking with her about how learning takes place and working together to come up with a "plan" for how to learn whatever is giving her problems seems to help.

It's obvious that you're taking things slowly and giving all the assistance needed. Perhaps at the next lesson you could take a couple of minutes BEFORE turning to the new piece to get her prepared. Something along the lines of "Let's decide together how we're going to look at this new music. What's the first step we should take?" Guide her to the answers that match the method you want her to follow, and maybe even jot down a few notes on your mutual plan. Then, turn the page but don't look at the music. Instead, look at the first step of your plan, look at the music and do that step, then look at the second step, use the music to do that step, etc.

My guess is the plan will be pretty similar for every new piece, and that after a few lessons the girl will know what to expect and cease stressing out.

Regards,
Dan
Posted by: victor kam

Re: crying student - 03/11/04 10:01 PM

Hello,
I have not encountered this problem before in my teaching. As I have not met this student, it is hard to say how to make it right for her. All the other advices offered here seems to be really good.

As for me, I would dig a little into her background.....her environment at home. I would like to know if mum and dad has to be with her in order for her to get a task done? It might be that she is used to lots of encouragement (or attention) in her upbringing or someone actually working out the task with her. She might not like being left alone handling a task, and in this case, play or learn the music all alone. It is a very lonely activity!

On the other hand, she might not have this kind of support and encouragement at home. Therefore she might have figured out that not being able to learn the notes, the teacher will help her out and she gaines the attention and encouragement that is missing in her life.

I don't mean to sound negative on this post but any child have needs, security, encouragement, touch (yes, touch) is vital in any child's growth. She might be seeking for these...... (sorry, don't know how to write this better)

vk
Posted by: ebony & ivory

Re: crying student - 03/13/04 02:21 PM

Thank you all, you have mention some valuable insight. I will try some new things, and hope for the best!!
Posted by: starmender

Re: crying student - 03/14/04 12:51 AM

What good comments from bee lady. I think you also have to realise this is not your problem, just a parameter of work that you have to accommodate- they are different. I only say this because it can be so distressing when pupils are upset.

I wonder if she gets enough sleep?

Do you get her to clap through the rhythm first?
Do you try singing through it with her?
Do you get her to trace the contour of the melody in the air with her finger while you trace it on the score?
Have you tried getting her to finger it on the piano lid before playing it on the keys? (I call this "the piano with no wrong notes")

All these things help make the music more approachable and less threatening, and establish a habit of good observation.

A quiet manner, a tissue and a glass of water goes a long way to settle a rattled child, and convey the message that this is a calm place.
Posted by: benedict

Re: crying student - 03/14/04 03:23 AM

StarMender,

I want to start all over again with you ?

When can we begin ?
Posted by: starmender

Re: crying student - 03/14/04 05:05 PM

Sadly, Benedict, you would have to start with a long plane trip. I'm in Sydney. But you can learn to work like this at any stage- it always helps.

Twenty one years ago, when my first child was a tiny newborn, I went to the Christmas party of my local music club. I was so tired from childbirth and lack of sleep, that I sank into an armchair and intended to stay there the whole night, but as the foremost pianist there, I was asked to sight read an accompaniment for a newcomer from Eastern Europe who had brought his trumpet to the party.

I was convinced that I couldn't do it - I could hardly focus on the page. But the trumpeter, insisting that it was easy, sat down with me and sang through his part while we scanned the page together.

I not only got through it- we were really good- expressive and musical. And of course I never forgot how easy he had made it. (He was a great player, too)
Posted by: benedict

Re: crying student - 03/15/04 03:34 AM

Starmender,

I started six years ago to work on modelizing the cognitive process of sightreading.

I still have come with no satisfactory understanding.
I have read everything I found on the subject in French and in English.

I have worked thousand of years.

I have, as some of you know, exchanged a lot on this forum.

I have studied with two Julliard graduate teachers.

I have never found one person who understood and could give an explanation.

Of course, my insisting on working on Bach's work did not make things easier.

But as I had ten years of lessons, I could not start with beginners peace because they made me feel very much like a retard.

Now, I can sightplay "The joy of folk songs". Which means I can play by reading the pieces I know.

I can slowly sightread (dechiffrer) pieces I do not know.

I even sightread (ever so slowly) the fugue in D minor from WTC1.

But I still have not found what I have been looking for for years.

I am now taking another approach since I am sure that memorization and sightreading are closely interconnected.

So I am learning the Italian Concerto.

I can't tell you how blessed I feel.

I love this Italian Bach. The second movement is a beautiful aria and is the best incentive to learning the first movement which is very singing and swinging.

But I can tell you one thing : your trumpet player would have given up with me.

Sightreading IMHO is like riding a bicycle.

Those who can do it do not know how they do it.

Those who can't do it "know" it is impossible.

And when I think of those who sight transpose the piano part of a lied by Schubert just to accomodate a singer, I feel nature and nurture are really cruel processes.

But that does not prevent me from climbing my own mountain, uncertain whether it is a molehill or a new path.

Regards.
Posted by: starmender

Re: crying student - 03/17/04 07:08 PM

Benedict, how's your solfege? Do you work on keyboard harmony?
Posted by: benedict

Re: crying student - 03/18/04 08:05 AM