March 12, 2008 at 2:46 PMOkay, so I grew up weird. I actually put effort into it when I played. I can't believe the number of kids that just don't even try these days. Are kids really that much more pressed for time than they were 20 years ago? Perhaps. But the comment I hear most often from parents is: "I wish I would have listened/practiced/stuck with it more." So I try to give the kids good technical and mental practice habits for when they have to go play on their own. But there just always seems to be one or two that never get it.
And it's not just at the high school level, either. I had problems when I taught at Brevard the last couple of years. I encountered conservatory students who didn't know how to even practice a scale efficiently. Heck, one girl tried to learn the Prokofiev 5 melodies and didn't complete it in the 6 weeks we had together. That sort of thing makes me feel I'm a bad teacher - when I can't inspire greatness in the people that need it the most - but I guess you just can't win them all.
The idea that you work on your notes and try to learn the bowings, fingerings, rhythms, dynamics on your own seems plain as the nose on one's face. If you're coming in to a lesson with someone who is a professional musician or teacher and they have to sit there and tell you, "it's a 3rd finger, not a first finger", "E string, not A string", "8th note, not a quarter note" during *every bar* then the student is being incredibly successful on only one thing: pissing the teacher off. I have one student in mind right now that does this and I cannot express the level of frustration I have with her. Deep down I believe in her and if she just put her mind to it and concentrated she could be a halfway decent player and find lots of enjoyment from playing violin. But instead she's stuck with the bow on the fingerboard, duck feet posture, playing with bad tone, bad rhythm, out of tune. I've tried everything, even video taping her performance and playing it back to her. Nothing gets through to her.
So I get frustrated. One of my friends describes that feeling as her skin melting off her face. I get this big knot in the middle of my throat when this happens.
Everyone has weird students. I pose this question to other professionals: what do you do when someone constantly doesn't improve over time? Do you stick with them or drop them? If you drop them, how do you do it? I've begged and pleaded with the mother to stay for the lesson and she won't do it.
Thanks in advance for any replies.
From Karen AllendoerferDoes this student actually want to play the violin? I'm just wondering what motivates her to come to the lessons. Did she ask for the lessons or is it more something she's doing to please her parents or because she thinks it will help her "get into college"?
Posted on March 12, 2008 at 3:21 PM
I'd also just like to suggest the possibility that this student has ADHD or some other type of learning disability. She can have a normal or even high IQ and still be struggling mightily with focus and concentration. Is she an underachiever in other subjects or just in music?
Perhaps these are the types of topics that it would be fruitful to discuss with the mother, even if she is unwilling to stay for the lesson. As a mother, I can attest that having a parent present at a lesson doesn't always make things better!
From Stephen BrivatiGreetings,
Posted on March 12, 2008 at 10:34 PM
the hardest thing I have to learn and repeatedly relearn as a teacher is not to give much infomration in a lesson. I get so excited by the violin and it`s posisbilities that I always wnat to take apart every phrase in immense detail which then send sme of fon tangents suggetsing this exercise or that exercises and mnetla notes to get going on this etude next time etc etc.
A few studnets cna handle this, but the more resistent to or indifferent to change a studnet is the more I think one has to pick one thing ot work on and let everything else go. I have a talebnted but diifcult stdunet right now and there is so much basic things to corretc but al we do is focus on vibrato again and agin . In three times the usual length of time she has actuallystarted to prodcue somethign approaching vibrato after having worked on it from every angle in the ook and then some. The effetc has been to improve everything else because she wasn`t overloaded.
The other thing it is really importnat to do is specify exactly what oyu wnat form that one thing by the next time. This may in;lcud takign a large part of the lesosn time actually writing it down, having the stduent explain back to what you mean, taking the ote book out at the eignning of the lesson and asking the studnet to talk about how they worked on this one thing, what did and didn`t work and so on.
From Kim VawterI think that the previous comments were right on.
Posted on March 13, 2008 at 3:35 AM
I am a retired high school teacher. We are hired to teach all kids by law. We are always trying to come up with things to accomodate different "learning styles."
Now that I am a beginning student I can see some of the same things in me that you are describing with your young violin students. (I think ADHD, IQ and desire all enter into it.) The one thing I have is the desire. I don't mind learning to play one measure at a time. I would exercise with a campbell soup can or do yoga if I thought it would help. No one is holding my feet to the fire but me.
You teach a luxury. You build castles. If the student can't get past the moat, well, that's as far as she gets. Plan together what you expect her to accomplish for next week. Write it down in a notebook with the date on top of the page.
Demonstrate or plan what she needs to do to to reach that goal.
Write down a practice schedule.
Ask her if she thinks that she can do it. The work should not be during the lesson. The real work should be in daily practice. Ask her mom to agree if this is reasonable.
At the next lesson check to see if she has reached her goal that you set out the previous week-if yes go on if not "re-teach"
Only foocus on one skill at a time.
Let her experience success in one small thing. It may be slow progress but it will be progress.
Hope this helps.
From Pauline LernerI like Kim's response. We have discussed this kind of problem in other blogs and discussions, none of which I can remember right now. I do remember some of the content. Work on goals. The important things are not how many minutes but you practiced, but how wisely. Work with the student, if possible, in setting realistic goals. They may be very small, so that the student can focus on it and feel rewarded for accomplishing something. I remember that Laurie advocated this approach. She said to make the goals very specific and to involve the student as much as possible in setting the goals. For example, for a beginning student the goal might be "low 2." (Thanks for the contribution, Laurie. I hope I didn't misinterpret your ideas.)
Posted on March 13, 2008 at 4:52 AM
I also agree with Karen in her suggestion to talk to the parent. I do this in the absence of the student, usually by email, although sometimes the parent brings up the issue for discussion during the lesson, and the student plays a central role. When I see a certain behavior or way of thinking in the students' learning, I ask the parents (email) whether the student has the same issues with other subjects in school. The answer is almost always "yes." Then I know why the student is playing below his or her potential. Usually I discuss it with the student using as positive an approach as possible. Most of the time, the student is aware of the problem. Next you enter the realm of psychology, which is difficult, but less difficult if you see the big picture.
Sorry, but there are no easy answers.
From Anne HorvathI think your sentence "I can't believe the number of kids that don't even try these days" is interesting. Not to be snarky, if you are spoon feeding her each note, why should she try?
Posted on March 13, 2008 at 12:29 PM
How old is she? How long has she been playing? Sometimes steering a student towards a more independent line of thinking is very difficult. Sometimes the kids, especially the kids raised by these New School Helicopter Parents, have no spine at all, and don't know how to work independently. All they know how to do is process spoon feeding.
So, to "get her on solid foods" is quite a challenge. I don't fire students like this. Sometimes the kid sticks with it and develops some maturity. Sometimes the kid quits violin. If this is a teenager, then I would be frank about what kind of mental engagement is needed during practice time, and be very specific about what problems need to be tracked. And like previous posters, I would tackle one issue at a time, and be very patient. Good luck!
From T NetzI have two kids playing instruments. If they were left to their own devices with no interference from me, I doubt they would practice, much. But, because I also play, I know the importance of practice AND I can help them to understand what they are supposed to be doing.
Posted on March 13, 2008 at 12:48 PM
My kids make better progress on their instruments compared to their peers and I'm sure it's because they have a parent who makes sure they practice. I also play with them to work on their rhythm and fingering. If they have questions I can usually answer them. If I can't, we phone their teacher.
Most kids are not going to be disciplined enough to practice if no one is checking them at home. My daughter playing violin gets very frustrated if she has music that is difficult for her. She sees it as eating an elephant in one bite...it's too big a task. I help her break that down, we'll work on one measure a day if that's all she has the patience for, and before she knows it, she can play the whole piece.
I too suggest to write out a practice schedule for kids like the one you are having problems with. Perhaps this student needs the guidance of a teacher when away from the lesson. With a written format in front of her, she may be more motivated to work because she can see what she needs to do and can tick each item off until she has run through the whole practice schedule. Kids understand homework, they don't see the need for practice.
Not everyone has the inner motivation and drive to succeed. But I do believe that behavior can be taught. We just need to be more creative with those who need alot of push to get them moving in the right direction.
From Bruce BoddenBasically I lay it out for them, pretty much like you said it, and then say "Look, if you want to get better, you have to get with the program. If you don't, then you should find another teacher." Either they step up, or they leave. Either way, we're all happier.
Posted on March 15, 2008 at 6:35 AM
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