Improving study communication with the teacher
Hi. First of all, thank you to everyone who post in violinist. In the past months I have found many answers to problems or questions I had, thanks to all those who share their advice.
I'm a beginner adult student. So far I am loving it and I practice hours everyday. To make a long story a short one, I got lucky to have an accomplished violinist and composer as a teacher. He accepted to teach me in order to help some friends because the teacher I had before put the academy I used to go in a bad spot. What started as a sustitution has become a permanent teacher-student relationship. I feel privileged and I don't want to miss the opportunity although I am aware that my level as a student does not grant such a level of a teacher. His approach is to make me play, again and again, until I have the perfect tone and rythm; however if something does not work, there are no corrections on what causes it. Just exasperated "again!". It is up to me, thanks to youtube, Simon Fischer books or Violinist to discover, for example, that the problem was that the bow was getting away from the bridge after some notes, or that the pinky tended to get too far from the strings. Those kind of basic things that I had to correct. I don't know if the reason why he doesn't correct me those is because he thinks they will mend themselves with time and practice or because I am older and with some professional status (I live in Asia and those things matter). I would like him to be more "involved" or active in the teaching (which so far is giving me music sheets to practice at home and test me about them the next week). However, I don't want it to be seen as a criticism and I am very aware that, both in role and skills, he is the master and I am a novice. After that long story, I would like to ask those of you who teach regularly what do you expect from your students and how would you want the student to raise concerns about the method you are using.
"such a level of a teacher"-- do you consider this teacher to be high-level because of the success of his other students, or because of his playing ability, or because of what? He doesn't seem to be teaching you at all.
I have a colleague like this. Occasionally her students ask me or my students for advice. Tricky!
I have to agree with Mary Ellen. A robot could say "Again" when it detects an out of tune note, or misplaced rhythm. You are not being taught. Playing the violin well is exceptionally complex. These layers of skill and complexity are not being explained to you. So you learn, but at a very slow pace.
Mary Ellen, in
The context of the post to which you refer is a beginner dictating to his teacher what materials to use. That is what I don't appreciate.
There are always other teachers, of course, but not so many and my initial approaches were rejected. They did not want an adult beginner. Answering to Mary Ellen, I suspect that this is the average teaching system not only in music. Here the teacher and student relationship is not expected to be bidirectional. Students asking questions are regarded as "disrespectful" and a class is normally to read a lesson from the book and to do a lot of homework. From previous experiences of other things, changing the teacher led to little improvements. On the other hand I think that one should try to fix something before replacing it. I would like to try that first. That's why I would like to know how would you like that a student would criticize the way you are teacher. How to make it constructive and not offensive.
Carlos, I suspect that cultural differences are at play here, so please take my suggestion with that in mind:
The above advice sounds decent. It seems like most of the posters asking about their trajectory issues here tend to be involved in the absolute worse case scenarios in terms of resources, and other circumstances deemed unfavorable to violin playing.
I guess it comes with the territory. People with resources probably have knowledgeable supportive people in the flesh to ask.
Mary Ellen: "... beginner dictating to his teacher what materials to use. That is what I don't appreciate."
Carlos, I'm not a teacher but I've had more than 10 years experience of working with different violin teachers so here is my $0.02:
"What you don't like, I think, is the student questioning the your teaching style or method. Am I right? Here we have another teacher whose teaching might need to be changed a bit to match what you think is a good teaching style even though they believe that they are doing a good job. That is a delicate issue..."
Hello Han N.,
Han N.:"She would spend all the lesson making me unlearn what I had practiced (at least, so it felt to me). I suggested that we should spend more time going over the homework for the next week so that there would be less unlearning to do next week. She didn't quite appreciate that suggestion... "
In that (rather hypothetical) situation, I wouldn't change the course material because I'd have a whole class room full of students to deal with and it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the class. However, in a one-on-one teaching situation, I would certainly have a look at the internet book. If it seems to cover the topics that need to be taught and the student is motivated: sure, give it a try. I'm far enough above intro physics level to deal with it.
If I were a Suzuki violin teacher, and someone approached me and said, "I've heard Whistler is the best method, and I already have all the books. But I've also heard good things about you as a teacher. Would you consider teaching me from the Whistler method?" I wouldn't consider this question disrespectful, but I don't think I should feel obligated either to acquiesce or to give a reason for refusing. It's really when the person's tone, or body language, or facial expressions, or follow-up questions indicate indignation that you would refuse such a "simple" request that it rises to the level of disrespect. The fact that my reputation as a teacher and the methods and materials I've selected and developed for my studio might be closely related is something that would not necessarily be obvious to a beginner.
As I'm getting older, I am more and more aware how self-sabotage is the main reason preventing me from succeeding what I attempt to achieve. One of such self-sabotages is my ego, especially thinking I know better when I am asked to do by my teacher that I don't quite get it. Analytical/critical thinking, as great as it is, can create such sophomoric attitude all too easily. We are taught to question and be confident about our one ability and beliefs to the point of shallowness. As one of my profs at the University of British Columbia said to me during my early years that had changed my way of learning: you have to know the rule well to break it.
Yixi: "If your teacher thinks you need to unlearn what you've done, it means the teacher sees what you've done is problematic. I can understand that you want to do more new stuff rather than correct the old bad habit."
"Me: fumbling and sounding like screeching cats because I could not use any of the routine that I built up over the week."
Thank you all for your advise. I will take Yixi Zhang's advice to focus on particular problems asking for more explanations about them instead of a general methology change. Sung Han: You are right that the teacher started out of an unwelcome chore and I guess that he has been waiting it out to see if I was going to give up. However recently he had the chance to step out and he decided to continue. As he said, he appreciated my "not the talent or skills, but the commitment and hard work". And also to Sung: luckily the enthusiasm is not going to disappear. There are things to improve about him, but his love and passion for violin is enormous and very contagious. That's one of the reasons why I am reluctant to change. He is the kind of teacher that makes you want to do more and to do better... only problem is that he doesn't really show the way or at least I don't feel it. I think I will try what some of you suggested and go for very specific "hows?" and "is this right?" about technical points.
For the most part, playing in front of a teacher should not be trial and error. He should be giving specific feedback on what specifically is wrong with each attempt, and what you should try to keep in mind for the next attempt.
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