Brilliant but problematic student

Edited: March 23, 2019, 3:49 PM · I've made a bunch of referrals of my students to other teaches and they have all been happy to have them. Now my latest transfer who is moving to the Viola because he says he likes the sound as well as having more chairs available.

He learns really fast both in academics as well as music and his academic teachers know his penchant to cruise then cram and then ace the test. He has had 3 viola lessons and blown off 3 last minute my friend isn't happy but she sees the potential but disagrees with his idea that he can cram it all at the last minute. Auditions come early in June but my fried is thinking that she has other promising students who will come to lessons, practice and work,

I'm sure this isn't first and if my friend drops him absolutely nobody local will pick him up and the High School doesn't have a string program (can't play strings in the rain at football games).

Your observations and suggestions are welcome. What do you do with the student who is simply off-the-charts brilliant and lazy.

Replies (18)

March 23, 2019, 3:58 PM · If the student learns a lesson out of this, then much better to learn the lesson at this point then at some point in the future. Some people never learn to be responsible for themselves because they always have someone enabling them. It may be tough shock, or maybe the student will just do it on his own somehow, but it seems that you've done quite a bit, and that doing more would be taking on a parenting role. Maybe it's worth it to sit the student down and explain it, but it seems like the new teacher is setting down a sensible boundary and doesn't want their own time wasted.
March 23, 2019, 4:31 PM · I have fired students too! I'm too old to waste my time - always have been!
Edited: March 23, 2019, 6:16 PM · He might have ADHD, particularly if he's very smart. These two things have a high correlation. Procrastinating is a very common ADHD trait. Lazy is a judgmental term an unknowledgeable 'normal' person would use against someone with ADHD.

This might not be an ADHD trait, but due to something else, but I personally would like to have lessons every two weeks, or even three, as my mind needs that time to internalize what I've been given, but no teachers will do this anymore, so I'm crammed into their expectations, or their financial convenience, and lack of understanding. I don't miss lessons, but, I would be viewed as "slow", since I haven't had the time to internalize things yet.

Some people can be what is termed "2E", twice exceptional. Exceptional IQ, and exceptional needs when it comes to learning. And their IQ might be so high that their deficits are being masked.

My attitude is that I'm paying the teacher, and they need to meet my needs, and not dictate to me or be judgmental with me, based on their lack of understanding or what makes them feel good about themselves.

No doubt, an ADD/ADHD person can be frustrating to deal with, particularly in a learning situation.

March 23, 2019, 6:32 PM · Are the assignments difficult enough?
March 23, 2019, 6:55 PM · I'm with Horace. Ramp the work up.

If the student achieves at, say, 80% on harder pieces, and is content, then lift the standard again.

Keep the student playing, coming to lessons, and playing in ensembles.

Fineness will creep in as time passes, if he is truly exceptional.

March 23, 2019, 8:49 PM · Playing a string instrument is full of infinite challenges.

I would respectfully suggest that a switch to viola is likely to be the opposite of more challenge, though. If he's so brilliant, then "too few chairs" (i.e. too much competition) shouldn't be a problem with violin.

March 23, 2019, 9:43 PM · I agree with Christian.
March 24, 2019, 9:22 AM · Me too.
March 25, 2019, 6:41 AM · I don't know why brilliant and lazy is a problem. As an adult learner, I don't have much time to practise. I can't say I am lazy intentionally, but I probably only manage to practise as much as a lazy young student. To make it worse, I am nowhere brilliant.

I don't see all music teacher are training for the next Mozart. Do that boy aim to be a professional player? If not, I don't see why a teacher can't help cultivate his interest in music so that one day he can play in community orchestra for fun. I can understand that a teacher kicks a student if the student is rude, don't pay for lesson, or just not having enough time to teach this one. But because the student not practising hard after 3 lessons?

March 25, 2019, 8:01 AM · It’s one thing not to practise but just plain rude not to show up for a lesson.
If you were a teacher with more than enough students that wanted to be there, why would you want to keep one that didn’t?
March 25, 2019, 9:00 AM · "If not, I don't see why a teacher can't help cultivate his interest in music so that one day he can play in community orchestra for fun."

This would require a student who is actually there and doesn't blow off 3 of 6 lessons last minute. I also agree with Christian.

March 25, 2019, 9:41 AM · Ah, I see you point.

I originally read "He has had 3 viola lessons and blown off 3 last minute" means he had three lesson but run off in a rush before the lesson ends at the last minute. I suppose in US "blow off" mean dismiss? Sorry, I didn't get what the OP mean, because I don't accustom the word being use this way.

Edited: March 26, 2019, 12:29 AM · I too don't get what "blown off 3 last minute" means. One approach could be to wear him out on repeating the same lesson until he gets it. I.e. you don't practice and meet the weekly goal, then you will be stuck where you are for as long as it takes to make progress. If the student is disrespectful of the teacher's time, make him pay for missed lessons. It all comes down to teaching this kid to take responsibility for his own action/inaction. If he actually meets the weekly goals with little to no last minute practice, then raise the bar.

Addendum - one thought, such high aptitude individuals typically develop their procrastination pattern from their consistent success with little effort. He needs to fail! Once he sees that his typical approach fails, he might get better motivated to put some effort into it.

Edited: March 25, 2019, 10:40 AM · "blown off the last three" means that the student didn't bother to show up and "last minute" means he also didn't bother to contact the teacher in advance but probably just called at the actual lesson time to say he wouldn't be there.

Totally unacceptable and it does the student no favor to enable this behavior.

Edited: March 26, 2019, 3:36 PM · Thanks everyone. He does have his own game plan - he wants a chair in a college orchestra that comes with some scholarship money (of course he has no idea that blowing off rehearsals will kill any scholarship - after all he is brilliant!)

I know some of his academic teachers who simply let him cruise their classes because he is a guaranteed ACE on all the tests that count - a few challenge him but he has a weird code of respect that I do not understand. Most of the school are just awed by him. Unfortunately he parents cannot afford to get him into a challenging school and the schools already know about the attitude towards study so they won't scholarship him.

I wish I had a contact at Julliard that would give him a rapid audition and teach him that he isn't as good as he thinks and doesn't work hard enough.

I hate giving up but perhaps that is the lesson he needs to grow up.

March 26, 2019, 3:40 PM · He isn't going to get any scholarship money for playing in a college orchestra unless he goes to a school with a very small program. I have a former student who got a music scholarship as a non-major at Abilene Christian University, for example. And I think Austin College in north Texas has some music scholarships for non-majors who play in the orchestra. But as a general rule, there's not a short supply of violinists. Anyway, as you point out, failing to follow through on his responsibilities will lose him a scholarship right quick.

Honestly this kid sounds to me like someone who is desperately in need of some life lessons sooner rather than later.

Edited: March 26, 2019, 9:04 PM · Mary Ellen is right. The only reason an institution would offer a scholarship to a non-music-major to play in the orchestra is if they can't staff their orchestra with music majors and they want their majors to have at least some semblance of orchestral experience. I had a scholarship to play the piano in the jazz ensemble in college -- for four years (at Hope College). My audition tape included a Chopin Waltz and an improvised solo-piano rendition of "Over the Rainbow." When I got there I discovered a bonus -- opportunities for accompanying at about twice the minimum wage. My present institution (Virginia Tech) fills gaps in the orchestra with local amateurs, a plan that has worked well for many years (and is much less expensive as the amateurs are unpaid).
March 27, 2019, 3:05 AM · No sympathy here either - its been said before but I just hope he had to pay for the lessons that he 'blew off'.

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