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"it Isn't Necessary To Touch Children In Order To Demonstrate


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#1 Henry Fagg

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 16:01

Keeping Children Safe in Music is a joint initiative between the MU, the NSPCC, Youth Music, and the ABRSM.

The MU now has 5 videos up on their Youtube site to help music teachers to 'gain a better understanding of their child protection responsibilities and avoid situations that could lead to accusations of misconduct'.

Of course the aims are laudable, but I'm not convinced by these videos.

In particular, the third video entitled 'Inappropriate Demonstration' depicts a grossly caricatured version of teacher-pupil contact, and contains the statement "It isn't necessary to touch children in order to demonstrate. There's always a better way" (01:16).

Personally, I do not believe this is correct, and it reminds me of the issues that Jennie Bristow and Frank Furedi were so helpful in unpacking in their book Licensed to Hug (now in its second edition).

As an Alexander Technique teacher, I know that verbal instruction and demonstration is not enough to change habit patterns (we have a term for it: 'unreliable sensory appreciation'). In my profession, 'not touching' is simply not an option, and I'm sure that many music teachers feel the same.

What does anyone else think about these videos (www.youtube.com/user/TheMusiciansUnion) and the above statement in particular??
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#2 jod

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 16:47

I teach singing and piano (in the main) and use a "minimal touch" strategy. I make it very clear I don't touch unless I have exhausted other options, but I cannot go around man-handling peoples children all the time. When I do touch I explain very clearly what I am about to do and why.

For example, I cat grab people around the waist, or the ribcage, but I can use myself as "tailors dummy" and place my hands on the relevant part of my anatomy. It is part of the reason I often teach singing in close fitting t-shirts and the equivalent of Jazz pants. My pupils can see the parts of me that I am moving. I'll demonstrate arms positions for the piano, but I can't get a puil to get their arm to go heavy, unless I support it with my hand.

It is necessary to touch, but much less than many people think. It is also necessary to give your pupil clear guidance over what you are going to do so they do not feel threatened at any point. It is also necessary to let their parents know your policy on touch, and write up whether you needed to touch in your pupil's notebook so that there is clear communication.

If you have a transparent policy on touch, then it will not be deemed in appropriate. Always see if there is an alternative, but where there is none, then be clear and communicate effectively.


I cuddle my own kids, but not my pupils: the relationship is different.
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#3 miffy

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 17:03

I hate all this! sad.gif

I don't manhandle my pupils, but I do touch their fingers and arms from time to time.
And poke 'em with my bow or pencil laugh.gif
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#4 Seer_Green

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 19:00

What is most important in all this is common sense. Building a good working relationship on a professional basis between teacher, pupil and parent is essential. A sense of trust needs to be built up and then when any issues around 'touch' arise, they can be handled sensibly and with the minimum of fuss.

In fairness though, I think it applies to some instruments more than others (e.g. I gather that violin requires a lot of touch to teach). I've personally never found a need to touch pupils in order to teach, and in general, I've never had any teachers who've wanted to touch me (it wouldn't bother me in the slightest if they did so long as I knew what they were doing and they'd asked first)!

I think that the NSPCC/MU have somewhat missed the point. Things like this shouldn't become an issue - it's only society that makes them into one - if they arise, assuming you have a good working relationship with all parties involved in the tuition, then I see no reason why there should be a problem.
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#5 Banjogirl

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 21:10

It's all madness. I can't help touching children occasionally. It's much better to steer a child into the position you want them than spend ten minutes trying to get them exactly where you want them without touching them. It's ludicrous. And it's also far from protecting children. It's bringing them up to think that there is something dirty about touch and to be suspicious of other people.
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#6 Yet another muso

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 21:23

QUOTE(jod @ Nov 5 2010, 05:47 PM) View Post

I teach singing and piano (in the main) and use a "minimal touch" strategy. I make it very clear I don't touch unless I have exhausted other options, but I cannot go around man-handling peoples children all the time. When I do touch I explain very clearly what I am about to do and why.

For example, I cat grab people around the waist, or the ribcage, but I can use myself as "tailors dummy" and place my hands on the relevant part of my anatomy. It is part of the reason I often teach singing in close fitting t-shirts and the equivalent of Jazz pants. My pupils can see the parts of me that I am moving. I'll demonstrate arms positions for the piano, but I can't get a puil to get their arm to go heavy, unless I support it with my hand.

It is necessary to touch, but much less than many people think. It is also necessary to give your pupil clear guidance over what you are going to do so they do not feel threatened at any point. It is also necessary to let their parents know your policy on touch, and write up whether you needed to touch in your pupil's notebook so that there is clear communication.

If you have a transparent policy on touch, then it will not be deemed in appropriate. Always see if there is an alternative, but where there is none, then be clear and communicate effectively.


I cuddle my own kids, but not my pupils: the relationship is different.


I don't think I'd want to go down the route of making a big point of telling all parents my 'policy' on touch. I feel it risks making too much of an issue of it, and as such helps to encourage and feed a culture of suspicion. I just prefer to keep relaxed and let common sense prevail. Perhaps I'm too much of an idealist on this, and perhaps the bitterness of experience will one day force me to be more wary of the whole issue but I sincerely hope not!


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#7 Seer_Green

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 22:04

QUOTE(Yet another muso @ Nov 5 2010, 09:23 PM) View Post

I don't think I'd want to go down the route of making a big point of telling all parents my 'policy' on touch. I feel it risks making too much of an issue of it, and as such helps to encourage and feed a culture of suspicion.

agree.gif
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#8 jacobvaneyck

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 22:25

Interesting all videos are 2 mins 17 secs and cut out mid discussion. Have they omitted quite a large part of the videos.

Personally I try not to touch, though the odd touch on a finger/hand etc. is unlikely to cause trouble, and I have several young pupils (under 9). I draw the line at touching ribs or anything like that, however helpful we think it might be.

Ask yourself, have you heard of a teacher go to court for physically correcting hand position or a wayward finger? Those who have obviously did much more than that, not to trivialise the issue of course.
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#9 dolce@piano

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 08:24

I touch my piano pupils all the time because I think it is the quickest, easiest method of showing them what I want them to do.

If a child suddenly slouches while playing, a small prod in the small of their back will make them sit up without disrupting the flow and sounding like nagging (which an order to 'sit up straight' will).

I never explain this to parents but they are welcome to sit in on a lesson and they will quickly see.

I do feel that common sense has to win the day and that rules and 'touching policies' is just opening the door to madness. However, I appreciate that I live in a rural area (I used to live in New York - it's different!) and, being a middle-aged Mum, I am not high on the 'suspicion' list (rightly or wrongly).

Trust and common sense are key factors. You might not treat a brand new pupil the same way as one you've been teaching for years. Small children need more physical 'showing' than teenagers. Child protection is of vital importance but I can't help but feel that we've lost sight of the wood for the trees.
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#10 ChristopherO

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 08:44

I am not a teacher so I don't have to consider this, thank goodness. But for my half pennyworth I am so disturbed by the paranoia of all this these days.

As a mature man I am now petrified of being seen to touch children in case I am accused.

When my daughter was a young teenager it was quite acceptable for us all to have contact - including my friends' children. The kids had warmth from adults who cared about them and it was all part of enjoying each others' company. Now we behave as though we all have a disease.

If you are a teacher that has been CRB checked why do we fear that you ever touch a child?



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#11 Clari Nicki1

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 08:53

QUOTE(dolce@piano @ Nov 6 2010, 09:24 AM) View Post

I touch my piano pupils all the time because I think it is the quickest, easiest method of showing them what I want them to do.

If a child suddenly slouches while playing, a small prod in the small of their back will make them sit up without disrupting the flow and sounding like nagging (which an order to 'sit up straight' will).

I never explain this to parents but they are welcome to sit in on a lesson and they will quickly see.

I do feel that common sense has to win the day and that rules and 'touching policies' is just opening the door to madness. However, I appreciate that I live in a rural area (I used to live in New York - it's different!) and, being a middle-aged Mum, I am not high on the 'suspicion' list (rightly or wrongly).

Trust and common sense are key factors. You might not treat a brand new pupil the same way as one you've been teaching for years. Small children need more physical 'showing' than teenagers. Child protection is of vital importance but I can't help but feel that we've lost sight of the wood for the trees.



agree.gif

The youngest of my pupils sometimes don't understand the verbal explanations and can't seem to make their hand go the way I want them to by copying! If I show them, by moving the wrist, they usually get it! I never touch rib cage etc to show breathing and some pupils you just know would feel uncomfortable with touch- so you don't do it. Parents are free to sit in on lessons too. I live in a rural area like dolcepiano and I too am a middle age mum with kids the same age as my pupils! My daughter's violin teacher has used touch to demonstrate correct hand position , wrist position etc and I have observed this when I used to sit in on the lessons- it was appropriate- especially when she was 6 or 7 and needed to be shown what to do.

None of the schools I teach in have No Touch policies.... I only touch when all else fails or when it'll be much quicker than trying to explain!
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#12 BadStrad

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 11:39

QUOTE(ChristopherO @ Nov 6 2010, 08:44 AM) View Post
But for my half pennyworth I am so disturbed by the paranoia of all this these days. As a mature man I am now petrified of being seen to touch children in case I am accused.

I totally agree. Today's children are being brought up to believe that all adults are potential pedophiles and that anyone touching you has a perve agenda. I am both distressed and deeply saddened by that.

I felt sorry for the Masterchef contestent who was once introduced as a pediatrician and then aftwards as "a children's doctor" - almost as if they were anticipating hate mail (or worse) from vigilantes who can't spell.

In my fevered mind I see the extreme case of a child in need of medical attention and no adult having the nerve to help for fear of touching. Sorry - rant over, but I do feel that the corrosive nature of these campaigns is un-helpful and destroys trust.

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#13 ChristopherO

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 11:44

QUOTE(dolce@piano @ Nov 6 2010, 08:24 AM) View Post
Child protection is of vital importance but I can't help but feel that we've lost sight of the wood for the trees.

Or the love for the fear

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#14 Henry Fagg

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Posted 08 November 2010 - 12:47

QUOTE(BadStrad @ Nov 6 2010, 11:39 AM) View Post

QUOTE(ChristopherO @ Nov 6 2010, 08:44 AM) View Post
But for my half pennyworth I am so disturbed by the paranoia of all this these days. As a mature man I am now petrified of being seen to touch children in case I am accused.

I totally agree. Today's children are being brought up to believe that all adults are potential pedophiles and that anyone touching you has a perve agenda. I am both distressed and deeply saddened by that.

I felt sorry for the Masterchef contestent who was once introduced as a pediatrician and then aftwards as "a children's doctor" - almost as if they were anticipating hate mail (or worse) from vigilantes who can't spell.

In my fevered mind I see the extreme case of a child in need of medical attention and no adult having the nerve to help for fear of touching. Sorry - rant over, but I do feel that the corrosive nature of these campaigns is un-helpful and destroys trust.


Having been looking at the issue of child protection in private tuition for some time, it seems to me that the elephant in the room is lack of evidence. This is because it is only with reference to proper research that a proportionate response to the risks can be made. All else is either agenda-pushing or scaremongering.

Unfortunately, in my experience, nobody refers to the available evidence as a basis for their arguments, and so the arguments tend to be circular. For example, just to give a sense of the scale of what we're talking about here, the most comprehensive study into child abuse in the UK reported that, of those children who experienced sexual abuse outside of the family, only about 0.3% experienced abuse by professionals such as teachers, doctors, social/care workers or religious leaders.

You can therefore imagine the kind of percentage for private music teachers. The authors of this particular study (Cawson et al, 2000) pointed out that:

QUOTE
The findings challenge some of the stereotypes concerning maltreatment which have become part of popular belief, and in some cases professional wisdom. Stereotypes can come from a number of possible sources: media coverage of individual tragedies and scandals; distorted perceptions as the result of imperfect understanding of official figures; or the wealth of literary and fictional tradition featuring wicked stepmothers and other such 'bogeys'


It seems to me that the interests of children will only be served when proper research is used to assess the proportionality of 'no touch' policies/ CRBs/ Vetting and Barring etc as a response to risk, considering the potentially damaging effects on trust between adults and between adults and children pointed out by BadStrad.

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#15 Aquarelle

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Posted 08 November 2010 - 13:39

Warning: I rant!!!!

I have expressed strong opinions about this before and here I go again. I think this "dare not / should not/must " not touch a child is crass rubbish likely to produce a generation of - to put it mildly- confused and guilt ridden children - and heaven knows what they will in turn do to their offspring.

As as been said above the statistics prove that such stupid policies are not worth the paper they are written on and the people who have turned large numbers of responsible, caring adults into teachers and friends and relations scared stiff to touch a child are actually the ones who should be told "hands off".

I have every sympathy with those adults who find themselves harassed by this sort of thing. I understand how threatened they feel. I am eternally thankful that when I get to the school gate and am almost knocked over by a crowd of little ones demanding to be hugged or kissed I don't have to push them away. I don't have to think twice before I place a child's hand correctly - either on a musical instrument or to help them form written letters correctly. I don't have to think twce before putting out a restraining hand to stop a child belting down the corridor at full speed. I don't have to worry if at playtime a little one wants to sit on my lap or if an adolescent needs a reassuring touch on the shoulder.

I may hate the French administration as we battle to keep our little music school open - but I am more than thankful for their sensible and human attitiude to adult / child contact.

When will the British be told to stop stroking their dogs?
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