Problem Child, any suggestions?
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Problem Child, any suggestions?
Mar 16 2005, 01:55 PM
Since September I have been teaching an eight year old girl who has been finding the piano a bit difficult to say the least. I am her second teacher - her first teacher told her dad she wasn't making a lot of headway and basically got rid of her. It is quite a stuggle to get her to do anything correctly and until recently I have thought that the piano was just too much for her at the minute. Now I am 99% certain she is doing it on purpose. In the school where I teach her I have to complete a short weekly report and give her a grade which has to be signed by a parent. Several weeks ago I told her if she didn't count the rhythm correctly she was going to get a D grade. She then played it perfectly without me showing her where the problem was or how to correct it. This has happened quite a few times, but in recent weeks I have noticed her looking round at me each time she does something wrong which I have corrected at the previous lesson. Its as if she knows it wrong and waiting for my reaction. This week she played a whole piece starting on the wrong note and didn't seem to notice. When I told her she would get a D she managed to find the correct notes herself and play it perfectly.
I have never had this problem before and she is the first child out of hundreds that I have taught over the years that I can't seem to work with. Its not my policy to give up as you can usually do something with even the least interested or less talented child.
What should I do?
What is the easiest way to tell parents their darling daughter is deliberatley making mistakes?
Mar 16 2005, 02:51 PM
Does the child actually wish to learn the piano?
I would ask the parent to stay in the lesson,to observe and not to interfere-don`t elaborate any further- just say you were wondering whether you would like to stay in the lesson to see your child`s progress.See what happens.Teach as normal.
Depending on the child`s reaction you can then take it from there. After the lesson is over ( or ten mins before the end ) take the parent into a different room....the child can practise their pieces....and have a quiet word about what has been happening.I would also bring up the subject of why the first teacher gave up on the child.Discuss practising at home and your thoughts on the child playing badly deliberately.
Its difficult for me to comment any further as I don`t know the child.
Mar 16 2005, 03:51 PM
I think inviting a parent to stay for the lesson would be a good idea, and it could be that suggesting this to the child might solve the problem instantly, if she doesn't want a parent there!
Or you could try "oh dear, these pieces are obviously far too hard for you, perhaps we should try something like this........" and show/play her the most uninteresting pieces you can think of. It might stimulate her into playing properly.
As you are her second teacher I would say the problem is definitely her and not you, so don't worry too much. Do you know the first teacher, could you speak to them about this?
Mar 16 2005, 05:02 PM
Why not set regular targets, give gold stars etc., or anything else that would discourage her from delibarately screwing up. It is hardly surprising the last teacher's patience ran out.
Mar 16 2005, 06:16 PM
How very frustrating for you. I can sympathise - and with the previous teacher who didn't keep going ...
I sometimes find that children get things wrong when they are tired, or can't be bothered to focus, concentrate, whatever, and I'm sure others find this too, but it sounds from your description as if it may be more deliberate than that.
It's interesting to speculate why does things wrong, or why she feels she wants to get things wrong deliberately - if indeed that's what she's doing.
The following possibities come to mind: some of them overlap with what others have said:
1 she doesn't want to do piano and it's her parents' agenda.
2 she is mentally lazy and can't be bothered to make the effort.
3 she is over-confident and thinks she's getting things right when she isn't.
4 she doesn't mind learning but is careless and only focuses when you make it an issue
5 she is resisting general pressure from parents all round and it's a protest (similar to no 1 but not identical, as the pressure could be about other things too).
6 this sort of thing is often an attempt to attention-seek - but in a one-to-one situation it's unlikely she would feel the need to do that.
7 any of the above in combination
I don't know if any of this helps. I think the idea of inviting parents in to a lesson is a good one. Do you have any idea what she is like in a normal school class, and what her general schoolwork is like??
Mar 16 2005, 06:17 PM
Yes.But even using star charts at home and stickers at the end of the lesson sometimes only has a temporary effect.It still doesn`t solve the problem.
Mar 17 2005, 09:37 AM
I would almost lay money on this being some sort of an attention-seeking thing. She probably only gets attention at home when she does something negative, and it's become a habit.
Give her loads and loads of positive reinforcement every time she does the slightest positive thing, and things may well change - at least with you. I found this list of positive reinforcement ideas on an (American!) violin teachers' website yesterday:
You're on the right track now!
You are very good at that.
WOW, how did you do that!?
I'm happy to see you working like that.
You're doing a good job.
I knew you could do it.
Now you've figured it out.
Now you have it.
Keep working on it - you're getting better
You can really work careful now!
That's the right way to do it.
You're getting better every day/week.
That's the way to do it.
You're really going to town.
You've just about mastered that!
You did that very well.
You're really improving.
Keep it up!
You've got that down pat!
Keep on trying!
I've never seen anyone do it better.
I like that.
I'm very proud of you.
I think you've got it now.
You figured that out fast.
That's really nice.
Now you have the hang of it!
Congratulations, you got (fill in specific action______ ) right!
Way to go.
That's the best you've ever done.
I'm proud of the way you worked today.
You're really working hard today.
You've just about got it.
That's quite an improvement.
You are doing that much better today.
I sure am happy you're my child/student.
You're learning fast.
Good for you!
Couldn't have done it better myself.
I'm so lucky to be your parent/teacher!
One more time and you'll have it.
You did it that time!
That's the way!
Now you've figured it out.
You haven't missed a thing.
Keep up the good work.
Nothing can stop you now!
That's the best ever.
Fine work today!
You have much to be proud of!
Now that's what we call a fine job!
You must have been practicing!
You're doing beautifully.
You did a lot of work today!
You certainly did well today.
You can make some very creative sounds!
You are really learning a lot!
You outdid yourself today!
Good for you!
You're doing the best that you can!
I am happy to see you do that, I hope you are happy too!
Well look at you go!
Each time you play that you learn more!
I'm sure we all use many of these anyway, but it's always interesting to see what other teachers use...
Mar 17 2005, 12:17 PM
Many thanks for all your replies, suggestions and advice.
I think she would like to be able to play the piano without having to learn to play it properly. If she can get away with doing what is nearly right she will rather than doing it properly the first time round. Unfortunatley I don't know her last teacher but I can imagine he couldn't put up with her antics either if she was like that with him.
I have thought about bringing a parent in (or even another teacher) for her lesson but I am certain her playing would improve dramatically and then they may not believe there is a problem.
Stars don't seem to interest her. She knows she will get a star if she gets everything right but she seems more determined to get things wrong. Its only when I threaten her with a grade D that she plays perfectly.
Laziness and carelessness are part of the problem too. I she can get away with anything she will. I hadn't considered the attention seeking possibility especially in a one to one situation. Its the way she looks at me when she does something wrong, sometimes I think she is deliberately trying to annoy me.
Violinia, many thanks for the positive reinforcement ideas - I have over 80 end of term reports to write before lunchtiem tomorrow!
Mar 17 2005, 04:34 PM
Well if I was you I would give the child 2 ultimatums.
1.She sorts her attitude out and you make it perfectly clear you will not tolerate such behaviour in future.
If that doesn`t work-
2.Explain you will be bringing in her parents/other teacher for all her future lessons.
If these fail give up on her.
It would have been interesting to know what methods her previous teacher employed before giving up.It really isn`t worth all the stress they are causing you and I think you will become more annoyed and frustrated with them as time goes on.
Mar 17 2005, 08:06 PM
I think you might have a point there. What this wee dear needs is a firmer approach. She needs to know that I am there for her benefit and if she wants to waste time and money she can go somewhere else. Its not as if she can't do things properly, she just won't .
I have a feeling her last teacher just let her get on with it. I don't think he really bothered with her - and I can't say I blame him!
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