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#1307898 - 11/18/09 05:45 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]  
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Originally Posted by currawong
Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.

Uh ... yeah. It sounds like Betty is talking about children here. Which may or may not work. I don't know. But I don't think any contrived expression would work too well on adults.


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#1307918 - 11/18/09 06:09 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: eweiss]  
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Unless the contrived expression is meant as (and taken as!) a joke between teacher and student, I would tend to avoid it even for little children. I didn't trust adults who put on false expressions for me, even when I was very small.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1307936 - 11/18/09 06:29 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]  
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Never ever did I say the smile, frown, neutral faces or gesture were artificial, contrived, or anything but natural.

How does something get to be so distorted in the forum?

Teaching is a communication between teacher and student. All things I've mentioned are a natural part of communicating.

I said that I "act" or "dramatize" or "exaggerate" certain things to make them more understandable to the student as well as more memorable. I have said that my students and Iuse our imaginations in music making together, too.

Every thing I say or do is from my heart and "tool box" when teaching and I apply communication/instruction/correction as needed in the way the student has shown me he learns. Sometimes I have to say the same thing again later and will say it in the same way as previously and then again in a different way if it's not being understood.

I like what currawong said: "As long as we remember we are all individuals with our own style, and that each style may be valid and effective, then I think the discussion has been helpful."

It was meant to be a helpful topic when I posted it.

I am convinced that some of our students absolutely need relief from the tension and tedium that piano lessons can be - probably more noticable when they are not well prepared than when they know they are going to ace their presentation to us. That should be a place where they can demonstrate their confidence and ability to us and I'm sure it makes them feel good. This is when genuine smiles as well as genuine words are really appropriate!

Betty Patnude

Last edited by Betty Patnude; 11/18/09 06:29 PM.
#1307939 - 11/18/09 06:34 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: eweiss]  
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Originally Posted by eweiss
Originally Posted by currawong
Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.

Uh ... yeah. It sounds like Betty is talking about children here. Which may or may not work. I don't know. But I don't think any contrived expression would work too well on adults.


Exactly Ed!

I was talking about children needing other than simply our words.

I did not ever mean other than natural responses - contrived was not part of what I was thinking or saying.

And, as for the adult, the adult and the teacher can set the communication style together so there is a responsibility on both parts that contributes to the lesson and to their relationship.

I think most teachers take their clues from their students regardless of the student's age.

Betty Patnude

#1307944 - 11/18/09 06:40 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]  
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Originally Posted by david_a
Unless the contrived expression is meant as (and taken as!) a joke between teacher and student, I would tend to avoid it even for little children. I didn't trust adults who put on false expressions for me, even when I was very small.


David, I don't think contrived expressions and false expressions along with sarcasm, cynicism or aggressive critcism are helpful to anyone.

My suggestion would be to run from someone who would be so disrespectful and intimidating that they would purposely create a toxic situation between themselves and their paying client. I don't think someone who communicates like that gets very far in any endeavor they undertake in their life. It just seems dysfunctional to me. And, I think it's totally unnecessary and more a personality disorder of the person using those tactics.

Betty Patnude

#1307950 - 11/18/09 06:45 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]  
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Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
Originally Posted by eweiss
Originally Posted by currawong
Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
If we are unwilling to use what we have availabe in facial gestures or body mannerisms, we are possibly holding back from the student some valuable information about ourselves and the music we are playing. To be without these things is almost a passivity and a restraint.
It may be, but it also may not be. I think we need to use gesture in a way which is natural and comfortable for us - because if it's not comfortable for us, I doubt it will help the student.

Uh ... yeah. It sounds like Betty is talking about children here. Which may or may not work. I don't know. But I don't think any contrived expression would work too well on adults.


Exactly Ed!

I was talking about children needing other than simply our words.

I did not ever mean other than natural responses - contrived was not part of what I was thinking or saying.

And, as for the adult, the adult and the teacher can set the communication style together so there is a responsibility on both parts that contributes to the lesson and to their relationship.

I think most teachers take their clues from their students regardless of the student's age.
Betty - I don't know who first mentioned the "contrived" aspect that's possible here, but I don't think anybody was accusing you of using contrived expressions yourself. And I think your final two paragraphs of this message, beginning "And, as for...", could easily stand as the last word on the subject, for BOTH adults and children. I think children are much more adult-like in this area (that is, in the way they perceive the facial expressions of others) than we may expect.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1307961 - 11/18/09 06:54 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]  
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Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
How does something get to be so distorted in the forum?
It's because words, even the most carefully chosen (and let's face it, not all our words on this forum fit into this category smile ) don't tell everything.

Sometimes we see an implication in what someone's written which just isn't there. At other times we are not as careful as we could be about the tone in our posts. (I'm answering your question, but not directing my remarks at you, Betty, just to be clear smile ). I actually think tone causes some of the biggest blow-ups here (I don't just mean on the teachers' forum - I was actually thinking of the pianists' corner, where I also hang out).

Something I've found helpful when posting (and if I really don't want to be misunderstood!) is to hit the "preview" button and read my post as if I were reading someone else's. Of course I don't always get it right smile , and people can get me riled, but it's a good "is this what I really mean" safeguard. We don't have total control over how everyone else takes our postings, but we do have some control over how most people do...


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#1307964 - 11/18/09 06:56 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]  
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I think what people meant by "contrived" was that humans (of all ages), as social animals tend to be VERY adept at reading the body language of others...much more so than we Realize we are even doing...and if someone is trying to put on a "good face" that is not what they are Really feeling, we notice it, even if we do so subconsciously, and it makes us uncomfortable and anxious.

This is true of non-human animals...an animal will generally react very badly to a person whose facial expression does not match the other signals (verbal, non-verbal, and...in the case of dogs...body chemistry by smell) they are giving off.

Hasn't everybody been at a gathering or meeting where someone has bad news to tell and, although they try to act like everything is fine, you can Tell and it begins to freak you out?

Forcing yourself to smile or have a neutral expression is not going to pay off in student comfort because at some level they will just be able to tell something is not quite right. The more different your 'put on' face is from your natural expression, the worse the effect will be.

Look at pictures of politicians who have been obviously "coached" to appear a certain way for the camera. Hillary Clinton looks downright frightening when she smiles for the camera many times, for this very reason (I'm not knocking her in general, I just think it's obvious her handlers have tried to change her into what they think the public will find "acceptable" for a woman politician. Fail)

I would be surprised if this is a big issue during lessons tho...I'm not looking at my teacher's face while I'm playing, I'm looking at my music or at the piano.

But then, my teacher says things like, "I'm sure the performance will be just fine. You're playing mostly right notes" so compared to that, body language is minor wink


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#1307967 - 11/18/09 06:58 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: david_a]  
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Originally Posted by david_a
Betty - I don't know who first mentioned the "contrived" aspect that's possible here, but I don't think anybody was accusing you of using contrived expressions yourself.
It was probably me who mentioned "contrived" first, and no, I wasn't accusing Betty of using contrived expressions. I was saying that if certain expressions are not one's natural style, then applying them because someone else has said they are necessary is "contrived".


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#1307977 - 11/18/09 07:17 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]  
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I appreciate your contributions to this topic of discussion and I feel that we are getting somewhere with it and understanding each other better now. "Your" being collectively to all posters and not personally to currawong.

It's all very interesting to me.

I can understand why John v.d.Brook video tapes his lesson for review. It would possibly be a big surprise to us as to how we look and what we say during lessons. We actually don't know how we affect the student if we haven't faced the camera before. And, maybe we would see indications from the student that we didn't catch ourselves during the lesson.

It would be a great opportunity to see each other in action at a lesson, I think. Kind of a master class for evaluation and learning from our behavior and communication styles and skills.

I vote for natural, genuine and sincere!

Betty Patnude


Last edited by Betty Patnude; 11/18/09 07:18 PM.
#1307988 - 11/18/09 07:32 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: currawong]  
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Originally Posted by currawong
(I had an interesting recollection while writing this. I've learnt an immense amount from a variety of teachers I've had the opportunity to work with and observe over many years. Some were pretty extroverted. But one of the best kindergarten teachers I worked with was actually very understated, quiet and calm. And the children hung on her every word.)

That relates to my experience as well. With kids I am naturally playful, animated, humourous and love getting down to their level. I mean I do this at parties too blush I'm a bit of a big kid. But through teaching children I've discovered that my very quiet and calm side is the most powerful. For a child; to spend half an hour as the undisputed focus of interest, with an adult listening to their every sound is rare and exciting for them. I have a hunch that they become more confidently themselves and reveal more, than if I am fun-animated me for most of the lesson.

But I still have a couple of moments of silliness e.g. I like to "fall over" completely flat on the couch when they amaze me with what they achieved in practice, "That was so good I fainted!" I say. But yea I wouldn't do this if it's not your style grin or clothing doesn't allow.

The extension of this quiet calm is that from about 8 years old I talk to kids as if they are adults and colleagues; I don't hold back on discussing music, composition, technique and practice techniques at as high a level as they find interesting, even if not understanding all of it. And I get a real kick out of them treating me as a colleague, e.g. bringing me a useful resource or recommending a piece of music. I love this grin


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#1308004 - 11/18/09 07:54 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: ProdigalPianist]  
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I watered my garden in middle of my post, and the discussion continued...

I think I do consciously begin each next lesson warmly with a smile and very deliberately looking at the child, and asking some how was your day questions. It's a contrived moment of ceasing to think about the last student and fully focusing on this one. It is contrived, but feels natural once I begin smiling, and has become mostly a habit. I think it's been useful for me, deliberately creating a mood then feeds on itself and I feel calm and open and enthusiastic. I think it's as beneficial to me as to the student.

But ultimately I think teachers just have to be themselves and that students respect and enjoy knowing the real person. Tweaking mood or expression is ok. Re public figures and communication coaching LOL and cringe eek don't think we should go to those lengths. Imagine walking up and down your studio with hands neatly clasped in front of you and a "serious and interested" tv face on... oh and a power suit of the right shade.



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#1308033 - 11/18/09 08:57 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]  
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Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
Never ever did I say the smile, frown, neutral faces or gesture were artificial, contrived, or anything but natural.

How does something get to be so distorted in the forum?

...I said that I "act" or "dramatize" or "exaggerate" certain things to make them more understandable to the student as well as more memorable.


If it got distorted, it's because the words "act," "dramatize," and "exaggerate" do in fact imply "artificial," "contrived," and "not natural." Acting, dramatizing, and exaggerating are ways of putting on different nonverbal expressions than you would naturally in that situation. Or, to put it another way, if your nonverbal expressions in that context without conscious deliberation would in fact be the excited, arms waving in the air, big smile displays you described earlier in the thread, you're not acting; you're being.


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#1308044 - 11/18/09 09:20 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]  
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Originally Posted by Betty Patnude
We actually don't know how we affect the student if we haven't faced the camera before. And, maybe we would see indications from the student that we didn't catch ourselves during the lesson.

Will the camera catch the look in your eye? In fact, will it catch the look in your student's eye? Does the camera have feelers out for the atmosphere of the moment?
Quote

I vote for natural, genuine and sincere!

Make that two votes. Are you sure you need that camera? wink

#1308145 - 11/18/09 11:48 PM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: Betty Patnude]  
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Originally Posted by Betty Patnude


I vote for natural, genuine and sincere!

Betty Patnude



I'm not sure I'm in the same discussion. We have several tangents going.

I agree with genuine and sincere. Natural, I'm not so sure of.

Genuine and sincere, of course, you're in a relationship. It doesn't have to be profound and deep to be honest.

But natural sort of implies not learned, or maybe not learnable, and I think neither is true.

Just as we can learn not to use the negative verbal behaviors without being false or contrived, I suggest we can learn to improve our nonverbals.

I recall (and I wish I could find the reference) an example from my graduate school (Clinical Psychology) days. Perhaps it will jog someone's memory.

There was a woman who was particularly good at dealing with acting-out disabled children. Somehow she got them to behave when nobody else could. She didn't know how she did it, so she couldn't teach it, it was totally unconscious. By videotaping her sessions, a team of psychologists analyzed exactly how she was intervening, what reinforcements she was using, how she was doing it.

They were able to use this to train other staff in the skills. I'm using the word skill deliberately - these can be learned without becoming contrived or unnatural, just as we learn not to mumble while speaking, etc.

But they also showed their results to the original woman. When she was conscious of why she was successful, she felt even more confident. She was following simple rules of behavioral reinforcement just like in the textbooks, but she'd picked it up on her own without understanding the science.

Now, to use the technical term, what I'm suggesting is that master teachers make maximum use of nonverbal reinforcements for something called the Fractional Anticipatory Goal Response.

I believe they develop these skills accidentaly, but they are available to all of us with some effort.

Last edited by TimR; 11/18/09 11:51 PM.

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#1308157 - 11/19/09 12:00 AM Re: Smiles, frowns, neutral faces during lessons? [Re: TimR]  
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Tim said: "But they also showed their results to the original woman. When she was conscious of why she was successful, she felt even more confident. She was following simple rules of behavioral reinforcement just like in the textbooks, but she'd picked it up on her own without understanding the science."

Tim, this is all very interesting. I'd like for you to spend another 10 minutes looking for the referance about non verbals. I sense this discussion could go on for pages. I am really interested in nonverbal communication, as much as I'm interest in several other topics in the moment. I think you can link us all up with some scientific information that will be helpful to us.

Maybe some suggested reading? Or a workshop on video?

I quoted above because it is phenomenal that this woman could find the way to do what she did so well on her own without knowing the scientific principles - she was going on her observation powers, being inspired by her "work" and her "finding" and the "progress" being made. She was behaving "naturally" from her core. She was in "flow". This is how I interpret your story of her.

So give us some more things to think about, please.

Betty Patnude

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