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#2073291 - 04/29/13 05:24 AM student mocking me rudely  
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Beth_Frances Offline
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The first four years of teaching I didn't come across this once, and then in the past year I've suddenly got two of them. Anyone else come across this and what the heck do you do?

First student who does this is 12 years old boy who really likes playing piano. He never practices and after 3.5 years of lessons he is only up to Piano Adventures 2A, but he gets disappointed when his lessons are over and shows a decent amount of enthusiasm in lessons. However, over the past year or so he has started imitating my faces, vocal inflections, laugh, oft repeated phrases etc. It makes me really uncomfortable and feel really disrespected, but it is insidious enough that I don't know what to do about it. I'd like to just get rid of him from my teaching roster, but he manages to walk a line where it would be difficult to broach his mother about it and not just look like I'm crazy.

Second student is an 8 year old. He does things like over the top world ending level complaining about working further on a piece, then I say okay lets do something else, then he complains that he wants to go back to the piece he was just fighting against! He also sulks a lot, "hates piano", puts his arms flat down on the keys and his head on his arms, etc. Along with the whining, he has previously done a small amount of the mocking me stuff. I broached his mother about his behaviour last week (not the mocking - just that in general his behaviour had declined this year), and he came in today obviously thinking he was going to outsmart me so I was still upset but couldn't approach his mother about it. He upped the mocking enormously, copying almost everything I did and said in an exagerated way, and mixed it in with sarcasm, for example I said "now play that section with both hands" and he said in a silly voice "wow, what an interesting combination!" By the way I did tell him off multiple times for what he was doing, and asked him if he knew what he was doing, he said yes, I asked why, and he said because it was fun.

I've decided I can't keep that last kid - it causes me way too much anguish and isn't fair to the poor girl who has her lesson after him. Unfortunately I also teach his brother, who is a nice enough boy, so I will lose two, but I just can't keep ruining every Monday any more. It's starting to actually make me doubt myself, and that's just not a price I'm willing to pay. How do I inform the parent I'm not willing to teach him any more though? She seems oblivious to her child's nasty nature. And for future reference, are there any ways to nip this in the bud whilst remaining professional?

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#2073307 - 04/29/13 06:33 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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1 don't take it personally
2 remember children are less able to communicate what is really sub consciously bothering them. Acting up/ out is an attempt.

try:
paradoxical approach: stop lesson...move away from piano...say ok we'll have mockery practice now and mirror back and forth with him. Listen for clues about what's bothering him. Be prepared for a laugh together!

straightforward approach: say to him....hmmm students usually behave like that when something is bothering them. What's up? Let's work on it together. Give him some power to say how he'd like lesson to be and see if accommodating is possible.

detach: calmly end lesson stating in no more than 3 sentences the reason...we treat each other respectfully at this studio. Mocking is not respectful. See you next week. Stand and walk to door. No further comment or dicussion by you. Parent may need to be forewarned to stand by.


many hands many smiles

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#2073320 - 04/29/13 07:15 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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You shouldn't have to put up with disrespectful students, period. It sounds like in the case of the second boy in particular that he knows exactly what he is doing, and he is doing it to get under your skin. This is not acceptable, in my opinion.

My first step would be to talk with both parents privately (i.e., not in front of the student). Let them know what has been happening in the lesson. Tell them that their child has been disrespectful and explain how. If there are no underlying issues causing the behavior (Aspberger's, Tourette's, etc.) then I would tell the parent that this type of behavior is not acceptable in the lesson and if it happens again the lesson will be ended early.

Then, stick to it. if the child starts this behavior at the next lesson, calmly say, "Well, I guess our lesson is over for today. Goodbye." And walk them out to the parent. Don't get upset or show your frustration to the student.

I've only had this issue come up a few times in 15 years of teaching (thank goodness!) but my best advice would be to address it early with the parent and stick to your guns. If the child is doing this to you, he is most likely doing it to others, too, so don't worry about "looking crazy" when you talk to the parent.


M.M., Piano performance and pedagogy
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#2073321 - 04/29/13 07:19 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: manyhands]  
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Originally Posted by manyhands
1 don't take it personally
2 remember children are less able to communicate what is really sub consciously bothering them. Acting up/ out is an attempt.

try:
paradoxical approach: stop lesson...move away from piano...say ok we'll have mockery practice now and mirror back and forth with him. Listen for clues about what's bothering him. Be prepared for a laugh together!

straightforward approach: say to him....hmmm students usually behave like that when something is bothering them. What's up? Let's work on it together. Give him some power to say how he'd like lesson to be and see if accommodating is possible.

detach: calmly end lesson stating in no more than 3 sentences the reason...we treat each other respectfully at this studio. Mocking is not respectful. See you next week. Stand and walk to door. No further comment or dicussion by you. Parent may need to be forewarned to stand by.


Great advice here.

I think stopping the lesson right away when they do this behavior is the best solution. It puts you back in charge: you don't *have* to teach them and put up with this, and you won't. I'd give it another go with some very clear directions to the kids. They need boundaries, it seems. Tell them (and their parents) that they will have 3 chances, if they get kicked out of their lesson 3 times within the next 2 months (or whatever boundaries you are comfortable with) then you will dismiss them.


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#2073329 - 04/29/13 07:49 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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You could get a riding crop and smear the end with a little tomato sauce, leave it in plain sight and when the lesson commences take the riding crop and say "Oh, I have to go clean the blood off this, my last pupil was so badly behaved I had to use this on him and he bled on it"





Rise like lions after slumber,in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

Founder and creator ofRostoskys 13th crystal skull project
#2073333 - 04/29/13 07:58 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Originally Posted by Beth_Frances
He also sulks a lot, "hates piano"...


He upped the mocking enormously, copying almost everything I did and said in an exagerated way, and mixed it in with sarcasm, for example I said "now play that section with both hands" and he said in a silly voice "wow, what an interesting combination!" By the way I did tell him off multiple times for what he was doing, and asked him if he knew what he was doing, he said yes, I asked why, and he said because it was fun.


I think it's good to let kids know that if they don't want lessons, they don't have to continue. I let the kid know that all I have to do is to tell the parent it is not working out. I had a brief discussion with a 5th grader who shows no interest (but practices). He concluded that he DOES want to take lessons after all.

I have found this to be useful: "Stop. You are not allowed to act like that here." This can go for banging on the piano or backtalk etc. It can be said in a way that startles kids. I wouldn't "tell him off"...as that confirms that he got your goat.

The little voice about the "interesting combination" would have cracked me up.

This thread reminds me of when I was 14 and at home (not in front of the teacher) I would imitate how the teacher answered the phone rolling his R's. "This is Roe (pause) Roe Van Boskirk". It amazed me that he didn't say "hello". I thought it was very classy of him.

Last edited by Ann in Kentucky; 04/29/13 09:52 AM.
#2073387 - 04/29/13 09:51 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Beth,

I am reminded of a conversation with a woman who runs an after school program. If a kid sits on the table, she'll say "Do you sit on the table at home?!" If they say "No", she says "well we don't sit on the table here either". If they say that yes they do sit on the table at home, she says "Well this isn't your home!"

LOL! She had them either way they answered. A large woman who knows how to take charge of a group of kids.


#2073528 - 04/29/13 02:48 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Rostosky]  
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Originally Posted by Rostosky
You could get a riding crop and smear the end with a little tomato sauce, leave it in plain sight and when the lesson commences take the riding crop and say "Oh, I have to go clean the blood off this, my last pupil was so badly behaved I had to use this on him and he bled on it"



I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read this! smile

.
.
.

The advice about how to interact psychologically with the ill-behaved young one is very well put. I think it might be quite effective as well, but it requires a teacher who is interested in exploring that aspect of the child's problem. some people want to treat the whole child/family. Others want to teach music. Again, there isn't a single right answer or approach.

#2073550 - 04/29/13 03:08 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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I don't believe this has anything to do with piano teaching or with the student's learning abilities. I believe it has everything to do with the fact that today's children are not taught to respect adults, authority figures, each other, or any thing. This is exhibited over and over - at the stores, on the phone, at the schools. An extreme example are all the violent attacks we're seeing on the streets, against random people and with no feelings exhibited by participants or onlookers. But more everyday, would be student's who openly yawn to be point of disrupting the lessons (I have two of these type), students who just refuse to follow instructions (I don't like doing that, I don't want to do that, etc.), students who fail to understand that their parents are paying for their time with one-on-one teachers - oh, I could go on and on. But it is so sad. All I can hope is that we can instill in our adult children, who are now raising their own kids, to instill respect. Respect. It applies to everything.

Last edited by Joyce_dup1; 04/29/13 03:09 PM.
#2073677 - 04/29/13 05:55 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Originally Posted by Beth_Frances
....over the past year or so he has started imitating my faces, vocal inflections, laugh, oft repeated phrases etc. It makes me really uncomfortable and feel really disrespected....

What you describe reminds me of how I felt when my son first started displaying symptoms of Tourette's syndrome. The condition causes a wide variety of involuntary movements and behaviors. Echoing phrases and gestures is one common symptom. When it involves phrases, it's called "echolalia."

Other common symptoms include motor and vocal tics, compulsions that can include inappropriate touching, etc. The most famous one, blurting out obscenities ("coprolalia"), is actually rather rare but can be devastating.

People with Tourette's can be really irritating even to those who know about the condition, and absolutely maddening to others. I've suffered from Tourette's myself and find the tics really annoying and embarrassing. Stress tends to increase the number of tics, and feeling embarrassed increases stress, so having a diagnosis and being accepted can be a huge help for Tourette's sufferers.

I don't know how you could find out whether your student is presenting Tourette's symptoms. He may be developing the condition but it may not have been diagnosed yet. At any rate, reading up on it a bit and considering the possibility might be worthwhile.

Best of luck,

Andy

#2073687 - 04/29/13 06:07 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Great advice given.

I have noticed that behaviour has become more of an issue in recent years. Personally I think that many kids nowadays are just spoilt brats and too many excuses are made for them.

You don't need to put up with it though.

It might be worth explaining to them (and their parents) that piano lessons are not compulsory and that if certain standards of behaviour and/or effort are not met you will no longer continue to teach them. Kids know they can get away with it at school where teachers have no option but to keep them in lessons. They think piano is no different.

Wrong.


Pianist and piano teacher.
#2073773 - 04/29/13 08:48 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Overexposed]  
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Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
Beth,

I am reminded of a conversation with a woman who runs an after school program. If a kid sits on the table, she'll say "Do you sit on the table at home?!" If they say "No", she says "well we don't sit on the table here either". If they say that yes they do sit on the table at home, she says "Well this isn't your home!"

LOL! She had them either way they answered. A large woman who knows how to take charge of a group of kids.



Love it! In fact, I used it today. Worked like a charm!


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#2073775 - 04/29/13 08:48 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Rostosky]  
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Originally Posted by Rostosky
You could get a riding crop and smear the end with a little tomato sauce, leave it in plain sight and when the lesson commences take the riding crop and say "Oh, I have to go clean the blood off this, my last pupil was so badly behaved I had to use this on him and he bled on it"



LOL! Now I just have to get a hold of a riding crop... wink


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#2073779 - 04/29/13 08:52 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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I may have shared this tale once before, but when teaching in Germany, we had a beautiful rose garden in the center of the back yard. It was about 8 ft long and 3 ft wide. When students started in with the attitude, I invited them to look out the window and admire the beautiful roses. Then I asked them if they knew what made really great fertilizer. Usually they looked perplexed. I replied that's where I put the students who didn't practice or gave me a ration at lessons. They never knew for sure whether I was serious or just pulling their chain.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#2073792 - 04/29/13 09:16 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Ah, this thread is making my day ... grin

#2073796 - 04/29/13 09:27 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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I'm going to try out some of the methods mentioned on this thread...in particular the riding crop with tomato sauce. ha


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2073830 - 04/29/13 10:53 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Hmm, I think I'll steer clear of the riding crop idea. I'd be too tempted to use it in other ways by the end of the lesson...

It's really hard not to take it personally manyhands. My partner tells me it's ridiculous that I let kids get under my skin, with the "they're just kids!" exclamation, but I can't help it. I'm giving them my best with great intentions, and it feels like they're just slapping me in the face when they show how little they appreciate it.

This kid has let everyone know he doesn't want to continue piano, which started when he got teased at school that only girls do piano (despite the school recital having more boys than girls in it - go figure), but his mum is making him continue because she believes he has talent and will regret it later if he quits.

I'm stealing that "do you do ___ at home?" idea Ann. Gold.

Neither boys is it a case of Tourettes, although I can see how you might think that. The first boy is known for being a troublemaker at school, and I was warned of this when i first started teaching him by one of his teachers. He knows what he is doing, and smirks when he can see he is getting under my skin.

The second only amped up the mocking when his mother told him to stop the other bad behaviour, before then it was only a rare thing. Then after he got into trouble for his behaviour, he really threw it at me.

I do think it come down to these children being awfully spoilt. I work in a wealthy area, so all of the family's I work with are fairly well off, but I've noticed that children who come from the public school system have much better manners than private school children. They have more humility and compassion, rather than thinking they're always the most important person in the room.

The worst behaved kids always have the most delusional parents, who make up silly excuses to do with their kids behaviour, rather than facing the fact that their child is not very nice!



#2073913 - 04/30/13 03:11 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I may have shared this tale once before, but when teaching in Germany, we had a beautiful rose garden in the center of the back yard. It was about 8 ft long and 3 ft wide. When students started in with the attitude, I invited them to look out the window and admire the beautiful roses. Then I asked them if they knew what made really great fertilizer. Usually they looked perplexed. I replied that's where I put the students who didn't practice or gave me a ration at lessons. They never knew for sure whether I was serious or just pulling their chain.


That crosses over into the really creepy territory.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2073923 - 04/30/13 03:56 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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I think ultimately you will need to fire both these students. It can seriously ruin your day knowing that you have to teach them, your entire week even.

By all means give them a warning first but in the end you need rid of them.


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#2073991 - 04/30/13 08:08 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: musicpassion]  
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Originally Posted by musicpassion
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I may have shared this tale once before, but when teaching in Germany, we had a beautiful rose garden in the center of the back yard. It was about 8 ft long and 3 ft wide. When students started in with the attitude, I invited them to look out the window and admire the beautiful roses. Then I asked them if they knew what made really great fertilizer. Usually they looked perplexed. I replied that's where I put the students who didn't practice or gave me a ration at lessons. They never knew for sure whether I was serious or just pulling their chain.


That crosses over into the really creepy territory.

Not for our non-electronic/computer generation. Prior to the 1960s, adults frequently used outlandish stories as teaching devices. Young teachers might want to invent their own, as they are most effective in controlling behavior.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#2074002 - 04/30/13 08:36 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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A local guitar shop uses hooks shaped like fingers to hold instruments on the walls. The hooks are said to be the fingers of students who did not practice.


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#2074037 - 04/30/13 09:29 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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I would talk to the parent and then to the child at the next lesson. Give them clear boundaries and enforce them. I think so far you haven't done that and you happened to have some kids that will walk all over them. Most likely the one that doesn't want to play will do whatever it takes to get kicked out, but then you will have done all that you can on your part. This will tell the parent that they shouldn't force their child to play. Let him regret it and perhaps he'll appreciate his teacher more when he returns to piano as an adult learner. Or perhaps it will be the best thing for him to not study piano.


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#2074087 - 04/30/13 10:51 AM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Whilst some of the silly mind games, mentioned above, are amusing, you should not have to stoop to this level.

Forget the 'three strikes' approach, all that does is provide licence to repeat his antics, and simply tell the student that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable, and the next time he shows you dis-respect, you will show him the door.
Sometimes, not having a second chance can work wonders.

Only you can decide how much you are prepared to take, whilst maintaining your own sanity.

Don't get me wrong, I have a reputation amongst my students/parents, for being exceptionally patient, and forgiving.
I have only ever done what I described above, once, but it had to be done.


Rob
#2074164 - 04/30/13 12:22 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: R0B]  
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Originally Posted by R0B
Whilst some of the silly mind games, mentioned above, are amusing, you should not have to stoop to this level.

Forget the 'three strikes' approach, all that does is provide licence to repeat his antics, and simply tell the student that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable, and the next time he shows you dis-respect, you will show him the door.
Sometimes, not having a second chance can work wonders.

I think perhaps you misunderstood? Showing him the door is a "strike" and the teacher determines how many times he gets kicked out of a lesson before he's dropped from the studio entirely. Or do you mean by "showing him the door" that he gets dumped from the studio right away?

If you never set rules/boundaries, then is it really fair when a student walks all over them when you've never told them how you wish to be treated in the first place? Common courtesy is not so common, and people need to be taught sometimes how to treat you. This is a teaching moment for the teacher, even if she ends up kicking him out, because then he will be knowingly doing things to test to see if she's serious about this. Personally, I would give him two chances, because usually after getting kicked out once it doesn't happen again, but it depends on the kid, and the most important thing is that the teacher be clear as to what the consequences are, and that she sees them through.



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#2074213 - 04/30/13 01:46 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Beth_Frances]  
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Virginia, USA
People, not just teachers, vary widely in their ability to deal with a rebellious or difficult child.

For some it has become a natural reflex. They know what to say to bring a child back in line without getting either party upset. Probably this isn't natural, but a skill learned by osmosis watching someone skilled, or from one's own parents if they were good at it, or perhaps in training classes at their work.

Others have to learn it. It's the separation of classroom behavior management from the education process.

It's not that hard a skill to pick up. Watching someone do it right is enormously helpful, if you pay attention.


gotta go practice
#2074257 - 04/30/13 02:48 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Bluoh Offline
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Bluoh  Offline
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Canada
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted by musicpassion
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I may have shared this tale once before, but when teaching in Germany, we had a beautiful rose garden in the center of the back yard. It was about 8 ft long and 3 ft wide. When students started in with the attitude, I invited them to look out the window and admire the beautiful roses. Then I asked them if they knew what made really great fertilizer. Usually they looked perplexed. I replied that's where I put the students who didn't practice or gave me a ration at lessons. They never knew for sure whether I was serious or just pulling their chain.


That crosses over into the really creepy territory.

Not for our non-electronic/computer generation. Prior to the 1960s, adults frequently used outlandish stories as teaching devices. Young teachers might want to invent their own, as they are most effective in controlling behavior.


Using fear to control people isn't right, in my opinion. I mean, jokes are fine, but if students are actually afraid of you, then that's way too far.

Human rights have progressed lots since the 1960s; kids are people too, and anyways, it's not healthy for you or for your students.

#2074264 - 04/30/13 02:54 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Bluoh]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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John v.d.Brook  Offline
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Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted by Bluoh
Human rights have progressed lots since the 1960s; kids are people too, and anyways, it's not healthy for you or for your students.

Really? On what planet? On planet Earth, it appears to be regressing. Especially here in the USA.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#2074271 - 04/30/13 03:01 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: TimR]  
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Joyce_dup1 Offline
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Joyce_dup1  Offline
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Chicago
What has worked best for me in dealing with a disrespectful child, is to give them a few warnings. If they persist, simply stop the lesson, tell them they may have a seat nearby, give them their music, and ask that they quietly wait for their parent. Then simply go about your business and ignore them. You may inform the parent or not, depending on circumstances. Usually, the behaviour is not repeated. If it pops up again, simply follow through with your response. I have never had it not work. But I have had the student ask to continue the lesson (on a first offense I may), repeatedly. Once they understand that finished is finished, they realize it's not wise to repeat that behavior.

Originally Posted by TimR
People, not just teachers, vary widely in their ability to deal with a rebellious or difficult child.

For some it has become a natural reflex. They know what to say to bring a child back in line without getting either party upset. Probably this isn't natural, but a skill learned by osmosis watching someone skilled, or from one's own parents if they were good at it, or perhaps in training classes at their work.

Others have to learn it. It's the separation of classroom behavior management from the education process.

It's not that hard a skill to pick up. Watching someone do it right is enormously helpful, if you pay attention.

Last edited by Joyce_dup1; 04/30/13 03:01 PM.
#2074278 - 04/30/13 03:05 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: Bluoh]  
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AZNpiano Offline
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AZNpiano  Offline
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Orange County, CA
Originally Posted by Bluoh
Using fear to control people isn't right, in my opinion. I mean, jokes are fine, but if students are actually afraid of you, then that's way too far.

Fear is just one method of teaching. It doesn't work for the great majority of kids, but for some it just might work. You might not agree with it, but in some countries/cultures fear is still being used in education. And those kids are doing way better than our kids are doing.

I just heard on the radio what Los Angeles Unified is doing with the free breakfast program. It was sheer madness. No wonder kids can't learn.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#2074308 - 04/30/13 03:34 PM Re: student mocking me rudely [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Peter K. Mose Online content
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Peter K. Mose  Online Content
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Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
[quote=Bluoh]

I just heard on the radio what Los Angeles Unified is doing with the free breakfast program. It was sheer madness. No wonder kids can't learn.


You'll have to spell this out for us, AZN. Our radios don't all receive that far.

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