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Avoiding "Good job!" #2779139
11/07/18 11:01 PM
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I came across this article a while back and have been digesting it for a while. The movie Whiplash also touches on it, albeit at the collegiate level.

https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/five-reasons-stop-saying-good-job/

I am definitely guilty of being a "Good Job"er. Habit really. Did they come close to playing it sorta, kinda well enough? (for their personal level and ability)....I'd toss out a "Good Job!" or "Not bad" or "Good save".

But I've been working on changing my bad habits. Now I acknowledge "Yes, that's correct" without any other judgement, and then, only if I get that over the shoulder look of, "Am I doing this correctly?"
Instead of saying, "I really liked this and that" I ask them to point out the places in the piece where they clearly followed the directions. That usually leads to some quality question and answer conversation.

Previously, when I'd do the "This is all the stuff that was good", I'd then follow it up with, "and these are all the parts that need correction".
or ask "What do you think I'm going to say needs improvement". Now I ask them to point out the areas they think needs improvement, leading to more quality conversation.

I think praise is still important, but more along the lines of, "You've been so prepared for you lessons lately, keep doing what you're doing because you're making progress".

This will take me time, reconfiguring my means of praise and correction, but I thought it would make an interesting topic here.
How do you guys praise your juvenile students?

Also, if I were a gambling woman, I'd put $5,000 down that someone will hi-jack this thread and make it all about something else entirely in less than 7 replies.

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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779142
11/07/18 11:23 PM
11/07/18 11:23 PM
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Yeah, good question. I realized after a student would play through a piece, my immediate reaction would be to say "Good job!" even if I really did not feel they did a good job, and then it would sound kind of disingenuous. It all feels awkward for me. What do other piano teachers say after you have a student play through a piece for you?


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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779161
11/08/18 01:04 AM
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I give specifics with my praise: "Your dotted quarter and eighth note were right in time," for example. I don't give general "good job" comments; they got really sickening to hear from parents or school teachers who bought into the "Catch them while they're being good" philosophy--the most ill-behaved children would get the most "Good job"s because everyone was watching them so hard for the tiniest bit of behavior that wasn't obnoxious, so that they could praise them for something.

My apologies if that comment takes this thread in a different direction. wink

Considering the age of a piano student is important. Asking kids who have been playing piano for a while to assess their playing is a good way to see how well they're listening to what they're doing. Ultimately we want them to gain in the ability to be their own teacher, as it were, during the week. But young, inexperienced players need constructive feedback about what they're doing correctly and incorrectly before they can learn to self-assess and adjust.

So I would say that more teacher feedback is needed in the early stages, so that the young ones can learn how or how not to do a thing, and more student feedback (answering questions we pose) is appropriate for the older students, so that we teachers can get evidence of our students' thought processes as they proceed through the years.

Accentuating effort over results is another thing I try to do. Better to say, "I can tell you worked hard on this section--your tempo stays consistent all the way through the piece this week" than to say, "You're good at keeping the pulse." Praising effort encourages more effort; praising results can sometimes result in kids who shy away from challenges because they're afraid they won't get a "Good job" assessment at the end of something difficult. They dare less, and want to take the easiest route possible, when they've been labeled as good, or talented, or something like that. Living up to that assessment becomes an eternally nerve-wracking quest.

My two cents. smile

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779165
11/08/18 01:19 AM
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Ooooh...."Praising effort encourages more effort".

That is teaching gold right there! YES.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779170
11/08/18 01:42 AM
11/08/18 01:42 AM
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My two cents as an adult student: for some unknown reason, my teacher has changed in the last two months. Previously, it was ‘measure 8 needs xxxx’ or ‘let’s look at measure 8’. Now, it is ‘measure 7 was great but measure 8 .....’

I HATE it! as I feel like the comment ‘measure 7 was great’ is a disingenuous effort not to be overly critical with the upcoming measure 8 observation . Constructive criticism doesn’t need to be paired with something that went well.... as a teacher, don’t hunt for the ‘good’.

As this didn’t stop, I recently told her that I feel the previous structure of correction was perfect. Time will tell if she quits working so hard to be so positive. I don’t need it and it doesn’t feel honest. If it continues, I will pull my hair out.

Just a thought from the older peanut gallery.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779173
11/08/18 02:37 AM
11/08/18 02:37 AM
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I'm the opposite. I criticize and criticize and criticize until they do it right, then I say nothing.

Praise is overrated.


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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779174
11/08/18 02:55 AM
11/08/18 02:55 AM
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I remember having a "Mr. Positive" teacher. The problem was that I couldn't tell the difference between "Well done! The coda was really great!" and "It was dire apart from the coda." There were times I played badly, and if he had said so, any praise I had earned would have meant something.

My teacher after him was the opposite. I felt like he was trying to destroy my confidence, as did other former students of his.

Still, if a student plays badly, they need to know. Sometimes learning a piece can feel like being in the middle of a vortex. It can be so hard to be objective.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779211
11/08/18 07:23 AM
11/08/18 07:23 AM
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If we are working on one specific element, I like to give the student a rating like "3 out of 5 stars" or "8 out of 10". Then we work out how to bring the score closer to "5 stars". Later on I get the student to rate themselves to help fine tune their listening skills.
For a few students (the more impulsive, less reflective ones), my approach is perhaps closer to AZN's-- they don't really pay attention when I point out what they are doing correctly, so I have to be really direct when correcting.
I agree that "good job" can become meaningless over time, and I've even caught myself saying "good" out of habit, when the student's playing was really not so good!


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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779214
11/08/18 07:50 AM
11/08/18 07:50 AM
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I’m the eighth reply. Phew!

I have always thought of teaching as facilitating learning. If the student learns to know when they have done ‘a good job’, you have been succesful. No need to repeat the obvious.

It’s like standing ovations. They used to occur rarely when an ‘extraordinary’ performance occurred, not for an ‘entirely adequate’ performance.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779216
11/08/18 08:02 AM
11/08/18 08:02 AM
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I'm not sure how much I agree with that article. It raises some interesting points, but I think it really has to be taken student by student. Some students are very unsure of themselves, especially at first, so a lot of positive reinforcement is needed. (Overconfident students, or students with a sense of entitlement, tend to not last long in my studio once they find out that I except them to, you know, actually practice.)

I agree that specific feedback is preferable, but sometimes a quick "good job" is appropriate.

What really distresses me is when students (mostly young girls) turn on the waterworks. As a male teacher (and a big softy), that really gets me. So I try to avoid that as much as possible while still pointing out what needs improvement. With these students I stress repeatedly that my goal is to help them get better, and that any criticism I make is to help improve their playing.

But I have other students who want me to be more like a tough Marine drill sergeant. That doesn't come naturally to me, but with these students I don't temper my criticism. I have one adult student who practices a minimum of three hours every day and thus is progressing rapidly. She wants me to be tough on her playing, so that's what she gets. And I can be confident that if I point anything out to her, she'll try her darndest to fix it by the next lesson.

Quote
Instead of saying, "I really liked this and that" I ask them to point out the places in the piece where they clearly followed the directions. That usually leads to some quality question and answer conversation.


This sounds like a good idea.

Quote
Also, if I were a gambling woman, I'd put $5,000 down that someone will hi-jack this thread and make it all about something else entirely in less than 7 replies.


Steinway sux. Can I have half your winnings?


Austin Rogers, PhD
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Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko", Baldwin Upright, Yamaha P-255
Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779226
11/08/18 08:47 AM
11/08/18 08:47 AM
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I'm not a big fan of "Good job!" but it is WAY better than the "Good boy!" or "Good girl!" economy that I was raised under.

The trick is to help children learn to see their worth and the outcome of their as different things while learning that their approach to work is an indication of their character. As a student, I have to know that I am still a decent person, even if measure 8 or the entire piece still needs a lot of work. I also need to learn that consistent and correct practice will result in improvement, and that failing to practice and lying about it will result in lack of progress and and unpleasant lessons.

Some learners understand this intrinsically and others don't.


I've been trying to change my signature quote for weeks.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779241
11/08/18 10:14 AM
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I am a fan of "I see you are working hard"

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Puylly Fog] #2779267
11/08/18 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Puylly Fog
I am a fan of "I see you are working hard"



Yes. And that can give an opportunity to look at the big picture with a little trip down memory lane: "Remember when that [technique, or whatever] was hard for you? Look how all your hard work helped you breeze through a [passage, piece] like that now!"

Reinforcing long-term effort with earned praise helps encourage sustained effort, in my estimation.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779293
11/08/18 01:41 PM
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Also agree with you Andamento.
It shifts the attention from the result (which is desirable) to the process. It teaches the value of dedication and the ability to improve. The time it gets you getting somewhere is not as important, as long as you keep moving. Also the reward is not in being able to play the passage, but on the learning itself.

That creates a positive association to learning. Practice is actually what lets you have fun (for those looking to the fan part of it too)

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: dogperson] #2779299
11/08/18 01:54 PM
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As another older student, I feel very much like dog person. I told my teacher in the beginning that l wanted to be able to play as well as possible and wanted him to be tough on me. He tends to be that way anyway and praise is not very frequentl and I am fine with that. At least if I do get any praise from him, I know it means something.
If a teacher tells me something is good that I know is not, I do not find that encouraging . In fact it just makes me think that if you are telling me this is good, you must not think I am capable of playing it any better. However I also agree with Dr. Rogers that it depends on the student. A friend of mine was taking from my teacher and it was not a good fit. She is very sensitive and his bluntness made her want to give up. She needed a teacher who was very nurturing and gentle.


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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Puylly Fog] #2779312
11/08/18 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Puylly Fog
I am a fan of "I see you are working hard"

Eww...

That sentence is almost always followed with BUT... and then more criticism. It's like an empty phrase. It doesn't mean anything.

I will only use that sentence with students who are hopeless. For me, if you have to praise the student for the effort, that means the student will NEVER succeed.


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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: AZNpiano] #2779321
11/08/18 03:25 PM
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AZN,

I usually agree with you, but not this time.

It is a phrase widely used in Montessori environments, and it nurtures the curiosity, and it works. It is not praise, and it is not empty.

What you have to avoid is the BUT afterwards. Criticism is not necessary, just instruction.

It is not that you praise for the effort, it is that because the student worked hard, you see the difference. They are actually progressing according to their ability.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Puylly Fog] #2779328
11/08/18 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Puylly Fog
AZN,

I usually agree with you, but not this time.

It is a phrase widely used in Montessori environments, and it nurtures the curiosity, and it works. It is not praise, and it is not empty.

What you have to avoid is the BUT afterwards. Criticism is not necessary, just instruction.

It is not that you praise for the effort, it is that because the student worked hard, you see the difference. They are actually progressing according to their ability.


The OP was specifically referring to juveniles, so I suppose the idea of being praised for working hard might be a carrot for a few students.

As an adult, I would feel insulted. “Of course I am working hard, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it, so don’t insult me. Tell me why you think my playing is so crappy that you had to say that.” - Is what I would say to that person.

Criticism is absolutely essential to learning, both self generated and external. Otherwise, how can a student know if they have accomplished a task?

Critism of a task is not the same as criticsm of a person, and it takes a sensitive teacher/parent/coach to explain to a juvenile the difference.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779365
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I say "good job" a lot, but this is because I work in steps, and when a step is completed, for me that IS a good job. I also say "Got it!" "Nailed it!" "Done!"

But only when something is completed and right. Never otherwise.

I'm trying to teach that success is about building, and if you work one step at a time, you can eventually complete amazing things.

But I also say:

No, it's not right. Let's try again.

You did not do what I told you to do, and that's why it didn't work.

Well, this is exactly what we did last week. Groundhog Day!

Wrong practice makes you perfectly wrong.

For me lots of praise, because I like people to feel good about working with me, but I'm very direct about things that are not right.

I also ask for a specific way of practicing, and when I don't get it, I don't budge. Not with a 5 year-old, not with someone 85. I'm not teaching people how to fail, and if I say "Good job!" when things are wrong, I'm teaching how to fail.


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Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: prout] #2779367
11/08/18 06:17 PM
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Looks like I did not explain my idea clearly. Maybe I should participate more smile I am going to give it another go, let's see if I succeed now.

I was referring to juveniles too, and how the reward should the learning itself. However children sometimes need reassuring, and focusing on the hard work is always better, and often leading to more work than a "Good job!" .

I work hard too, although my progress is slower that I would like, and I do not expect my teacher to say "I see you are working hard", I would also feel insulted. I expect a comment on what needs working that I did not realize.

The type of criticism that starts with BUT... (and tends to be perceived as negative and stopping there) is the one I was referring to as not necessary. English is not my first language, and it is possible that I am limiting the meaning of the word. If your definition of criticism includes evaluation I absolutely agree that it is essential to learning. The main reason we are seeking instruction is because of what cannot do yet, I expect the teacher to point that out, make a comment (you may call it criticism or something else), and provide instruction on how to work.

On the student teacher relationship, I think children know that the teacher is there to work with them, that they will make observations on what needs improving, and that is part of the learning process. At the end of the day they have usually been exposed to teachers already. If it is done in a natural way, and the child sees this piano teacher simply as one more, it should not be a problem.

I think we have all agreed so far that the role of the teacher is not to praise. It may be included occasionally (or hardly ever for some). I jokingly say that praising is part of the role of the grandmother.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Puylly Fog] #2779369
11/08/18 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Puylly Fog
Also agree with you Andamento.
It shifts the attention from the result (which is desirable) to the process. It teaches the value of dedication and the ability to improve. The time it gets you getting somewhere is not as important, as long as you keep moving. Also the reward is not in being able to play the passage, but on the learning itself.

That creates a positive association to learning. Practice is actually what lets you have fun (for those looking to the fan part of it too)


Well said, Puylly Fog. Dedication, continuing progress, joy in the journey...these are all aspects of why the process is so important.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: AZNpiano] #2779370
11/08/18 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Puylly Fog
I am a fan of "I see you are working hard"

Eww...

That sentence is almost always followed with BUT... and then more criticism. It's like an empty phrase. It doesn't mean anything.

I will only use that sentence with students who are hopeless. For me, if you have to praise the student for the effort, that means the student will NEVER succeed.


I disagree that telling a student s/he's working hard means the student is hopeless and will never succeed. There's a place for encouraging effort in any student. (OK, juvenile. I wouldn't do that with an adult.) Learning to work hard is a good life lesson, and I think a little positive reinforcement (not excessive) regarding one's effort encourages students to apply themselves, rather than rest on their laurels, thinking they're such great players they don't have to work.

Inflated praise about their results is counter-productive and just plain wrong; judicious praise, used sparingly and meritoriously, regarding their efforts in the process, encourages stick-to-itiveness, IMO.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: prout] #2779373
11/08/18 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by prout
The OP was specifically referring to juveniles...


This is an important distinction. You're right, the OP wasn't speaking of adult students.


Originally Posted by prout
Criticism is absolutely essential to learning, both self generated and external. Otherwise, how can a student know if they have accomplished a task?


Totally agree. And the form the criticism takes (not attacking the person, but attacking the problem) can be an encouragement, as well.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Gary D.] #2779374
11/08/18 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
I say "good job" a lot, but this is because I work in steps, and when a step is completed, for me that IS a good job. I also say "Got it!" "Nailed it!" "Done!"

But only when something is completed and right. Never otherwise.

I'm trying to teach that success is about building, and if you work one step at a time, you can eventually complete amazing things.

But I also say:

No, it's not right. Let's try again.

You did not do what I told you to do, and that's why it didn't work.

Well, this is exactly what we did last week. Groundhog Day!

Wrong practice makes you perfectly wrong.

For me lots of praise, because I like people to feel good about working with me, but I'm very direct about things that are not right.

I also ask for a specific way of practicing, and when I don't get it, I don't budge. Not with a 5 year-old, not with someone 85. I'm not teaching people how to fail, and if I say "Good job!" when things are wrong, I'm teaching how to fail.


This is quite similar to how I work, except I don't say the "good job" part. "Got it!" Yes, that I do say. smile

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Puylly Fog] #2779379
11/08/18 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Puylly Fog
Maybe I should participate more smile


I hope you do. smile I enjoy reading your contributions on this thread. Thank you.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779390
11/08/18 07:32 PM
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IMO, all of us here understand the need for encouragement and for positive constructive criticism. This has been a rational discussion. “Good Job!” - I’d say. crazy

What I haven’t heard is how to deal with behaviour or attitudes that are destructive to the learning environment.

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: SchroedersCat] #2779391
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Posts: 4,065
Southwestern Ontario
OT, sort of. I used to teach ab initio flying, and in some cases, the student got their flying license before they learned to drive. I also, as chief pilot, taught airline pilots to fly new jet equipment. Needless to say, task based criticism was essential. One didn’t say ‘Good job!” to someone because they only killed everyone in the simulator three out of four times in this session.

As we used to say, flying is one of the few jobs where you have to bat 1000, but get paid 1000th what a baseball player who bats 300 gets.


Last edited by prout; 11/08/18 07:39 PM.
Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: Andamento] #2779397
11/08/18 08:34 PM
11/08/18 08:34 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,212
Canada
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
keystring  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,212
Canada
I'd like to address this one specifically, if that's ok.
Originally Posted by Andamento
..... parents or school teachers who bought into the "Catch them while they're being good" philosophy--the most ill-behaved children would get the most "Good job"s because everyone was watching them so hard for the tiniest bit of behavior that wasn't obnoxious, so that they could praise them for something.

During my teacher training I interned with one senior teacher who was an especially good teacher (imho). She gave me this saying, but she also taught me how to use it. You get a lot of "popularized" things where folks mouth a saying and think they are using an approach when they're not. I found what I was taught to be highly effective if done properly, and it does not have those results.

Let's start with the opposite scenario. You get a child who is ignored and maybe neglected, and the only time he ever gets attention is when he is being bad. In a group setting, each time you punish him or reprimand him, he does get attention while the well behaved children are invisible. If you ignore the bad behaviour, it escalates and the environment suffers. The child may be misbehaving because of low self esteem, he thinks he can't do anything right, can't succeed.

Now if he sharpens his pencil and goes back to his desk, and you say out loud how nice it is to see Jerry getting ready to do his spelling work, you can see all the other kids working more earnestly. This actually happened, and the kid wanted to poke someone with that pencil until I made that comment, and then he did apply himself to his spelling work. The behaviour of several such children improved in the year that I had them. Their work and their learning improved, which in itself drives up self esteem. Obviously: if he is doing his spelling, he will get better at spelling. You pay attention to specific behaviours that you want to see, and which will promote learning. And you do that for all the students, not just the "bad kid". My guys were grade 2, ages 7 - 9. At that age they want adult approval and guidance.

I might change the saying to "Catch them while they're DOING good." (I know it's grammatically incorrect). You could go into educational psychology, and start talking about "reinforcing desired behaviour for desired outcomes". But how about just calling it guidance?


Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: keystring] #2779407
11/08/18 09:56 PM
11/08/18 09:56 PM
Joined: Dec 2017
Posts: 220
USA
A
Andamento Offline
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Andamento  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2017
Posts: 220
USA
Hi Keystring,

Rather than answering here, I sent you a PM. smile

Re: Avoiding "Good job!" [Re: dogperson] #2779429
11/09/18 01:19 AM
11/09/18 01:19 AM
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 682
California
hello my name is Offline
500 Post Club Member
hello my name is  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 682
California
Originally Posted by dogperson
My two cents as an adult student: for some unknown reason, my teacher has changed in the last two months. Previously, it was ‘measure 8 needs xxxx’ or ‘let’s look at measure 8’.


So for all of you teachers here, once the student plays the piece, would this be the first thing out of your mouth?
For some reason that feels awkward for me to do to anyone except for my husband who I am not afraid to criticize :P


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