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Originally Posted by Candywoman
I would do one of two things. I'd say as little as possible until she begged me to speak. Or, I'd speak up and say, the reason you've come here is for my expertise. So please allow me to finish my sentences.

I have a young boy with this problem, and I said, "Gee. You sure have a hard time accepting criticism."

He didn't say anything, but I'm sure he'll let that bounce around in his head for this week.


I was going to suggest something like this. Perhaps this person knows she's bad and she's used to being good at things. Many adult students can be like this. They have a resistance to learning not because they're old, but because they're used to being experts at their field. Then they jump into piano and all of a sudden they know nothing. It can be disconcerting for many. In this case, it sounds like this woman wants to justify the 3 years she spent/wasted with this other teacher who obviously was not capable of teaching piano.

I would speak plainly to her at her lessons. I would say something like, "You have hired me to teach you piano, but when I give you constructive criticism and attempt to correct your mistakes, you interrupt me and don't let me teach (give specific examples if you can). Would you rather I just sit back and listen to whatever you do and not teach? If you want me to teach, then you have to be willing to learn and at least listen to what I have to say. Try it and see if you like it. Otherwise your money is going to waste coming here."


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Morodiene, if I had this person as a private student, I would use that approach you suggest, which I agree with. (I try to avoid the word "criticism" as much as possible and use terms like, "suggestions to help technique" "to avoid repetitive stress injuries", etc.) I am empathetic to beginning adult students and their insecurities and frustration.

Peter - perhaps you're right, I'm not the right teacher for this student. I can't imagine another teacher listening to constant chatter while the student is playing, being interrupted everytime the teacher attempts to offer suggestions with "yeah, I know that," and reasons why she isn't following through, while making little or no attempt to correct the issues that need to be worked on.


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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Chasingrainbows, if you decide to stick with this student (as it seems you have little choice but to do), it might help you to change how you think about her.

Instead of thinking of her as trying to show off or trying to show you that she knows it all, consider that she is perhaps very insecure and all the things she doing are sort of overcompensating for that. Then instead of feeling put off, maybe you will have an easier time approaching her with empathy. (I know, this is easier said than done!)

Also, I think you have another task, which is separate from what I've written above. And that is, of course, figuring out how (if it is possible) to help her learn and improve in spite of herself (and in spite of the fact that she seems unwilling to accept and incorporate your advice). For example, if she cuts you off and says something is a neurological problem, just agree with her and then continue trying to get her to do what you're asking. if she says "I know that" you might say, "I know you know that, now let's work on how you can put that knowledge into practice, or how you can show me some physical manifestations of that knowledge."

I don't know if any of these ideas will work, but at least you can try them since you are unable to discontinue lessons. If all else fails, you might consider having a heart-to-heart with her, and saying that you really respect her previous musical experience, but you want to help her get even better than she is now (yes, butter her up) and you need her to cooperate with you a little more in terms of trying your suggestions and considering thinking about things the way you suggest. Note that I haven't said her ideas are wrong, and I don't think you should say that even if you think it. Instead try to take the perspective of convincing her to build on what she already knows.

This approach might help her accept you as her teacher without forcing her to admit that she's wrong or lacking etc.


Shiro, thanks for the input. Actually, I do often give my students example of challenges I have/had in piano, such as the tendency to tense my shoulders, or the RSI I have from improper technique when I started piano lessons. With this student, I also spoke of tendinitis I have from improper technique, and how my goal is to help students avoid injury at all costs. IMO, she's not trying to show off, rather she seems insecure and feels that she has to constantly prove that she knows everything I am attempting to share with her. I don't approach my adults as a teacher, but more as an equal who wishes to share my knowledge and experience in music, and whose goal is to bring exciting music to the studio that we love to work on. Usually, I've been quite successful, but I feel that progress will be minimal with someone who is resistant to every suggestion. I've often gone for swim lessons to improve and build on my swimming technique. I would never interrupt the coach, or constantly say "well, I know that." (I should mention that her responses are in a usually defensive, somewhat arrogant tone) What am I going for lessons for if I know everything? Truthfully, that's what I'd like to ask her, but of course, I won't. I will discuss with her what she thinks my role should be in the studio. Hopefully, she'll respond that it is to help her improve, which will then give me the opportunity to share with her that I've found it challenging to offer suggestions because of her interruptions and responses.


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Umm, can we stay on topic? smile

I was totally on topic when you responded to my post. Probably you read the one-line first paragraph and didn't read the second.
Originally Posted by keystring
The cause of the adult student's problem is that she thinks that what she learned first is the only knowledge that exists. As long as she thinks this, she will continue acting this way. That's cause and effect too.

Of course this is a hypothesis. I dashed it out on the tail of a different discussion.

Here is the expanded version:

Whatever musical experience we come in with, is what we think playing music is. It's what we know, and it becomes our context. What we (think we) know also becomes a filter, blocking what the teacher might teach us - except we're not aware of that filter. Even knowing what it means to learn and how to practice is affected. First the student has to be willing to open their eyes to new things, and that is a hard cycle to break. They think the water is fine right where they are. They may also be impressed with their own playing because that's what they know and how they hear.

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In this case, it sounds like this woman wants to justify the 3 years she spent/wasted with this other teacher who obviously was not capable of teaching piano.

How do we know that for sure it is previous teacher's fault? Maybe is the student's attitude problem contribute to this?


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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
Quote
In this case, it sounds like this woman wants to justify the 3 years she spent/wasted with this other teacher who obviously was not capable of teaching piano.

How do we know that for sure it is previous teacher's fault? Maybe is the student's attitude problem contribute to this?
Doesn't matter, really. Anything we say is just speculation. Either way, the response to the student would be the same regardless of why.


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Originally Posted by piano2
I often use the "switch roles" technique with my children and teens.
I will say - "Now you're the teacher. I will play and you can tell me what I could do differently."
Sometimes I have to exaggerate the problem in my playing, but most kids are very quick to notice what needs improvement. Then I ask them to play and listen to their own advice. I find this technique very effective because the student has to be more aware than if you just tell them what to do.
You could try this with adults. I don't know how it would work...


It should work the same way with adults. I've used a similar approach with my college freshman art history students where they have to "teach" me as if I don't know a thing about art. This helps them be engaged in understanding concepts and internalizing what they've been taught.

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Just a wacko thought in another direction.

It does not sound as if this student has yet come to trust you or assign credibility to your expertise.

That is most likely due to her character rather than your teaching.

But that doesn't mean it is permanent. She apparently did bond with her last teacher, we just don't know how long it took. So she probably is capable given some time.

Perhaps you need to "show off" a bit occasionally to enhance your status. Drop a few names, mention that duet you played with Horowitz, the joke you told Borge, the gig you had with Eric Clapton. Be playing the F-I when she arrives (you only have to learn the first four bars if you time it right).

Your stress level and dread of the next lesson should come way down as you build this relationship.


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Keystring, sorry, I totally missed that response. Thanks for the reply back. smile

ezpiano, we really don't know why the student hasn't absorbed the simple concepts like "slightly curved hand", smooth playing (legato), dynamics, note reading, other than her claims of "neurological" issues, "inability to multi-task," "confused by layout of studio piano."

A Rebours, thanks. I should have mentioned this adult is in her late 40's. Not sure if that approach would work, but I have used it in my younger students, and they really love to play "teacher."

TimR, that's very possible that she doesn't have much faith in me yet. YOu make a great suggestion about showing off. When I started "showing off" to my students with parts of advanced pieces, I noticed a positive change in attitude. For example, my 2d recital piece as a youngster was "Theme from Exodus" and the next was Sinding's "Rustles of Spring". When I tell them that I could play Rustles after 2 school years of lessons, they are quite amazed and motivated. Of course, I do play pieces for them when giving presenting new potential pieces to learn.


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As an adult learner, I tend to agree with those who think this student is very insecure.

She took lessons for 3 years. I suspect she's reeling as she finds out that her new teacher thinks she should be doing everything differently. She may have come to you thinking she was actually a pretty good piano player.

The talking while playing should be easy to stop. If she isn't counting out loud she should be counting in her head. If she isn't doing either then tell her you want to count out loud for her. She'll need to stop talking to hear you or to count herself. Ditch the metronome in the meantime.

You want to fix a lot of her basic skills. Why not introduce the correct techniques as being ADVANCED, not basic? In other words, instead of implying that her hand/finger position is wrong, tell her that she seems ready to go on to the advanced hand position that concert pianists use.

In other words, put a completely different spin on her level of proficiency. She's done 3 years of lessons, and now she's ready to tackle the advanced stuff - which you won't tell her is really the elementary stuff.

It's not dishonest. It's just a type of etiquette, really. It makes social situations smooth, like "No, that dress doesn't make your rear look big," or "Your okra-raisin souffle is delicious! May I have the recipe?"

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Originally Posted by BrainCramp

You want to fix a lot of her basic skills. Why not introduce the correct techniques as being ADVANCED, not basic? In other words, instead of implying that her hand/finger position is wrong, tell her that she seems ready to go on to the advanced hand position that concert pianists use.

In other words, put a completely different spin on her level of proficiency. She's done 3 years of lessons, and now she's ready to tackle the advanced stuff - which you won't tell her is really the elementary stuff.
This is great stuff! thumb


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Actually, the basic things ARE advanced, and they ARE the hallmark of professional musicians.

One of the worst things that is done to students, especially those who start at a late age, is the idea of letting them "progress fast" or having them feel they are playing "impressive music" early, by skipping over the "boring stuff". They don't develop the foundations in skills, don't develop the right habits from the get go, don't develop an ear to their own playing, but get convinced that this way of working is good and their playing is good. When you know there are foundations, and that going after them is what gives success, this also mitigates anxiety because it isn't up to your "talent" (which may fail you). Professional musicians may appear carefree as they perform, but they work meticulously to get there.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Actually, the basic things ARE advanced, and they ARE the hallmark of professional musicians.

One of the worst things that is done to students, especially those who start at a late age, is the idea of letting them "progress fast" or having them feel they are playing "impressive music" early, by skipping over the "boring stuff". They don't develop the foundations in skills, don't develop the right habits from the get go, don't develop an ear to their own playing, but get convinced that this way of working is good and their playing is good. When you know there are foundations, and that going after them is what gives success, this also mitigates anxiety because it isn't up to your "talent" (which may fail you). Professional musicians may appear carefree as they perform, but they work meticulously to get there.
Of course, but presenting the same material in such a way as it is advanced work to be this meticulous about something rather than treating it like rudimentary I think is a great way to help an adult student overcome her resistance.


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I agree completely.

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It's true that re-framing the material is often a successful technique for getting past a very resistant student's 20-foot wall topped with concertina wire. However, truly speaking, there is little you can really do about the student's abrasive personality.

It is available, however, to work on your own response to it. Your time together is an excellent opportunity to work on your deep-breathing and other deep relaxation techniques. As Swami reminds us, "Noise is no barrier to meditation." And, every once in a long while, this relaxed state may allow you to see a gate in the high wall; everyone has a door somewhere.


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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
And, every once in a long while, this relaxed state may allow you to see a gate in the high wall; everyone has a door somewhere.


Lovely observation, Jeff. This is what keeps piano teaching fun.

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Braincamp's suggestions are excellent and I will certainly use them in the future. Just as a reminder, this student is resistant or knows everything I attempt to introduce (every week) such as articulation (simple legato in a phrase), technique, notes. I am certainly in need of improvement in my teaching methods, but one thing I learned from an excellent prior teacher was that I always start with the positive things a student has done and then move on to working on challenges, again, commenting on positive things done, and then commenting on what can be improved. If a student is resistant, interrupting constantly and making constant excuses, it seems like a waste of her money and my time.

How would you approach this attitude with an adult? I was going to ask the student was her expectations of a teacher are, what are her goals, and then move on to discuss that I find it difficult to meet those goals (assuming they are to play more musically, read better, improve rhythm), because of the responses, interruptions and excuses.


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Smart of you to seek advice here.


1 Asking her goals and how you can help her meet them, putting it in writing for both of you gives an agreed upon frame of reference. Review it intermittently together.

2 Think of suggestions as you mentioned as a praise sandwich :
Positive comment
Suggestion
positive comment.

3. After she plays ask if she'd like to hear some ideas.

Be careful to offer only 2 suggestions at a time. More can be overwhelming and useless. (just violated this here!)

Sounds like you really want to help n care. That's great!





Last edited by manyhands; 01/17/14 01:00 PM.

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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows

I was going to ask the student was her expectations of a teacher are, what are her goals, and then move on to discuss that I find it difficult to meet those goals (assuming they are to play more musically, read better, improve rhythm), because of the responses, interruptions and excuses.

Chasingrainbows, I think with this woman that would make things worse. If you even hint that YOU'RE finding it difficult, she'll feel even more insecure, will feel like she's a burden on you (which I know she is, but never mind that), etc. She may quit, or continue with lessons but practice less and whine more.

And at her level, her goal is just to play the piano better. A conversation around goals is just going to mystify her.

Currently you're trying to have an adult-to-adult, adult-to-friendly coach relationship with her. That's not working.

I'd try treating her exactly the way you would an 8-year-old student. You're the authority figure. She's the kid. You wouldn't tell an 8-year-old how her behavior makes you feel, would you?

For example, when she interrupts, just say something like, "My students aren't allowed to interrupt! You can ask questions when we're done." And forge ahead.

When she gives excuses, say, "Rome wasn't built in a day! That's why you need to practice!" And just forge ahead. Don't let her sidetrack you into a conversation around excuses.

Some of the best teachers I've ever had as an adult, in all types of subjects, were the "drill sergeant" type.

To be honest, I have wonderful excuses for why I can't play the piano. Mostly, my brain cramps up when I ask it to do several things simultaneously.

If I had a sympathetic teacher who let me make excuses, and discussed them, I'm sure I'd keep spouting the excuses. But if my teacher's attitude was, "Suck it up and keep doing what I tell you", I'd get determined to make some progress.

You don't have to be unpleasant, but don't try to be her friend. You may be unconsciously "enabling" her bad behavior.

To be honest, I think the interruptions and excuses may drop off once she gains more confidence - if you can hang on that long!


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I'd like to address the issue that this student thinks it's OK to play and talk at the same time. It isn't! When you talk you are not giving playing your full attention. I have this same issue with an adult student who, at work, is a high achiever - she multi tasks. But she can't do it on piano.

When you play piano, you need to give it your full attention.

For example, you may direct the student to play a simple passage with one hand (no tempo) and to attend to the fingers - that they stay on the keys, ready to be used. This trains the fingers to work well.

Or you may ask her to attend to getting the rhythm *right* (and point out where it is wrong - sorry I believe this has to be done sometimes). You may need to record her playing to 'prove' to her where she is going wrong.

Of course this may backfire if she can't hear her own mistakes, soooo....

You can ask her to listen - really listen - with full attention. Listen one time for legato. Another time for pulse. Another time for tonality. Give her good recordings to listen to (e.g youtube).

It is all about attention, and she will get nowhere as she is.

And you as a teacher, need to be prepared to take charge. If you start drowning, your swimming coach will jump in and get you. Well, the student is drowning!

Edit: Don't take any crap about flying fingers. It is not a neurological problem. It is a common beginners issue, cause by tension, as the fingers have not yet learned to move independently, and how to relax after movement. Every single good player overcomes it.

Last edited by ten left thumbs; 01/17/14 01:29 PM.
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