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If you were this boys parent what would you want me to do?

(31 Posts)
bobbybob Thu 26-May-05 23:28:11

I teach lots of children music. They all have different ways of approaching things, and I am very flexible.

I have one 10 year old boy who is totally different and I want some advice on what to do next.

My enrollment form asks about health problems/learning disabilities - Mother written "None".
He has no concentration AT ALL
He guesses the answer to everything - even if you ask the same question twice (so you know he knows the answer)
He will write bits of music the wrong way around week after week (more like it's right to him that way - than that he simply wasn't listening)
He has real issues with questions such as "which is the high note?" when looking at them on the music.
He frequently sounds awful because he just plonks his hands anywhere on the keyboard and then starts.
He has made absolutely no progress in a whole term.
His note book from his old teacher shows it took him 6 weeks to learn a piece that should really take 2 (which suggests she went through the piece note by note with him rather than him "learning" it himself.

So it you were the parents, would you want me to

1) "Invite" you to a lesson more forcibly(they are always welcome but choose to stay in the car). Coming to a lesson may not help because they will have no idea what a more typical lesson would be like.

2) Call and ask if he has any learning issues at school.

3) Something else I haven't thought of.

I'm sorry this is so long, but I wanted to give detail to show that it isn't a personality clash or anything. He is sunny and warm and always looks pleased to see me.

Gwenick Thu 26-May-05 23:30:00

I'd do number 2 - and if the answer is no I'd do my utmost to explain diplomatically as possible that he really doesn't seem to have a clue, and is making no progress, and perhaps they should find a different 'hobby' for him to do.

Do you know if he wanted to learn, did his parents want him to learn???

bobbybob Thu 26-May-05 23:33:14

He enjoys it - and if I just knew that he was just hopeless at the piano I could adjust my teaching, even doing the dreaded note by note method if it helps.

If it's a different disability then it would be helpful to talk to someone else who teaches him to get some tips.

Janh Thu 26-May-05 23:33:33

Well, if he is happy to come to lessons, and they are happy with what he's doing (or not doing!) and you can stand to go on attempting to teach him (???), I don't see what you can do, really. TBH, if it was me, I would want to know that it's a waste of time and money; maybe they just want him to "have piano lessons" without necessarily getting anywhere?

What did they say when he first came to you? Does he have a piano at home to practise on? Do they know what an awful noise he makes?

aloha Thu 26-May-05 23:35:40

Um, I wouldn't personally want you to suggest my son might have something wrong with him, mentally. I might want you to ask to talk to me and to say, very gently, that he isn't making progress and that although you find him delightful, sunny and charming and a pleasure to be with, he really doesn't seem to be getting a lot out of his lessons and explain why and then leave it to me to decide what to do. Unless, of course, you don't want him as a pupil.

hatsoff Thu 26-May-05 23:40:09

fwiw my mum always said that my brother had what she could only describe as musical dyslexia. perfetly bright and capable in lots of other areas and no other learning difficulties but - apparently - just ^could not^ grasp music. He had lessons for several months and couldn't read a note. If I were you I would make up some bunkum to these parents about how you always like to have a 2/3/4 month review with the parents to give them feedback and then bring up these issues diplomatically - that way you get to talk to them but you don't appear as if you're making a special case. I would also be honest, and if i were a parent I would want you to be.

hatsoff Thu 26-May-05 23:40:48

just realised that may be taken as misconstruing dyslexia. if so apologies

bobbybob Thu 26-May-05 23:42:34

Yes, that was my thing Aloha, if there is a problem and she hasn't written it on the form then she obviously doesn't want me to know.

I am happy to go on teaching him with him going nowhere, several of my pupils don't get anywhere much, but that's because they don't practise. This just feels different. I feel he has talent, I just don't know how to unlock it.

They interviewed 3 teachers before picking me. He does have a piano at home. I have only had one other family that interviewed loads of teachers, and I got the same vibes from that girl as I do from the boy. I declined to teach the girl as I felt bad taking another student with the same challenges as I didn't understand how to.

Of course I just told the mother that as it had taken 2 weeks to get back to me I was now full, very sorry etc.

Chandra Thu 26-May-05 23:44:47

What about starting a conversation with the parents in the likes of "do you have any concern for his skills at the piano" and then when they say anything you can mention that if there is anything you should know that may help you improve his achievments with the instrument. If they say they don't know, mention about the things you have noticed, maybe mentioning that you really appreciate the child is enjoying the lesson but you are seeing that things are not advancing in the average way. If they don't say anything at this point it may be the case that they don't know there's a problem or they don't want to accept there is one, or that in reality there is no problem at all. In that case if they are happy to continue even if there's no much improvement, probably that the only thing to do...

Does this makes sense?

Janh Thu 26-May-05 23:45:37

Maybe that should be your approach to his parents then, bb - "I feel he has talent but I don't know how to unlock it"?

Chandra Thu 26-May-05 23:46:01

ooops crossposted...

CountessDracula Thu 26-May-05 23:48:45

Surely he could just be inherently un-musical. I come from a fairly musical family and I can remember kids at school who just couldn't get it at all.

swedishmum Fri 27-May-05 00:04:31

As a music teacher am amazed you posted on here. Why not simply have a chat to the parents - always tries hard, not much progress, stuck for ideas, happy to carry on but just to let you know. Hardly rocket science. Happens a lot in the real world.

bobbybob Fri 27-May-05 00:09:48

I'd rather get some opinions from some other parents before I go to his, because I've not come across this before. I am also a mum swedishmum, but my ds is only 2.

I have read threads where teachers have been critised for being too uninterested/heavyhanded/have no idea how to talk to parents etc. and so though I would get some wisdom before I become one of those teachers. That's hardly rocket science either.

Gwenick Fri 27-May-05 00:23:42

I agree with you booobbob (as another music teacher - albeit one with no pupils at the moment LOL).

It's certainly a difficult one you describe - especially as you've indicated that his mother say she has no learning difficulties - yet he appears to have no concentration etc etc.

I've worked in schools before, and know that in the staffroom TRAINED teachers would often ask each other for 'advice' about 'unusual' situations........

SofiaAmes Fri 27-May-05 00:24:20

I am totally unmusical and tone deaf. I took violin (god, what were my parents thinking!) and piano as a child and practiced diligently 30 minutes every day for 7 years. In all that time I don't think I progressed as much as my brother did in 1 year of no practicing at all. I still loved it and thoroughly enjoyed lessons and practicing. I also did exceptionally well in all my school subjects, just couldn't "feel' the music.

I think you should speak nicely to the parents and just point out that he isn't progressing as much as you would hope and that you are happy to teach him as long as they were aware of that. Maybe, like my parents, they just want him to get an awareness of music and how it works and aren't actually too concerned with his being a skilled player. (As an aside, I think it's a little sad how much emphasis is placed in this country on achieving exam results in music, when really it would be nice just to play and enjoy it even if you are not particularly talented).

Swedishmum, I don't see why you should be so amazed about bobbybob's question. Maybe she just doesn't have the experience that you do with that particular type of student. Or perhaps she's looking for a new and different way of dealing with that type of student. I think that's a wonderful quality for a teacher to have, because not all students learn or relate to their teacher in the same way.

ghosty Fri 27-May-05 02:32:56

Swedishmum ... I am a bit shocked at your post to bobbybob! Why shouldn't she ask for advice ... and the comment on 'rocket science' is just rude ... sorry but it is!
Bobbybob ... if it was my DS I would like you to do what aloha suggested. I would want to know that my DS wasn't making progress but not made to feel that he was a hopeless case (no mum wants to hear that, no matter how bad their child is at something).
To be honest I would be the type of mum that would want to be there watching the lesson ... then I would have worked out for myself that DS wasn't getting anywhere.
Let us know how you get on ...

happymerryberries Fri 27-May-05 06:37:23

It can't be very difficult to discuss these sorts of things with parents. I would advise you to have a chat with the mum, and to do it face to face, rather than over the phone. It is much easier for both of you to 'read' the situation if you can see expressions etc.

I'd start the chat by saying how happy you are that her son seems to enjoy his lessons etc etc. Then as her how she feels that he is progressing, and ask her if she is happy with the progress that he is making. That will let you gently tell her that his progress is a litle slower than usual and is she happy to continue with the lessons etc.

As if his school uses any particular learning stratagies with him (visual, auditory etc all buzz words atm!), and make it clear that you are asking this so you can tailor the lesson to best suit him.

If mum wants to contine, agree some set targets with her, and the little boy and work towards them.

And don't worry, teachers ask for help and discuss particular children all thetime. What works for one teacher might be the help that you need.

Twiglett Fri 27-May-05 06:47:20

I find this interesting and no nothing about music so am going to launch in as a parent with some questions if I may

can a child have specific blindness to music and not to any other form of learning? I thought music had some relation to maths?? and if it does would this not mean he may have some educational issues elsewhere or is that just a mad and wild extrapolation

personally as a parent I would want to know that he doesn't have a particular talent but whether he enjoys it or not, or tries hard or not. I like aloha's approach too but am not that gung ho on overt sugar-coating - if he is a sunny, happy chappy then by all means mention it?

and as a throw-away comment - have you talked to the child about how he feels? do you know whether he's frustrated or enjoys it, what he sees .. he sounds old enough to be able to verbalise his feelings and I think I would start there, then invite parents to come in for the last 20 mins or so of class and have a chat at the end


Twiglett Fri 27-May-05 06:47:54

arrrrghhh .. cannot believe I typed 'no' and not 'know' (I was obviously going for another sentence first)

happymerryberries Fri 27-May-05 07:18:52

Sorry, and I should have typed, 'It can be difficult'


bobbybob Fri 27-May-05 07:35:34

hmb - it makes more sense now, thanks. I will try to get dad to come in to a lesson rather than sit in the car. I can't really discuss anything with anyone until they can see him in action.

He does learn quite well in the lesson, and by the end we have made some progress but then the next week we are back to square one.

I have been using his name to get his attention, then using short sentences, pointing rather than describing, and demonstrating rather than describing.

If dad will come into a lesson I can show him some ways to help the boy practise, and see if that helps. The fact that he loses his progress over the week suggests to me he isn't helped at home (and for some kids this is okay, and for him it's okay if his parents and he are happy with very slow progress). It could be he's not helped because they don't know how, rather than because they don't want to.

As far as getting inside his mind, he told me about another boy in his class who can play incredible piano pieces, so I think he does know.

happymerryberries Fri 27-May-05 07:42:09

Sounds like a very sensible plan of action to me. Interesting that he makes progress and then forgets. that would make me think that he isn't doing much practice over the week. helping them to help him sounds just what might be needed!

good luck (off to teach better dash!)

HondaDream Fri 27-May-05 07:46:27

I would definatly talk to the parents and tell them exactly what you have written here. Maybe they themselves know he is like this but perhaps this could be a catalyst for opening up. He sounds like a nice boy so I guess his parents are too.

bobbybob Fri 27-May-05 08:20:04

He claims he does 2 lots of 10 minutes a day, and I actually believe him. I just don't think it's very effective.

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