[Private journal entry written on Friday, June 8, 2012]
After a very emotional evening, I needed to decompress . . . so, before I headed to bed, I wrote a long email to Edward about an 11-year-old student named Renee . . .
Hi, Edward –
Phew . . . I’ve had an emotional evening . . . I wanted to share it with you . . .
I have a new student – tonight was her third lesson. She is 11 going on 15. In the first two lessons, she was very quiet but hesitantly cooperative.
Tonight, after her dad left, she began acting totally helpless . . . she wouldn’t use her voice to answer my questions, she would just shrug her shoulders and sit with her hands in her lap. If I asked if she wanted to try something, she would say “no”. I finally didn’t give her choices, I just said, “Let’s do X” and didn’t give her the option of saying no. We played some music she hadn’t seen before, and if she missed a note, she would drop her hands into her lap as if to say, “See, I knew I couldn’t do it.”
I asked her what was going on . . . she said she hadn’t had a chance to practice so she didn’t have anything prepared. I assured her we could still work on the same assignments, especially since she was just learning to read music. She said the reason she hadn’t practiced is because she hadn’t been around a piano much (i.e.; it was all her parents’ fault). I offered that she could practice at my studio pianos (she doesn’t have a piano at her dad’s house in our town), if that would help. She said she would see if that was possible, that it might help things.
Then, she continued acting helpless. I asked her if there was another issue beyond the problem of limited access to pianos . . . she said “no”. I gently commented that she looked very sad and I wondered what else was going on. She just stared straight ahead, but it looked like she was fighting tears.
Normally, if a student is “pulling an attitude” with me, I’ll put my foot down and not allow it to continue. But, as soon as she walked in tonight, I got the sense that this was not a matter of “an attitude” . . . I got a very strong sense that she was acting unlovable to see if someone (me) would love her anyway. So, the entire lesson, I kept my voice low and soft and gave her only empathy and encouragement . . . much like you do with me. I got a very strong sense that she felt she didn’t have a voice . . . I encouraged her to use her voice to say whatever needed to be said . . . but, she acted like she was too “squashed” to speak.
I’m learning that she is quite smart and is catching onto reading music very quickly. She is very capable and has natural talent, as well – and is off-the-charts creative/artistic. I kept telling her those things during the lesson . . .
Near the start of the lesson, she said she and her dad had talked about the possibility of her quitting . . . I told her that, if she got to the point she didn’t want to take lessons anymore, I would help her talk to her parents about that . . . but, that I really wanted to continue working with her and that I believed she could do some really cool stuff on the piano . . . but that she would have to practice . . .
Anyway, in the last few minutes of her lesson, her dad returned. As soon as he walked in, she “straightened up” some and giggled nervously instead of looking squashed . . . like she knew she would get in trouble if he saw her acting like she had been acting the entire lesson, so instead, she had to perform as if everything was okay.
When we finished the lesson, I offered the use of the studio pianos to her dad . . . but, he said that he had been hauling the keyboard between her mom’s house and his house for several weeks now and yet he had never seen her use it, even when he reminded her to practice. So, he didn’t see the value in rearranging the schedules of everyone else in the family in order for her to come to the studio when she wasn’t taking advantage of the effort he was already expending.
Then, his voice got an edge to it and got a bit louder (he has a big personality) and he told her that he needed her to put some effort into this if the piano lessons were going to continue. She said something about not having access to a piano, but he interrupted her and told her that she had plenty of opportunity, she just didn’t take advantage of it. She got up from the piano and started walking out of the studio . . . he asked her where she was going . . . she said she was going to the car . . . he told her he didn’t appreciate her attitude . . . she said, “Then maybe I should just quit now!” He told her that she could wait in the car while he and I talked . . .
After she walked out, he told me about her mom . . . that her mom had all kinds of ideas but no passion to actually make things happen . . . lots of ideas, no passion, no willpower, no focus . . . and that it seemed to him that the daughter was going down the same path and he felt powerless to affect the outcome. He said that she blames everyone else when she doesn’t expend the effort to get better at something . . . that she wants to quit when she can’t do something like art or music perfectly after an hour of trying . . . that she needs to just buckle down and do the work – stick with something until she gets really good at it.
He said that she is an introvert and that she has no friends . . . she does nothing productive . . . she is not engaged and involved with the rest of the family . . . that she quit guitar lessons after three lessons because she didn’t want to do the work of practicing . . .
There was a lot of frustration and a bit of anger in his voice.
I didn’t say it to him, but I can clearly see she is headed down a very dangerous path . . . I can see a path that includes promiscuity and addictions . . . she is in pain and she feels she has no value . . .
[Continued in the next post . . . ]