Posted by: Marie | January 1, 2014

(914) The value of clarity – Part 5 of 7

Post #914
[Private journal entry written on Friday, August 3, 2012 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]

————–

Me: At one lesson, I tried to get her to think about the consequences of her actions . . . I suggested to her that she make choices that support what she wants out of life rather than choices that punish her parents . . . the way I put it is that she needs to be her own hero.

That may have been a waste of my breath, but I was hoping it would cause her to think twice about her choices . . .

Edward: I suspect it was lost on her because of her age . . . that might be something a 15- or 16-year-old might be able to grasp.

Me: Yeah . . . oh, well . . .

Edward: (After a pause) Let me ask you this . . .

Is there anyway that, while she is playing a piece on the piano, you could pretend to play along with her . . . like maybe you could put your hands on your lap or on the top of the piano and move your fingers like you are playing along with her?

(I was puzzled by his question . . . )

Me: Um, sure . . . I’m not sure what . . . why . . .

Is there more to your question?

Edward: (Laughing) Oh, yes . . . I just don’t know enough about playing the piano to offer a suggestion like I’m trying to do . . .

Let me ask it this way . . .

I’m wondering if there is some way you can play along with her when she plays her pieces for you so it can be more like you are playing with her rather than a situation where she is playing and you are standing back, evaluating her . . .

(256)

Photo by Martin Chen

(Smiling) That’s what I was trying to get to . . . I was wondering if you could create at atmosphere of “we’re in this together” . . .

Me: (Laughing) Oh! Okay! Now I know what you are asking . . .

Yes, I have several options . . . and, fortunately, any one of them is better than finger-syncing on the top of the piano . . .

I have a couple of digital keyboards in addition to the acoustic piano, so I could jump on one of the keyboards and play the same thing she is playing . . . or, I could play the same thing on the same keyboard but in a different octave . . .

(After remembering that he is not familiar with the architecture of a keyboard) There are seven octaves on a piano keyboard, so you can play the same thing, at the same time, in different octaves on the keyboard and it will sound the same other than being higher or lower in pitch . . . and the keyboard is nearly five feet in length, so there is plenty of room for the two of us to sit side-by-side at the piano . . .

(Edward bobbed his head in understanding)

Me: Or, I can play a duet with her where she plays one thing and I play something different but the two parts go well together . . . that allows a student to participate in creating something that sounds really awesome because I can beef up my part so that we create a powerfully big sound together . . .

I’ve actually done that with her quite a bit already . . . but I haven’t played with her all the time, just sometimes.

Edward: Would it impact her education negatively if you played along with her all the time?

Me: It is preferable for a student to be able to play the correct notes with the correct rhythm independently, but if the choices are a student playing only with the teacher or not playing at all, the former is preferable. I could teach her 80-90% of the skills even if she never played by herself . . . and that would be plenty in this situation.

I could at least give her a choice each time I ask her to play . . . if she wants me to play with her or if she wants to try it on her own. Then, she can be in control of that . . . and it would give her the opportunity to try it independently, if she cared to . . .

Edward: That would create the sense that you are playing together, performing together, expressing together . . . and it would give you the space to be playful with her . . . both of those elements – the “being in it together” and the playfulness – would be very important when interacting with her, I think.

Me: I hadn’t thought about that before . . . but it makes total sense to me.

What tickles me the most is that, when I sense fear or anxiety in a student around playing a piece for me, my natural instinct is to jump in and play with them . . . I guess I really can trust my instinct . . .

I often allow my students to choose to play by themselves or have me play with them as they are learning a piece . . . that allows them to depend on me if they need to, but to also be independent if they want to.

I very rarely insist on one way or the other . . . only when I feel strongly they need to be pushed to play independently or when they are doing something incorrectly and are unaware of it . . . when I play with them, they can see, real-time, the difference between what they are doing and what I’m doing.

————–

We again sat in silence for a few moments . . . Edward was again watching me carefully, but I did notice a little grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye . . . I can imagine this exchange would feel encouraging and uplifting to him . . .

I was still busy processing everything that had been said when he interrupted my thoughts . . .

————–

Edward: How does it feel to you to have a relationship like this with Renee, and to be dealing with her emotional challenges?

Me: You know, it feels good . . .

I keep thinking back to my coaching session with George where he asked me what it would be like to trust that I know how to best handle interacting with kids who provide a significant teaching challenge to me . . .

And he asked me why I would want to keep working with students who are “less than ideal” . . .

I answered that there were be a hole in my heart if I pushed them away . . . these are the kids who keep me awake at night, who I think about the most . . . and whom I desire to help the most. I absolutely want to keep working with kids like this because I believe I can make a difference in their lives . . . and I don’t just mean teaching them to play the piano, although that might be a tool for helping them in a bigger way.

Edward: I hear that working with students like Renee is very challenging for you . . . maybe even overwhelming at times, but that it provides a source of significant meaning and purpose for your life.

Me: (Nodding my head) Yes . . . very much so.

Edward: The good news is that the relationship with Renee will probably become more comfortable over time as you get the bugs worked out and as you figure out how to best manage your boundaries. And, over time, you will become more skilled at knowing how best to interact with these kids.

Me: Yes, I agree.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

Quotes 824


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