Posted by: Marie | May 21, 2014

(925) Coming into their own

Post #925
[Private journal entry written on Friday, August 17, 2012]

I had coffee yesterday with one of the ladies in the conscious business networking group. We got to talking about marriage and relationships . . . I told her about how I’m frustrated with the dating thing because I get all excited about some possible connection, then it doesn’t work out . . . I get hopeful then the hope is dashed . . .

I told her about my latest crush, George . . . and how I’ve been waiting with baited breath for him to return to reading my blog . . .

She actually knows George fairly well, and she attended the seminar he gave a few weeks ago (during which he – or the mystery reader – stopped reading my blog). She told me that, right after he gave that seminar, he took off to the west coast to take some training with her company, and to take some other classes. So, he has been on the road and just returned home a day or so ago.

Photo by Martin Chen

Photo by Martin Chen

My immediate response to her was: Oh, maybe he’ll start reading again!

But, as I’ve been thinking about it, I’m not nearly as excited about the possibility as I was just a day or two ago. I felt a little rise of hope for a minute, then it passed without really taking hold.

So, I guess I’m kind of over it. I supposed that, if he did start reading again, I would get excited again . . . I can’t pretend that I wouldn’t . . . there’s that “don’t pretend you wouldn’t” thing again.

But, it seems I have more or less moved past my crush on him.

————–

I had a lesson with Renee a few days ago, on Tuesday afternoon . . .

I stuck with following Edward’s advice and have continued to play along with her whenever she asks me to . . . and sometimes I offer to play along even before she asks . . .

I think he was right on point with his advice, as the change in my teaching has had a huge positive impact on her willingness to more fully engage in the learning process. I’ve made it very clear to her that I will play along with her anytime she would like me to . . . that I’ll never decline.

She still has not played by herself, but I’m okay with that . . . she’s participating with an eagerness I’ve never seen before. The sullen attitude and helpless act was nonexistent at this week’s lesson . . . she was upbeat, she cracked jokes, she held eye contact with me quite a bit . . . I am so tickled to see that!

Normally, her lessons are at 6:30pm on Thursdays. But, midday Tuesday of this week, the mother of one of my students called me and said they would like to discontinue lessons for a while. So, that opened up the spot at 4:00 on Tuesdays. I know that the time Renee has been coming is tough for her family because it is so late in the evening. So, I sent an email to April (Renee’s step-mom) and asked if she wanted the Tuesday 4:00 spot.

But, it turned out that April doesn’t get off work until closer to 4:00, so she couldn’t have Renee here until 4:15. I called the people who have the Tuesday 4:50 lesson and asked if we could push their start time out 15 minutes . . . they agreed . . . and April said they would do the 4:15 time . . . and, she wanted to start it yet this week.

Since this conversation occurred on Tuesday of this week, it meant that Renee’s first Tuesday lesson would occur that same day (Tuesday) . . . which meant Renee was going to be surprised when she found out she had a lesson that day instead of two days later at her normal Thursday time. But, despite the quick change in plans, that’s what we did.

At the lesson, Renee was good-natured about the schedule change and just laughed it off . . . and, at the end of the lesson, we talked about the logistics around changing the schedule . . .

As we talked through the details, we came up with an even better plan: Renee can come directly to my studio from school since her school is only three blocks away from my studio. That allows us to get started by 3:25 or 3:30. (I just happened to have that time open.) Then, she will be ready for pick-up when April swings by after work at 4:15. With this new plan, April doesn’t have to spend time at the studio waiting while Renee does her lesson.

It sounds like a win-win all around!

As we were talking this through, a thought crossed my mind . . . I kept it to myself . . .

I realized that this new plan would mean that there was no parental supervision during her lessons. That will allow us to talk about things not related to music, if that seems to be needed. I think that freedom will allow Renee to speak about things that are bothering her without fear of reprisal. And that will allow me to allow the conversation to go where it needs to go without her parents hanging over us, worrying about how we are spending our lesson time. I believe that will be a very good thing.

However, I will have to admit that I had a moment of pause the following day . . . I realized that I might be putting myself at risk by being alone with her. She strikes me as someone who wouldn’t hesitate to lie to get what she wants, even if it means causing major damage to someone else. I am aware that she is that manipulative. I wouldn’t put it past her to claim that I did something untoward to her . . . it is something I think is wise for me to be concerned about . . .

But, then, I realized that she will now be coming during regular business hours, which means that the print shop will be open for business and there will be people walking around the building, and even upstairs in my area, while we are doing the lessons. So, that lessens the opportunity I would have to do something like that, which causes me to be less concerned about her accusing me falsely. The good news is that the people working here aren’t going to be paying attention to our conversations much, especially if we are speaking in hushed tones, so we will still have opportunity to speak fairly freely.

I think it’s going to be the best of both worlds. And, because she is coming so early, it actually opens up another after-school lesson spot for a new student, should I need it . . . nice!

————–

I have a family that has been with me for a few years. All three kids are now well into their teens. I really enjoy teaching them as all three kids are most delightful company. They are well-behaved and quite respectful of me. And, they all three have engaging personalities. When they come for lessons, my studio space is filled up with energy and life.

They always take the summers off. Last night was their first lessons of the school year. It was really good to see them again.

The youngest of the three doesn’t always feel confident about his ability to play the piano. Sometimes he balks when I require him to focus hard and work hard during his lesson. And, sometimes, his balking is a result of his belief that he really can’t do what I’m asking him to do. And, he has a tremendous ear for music, so he tries to minimize the amount of sight-reading he has to do by playing the music by ear . . . and he often manages to do just that.

Last spring, I gave each of them a challenging piece to work on over the summer. The piece this student chose was Handel’s Saraband in D minor. The piece is definitely beyond his reading ability, but I knew I could coach him through the learning process by requiring him to sight-read parts of it and then by teaching parts of it to him via demonstration. He had gotten a good start on it over the summer, and we made a lot more progress at yesterday’s lesson.

I’m still requiring him to sight-read simpler pieces out of his method books . . . so, he still is getting practice at sight-reading . . . but the method we are using for the Saraband piece seems to be a very effective way for him to learn since it utilizes a lot of auditory learning.

I’m truly amazed with his commitment to learn the Handel piece. He loves the piece and he is soaking it in so quickly. He is truly talented, and he is truly committed to this piece. His tenacity and excitement are invigorating.

I have been thinking back to where he was three years ago . . . even two years ago . . .

At every single lesson, he was doing the same thing Renee has been doing . . . he would drop into a sullen stance, shrug his shoulders and tell me over and over again that he couldn’t read music.

When they originally hired me to teach, his parents alerted me to the fact that he would probably be resistant to learning new stuff. They told me they hoped I could turn things around with him because he has such a naturally strong musical talent . . . it’s just that life has handed him some challenges that make it difficult for him to push through challenges associated with trying new things. He had come to hate taking piano lessons, and his parents were hoping that a switch to a different teacher would help things.

So, this week, as I watched him triumphantly push through the very difficult task of learning how to play the Handel piece, I was deeply moved . . . he was lively and he was fully engaged . . . he was cracking jokes and laughing about his mistakes . . .

How awesome. How different it is from “back then”.

It’s times like that that I become keenly aware of how sacred my calling to teach really is.

I think he is – was – a lot like Renee. I think Renee is a bit more extreme, but there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. Maybe he was my first “Renee” and I just didn’t know it until now.

Maybe his current state can be a beacon of hope for Renee (and for me on behalf of Renee). Maybe someday I’ll be able to look back in time and remember how different things used to be for her . . .

————–

Last night, I sent Edward an email:

Hi, Edward –

Guess what!?!?

What you suggested about the best way for me to interact with my student Renee was spot-on. I’ve had two lessons with her since our session and I’ve been very generous with my willingness to play along with her. I have given her the choice (by yourself or together?) and she has exclusively chosen for us to play together.

One time I was vague about it (“Let’s see where you are on this one . . .”) and didn’t offer the choice . . . she quickly and proactively asked if I would play with her. I answered, “Absolutely! I’d be happy to play with you anytime!”

It has brought about a HUGE shift in how she is showing up in the lessons. The “sullen” and “helpless” behavior immediately disappeared. During this week’s lesson, I was shocked by how humorous, outgoing and engaging she was being . . . lots of direct eye contact, lots of willingness to try new stuff . . . she is not the same kid!

Her step-mom told me last week (in front of Renee) that she and the dad are so amazed at her progress . . . that they believe she has found her niche and they are so proud of her progress! That made my day . . . I’ve been worried each week that they would pull her out of lessons for lack of progress and/or a bad attitude.

So . . . thank you . . . you gave me (and her) a great gift!

And, tonight I had a first lesson of the year with a returning student who displayed a lot of the same behavior when he started 2+ years ago . . . though not as severe. Tonight, he proudly showed me the music he worked on over the summer . . . a difficult Handel piece . . . way beyond his level . . . but, he loves the piece and is slowly inching his way through the process of learning it.

As he was playing (and as I was giggling with joy and pride), I thought back to when he first started . . . how helpless and sullen he was, how he told me over and over that he couldn’t read music and would never be able to learn. His OCD tendencies overwhelmed every lesson . . . he “couldn’t” read even the simplest music and would throw his hands up in frustration every single time he made a mistake.

His parents begged me to find a way to turn around the experience of playing the piano for him . . . he has an incredible ear for music (at one of his first lessons, he played the assigned piece perfectly . . . except in totally the wrong key . . . and he had no idea he had done that) and they wanted him to tap into that talent. And, here we are today, with him playing some incredible music! How neat!

Okay . . . good night . . . I’ll see you next week!

– Marie

Then, a few minutes later, I sent him a “P.S.” email:

Oh, I have to tell you what else Renee told me . . .

She said that, on her first day of school, her music teacher asked if anyone in the class plays an instrument. She said that she first thought “no”, but then she realized that she does play piano. So, she got to proudly declare that truth about herself (that she plays piano) in front of the class . . . she acted like it was a very big deal for her to be able to say that about herself to her peers.

Quotes 835


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