Million Dollar Lesson

Paula Bird said: Sep 15, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I recently posted a story about a Million Dollar Lesson I gave in my studio in partnership with the child’s parent:

Power to Walk Away

I thought it would be fun to share our stories of $million lessons in this community. Tell us what happened, how it was handled, your reactions or feelings at the time, and any after effects.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Patricia said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

The link doesn’t work?

Paula Bird said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

In case link doesn’t work on SAA site:

http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com/2011/09/useful-parenting-tool-power-to-walk.html

link

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Patricia said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

Here is a Better way to Handle that kind of lesson. I tell Parents not to start a lesson telling me what happened at home. IN FACT, That is the students job in my studio. I don’t want the parent to give my lesson time a bad start. When a student tells me they didn’t practice—she and I become a team = not an adult trying to teach a lesson. Then, I say to them—well, even though you didn’t get the practice in—let’s see what we can accomplish…..
I am a firm believer in You are either progressing or regressing…. and I want to always get something done. I am not interested in teaching lessons with parent and I on 1 side and the student on the other side. There is a Better Way to Teach?
Sorry, I was a little appalled at your story?
Yes, I agree as a negotiator, we must never be afraid to walk away—BUT—are we negotiating when we Teach? NO. We are teaching students life lessons…. and sometimes, there will be times, we have to learn to get through something—even if we aren’t as prepared as we should have been….. and it is okay too to have a bad day…. as long as you don’t let it cloud the rest of them? The Million Dollar Lesson in my mind is one where you approach anything that happens with a Happy Heart and Open communication with the student…. with their Parent Present… watching and enjoying this process unfold.
I actually had a student last week come in with her Mom…. in my studio, I ask parents to call me or e-mail me if they need to tell me something… (this Mom had just had a personal tragedy) They both came in with tears in their eyes and not looking good …. My job seemed less then ideal… I asked her if she were feeling good, that she looked sad or sick and very motherly felt her forehead and asked her if her tummy hurt…. she said to me “Ms. L, no I am feeling good but I am very sad, mommy—— and I didn’t practice since mommy was in the hospital until yesterday”….. She then started talking to me and finally said “Ms. L- can we play this” I let her lead the lesson… we did alot of review and then practiced her new stuff…. at the end of her lesson—she hugged me and said she didn’t think she would be able to be happy for a long time and now she was beeming” (Her mother had a miscarr—) Her mom was smiling too —and said to me “My husband said we should have cancelled, but I needed to come here to have my soul refreshed” That is what I want lessons to be.

Alissa said: Sep 26, 2011
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Hmmm… There is more than one way to get a message across. A tantrum from
an obstinate child is totally different than a family experiencing a medical
crisis. Both of you described effective lessons and that’s what matters. I
don’t think these forums are for judgement, but to share effective
strategies. We all have studios as different as the unique children we
teach. My own teacher and I have mercifully ended nonproductive lessons
where I’m distracted or unprepared. However, I went to my own lesson a few
weeks ago just hours after my grandfather died. Bach was just what I
needed. There are many paths that lead to a lesson that makes us a better
person.

Alissa Rieb
ABQstrings

On Sep 26, 2011, at 10:42 AM, “SAA Discussion”
wrote:

Million Dollar Lesson

Patrizia said:

Here is a Better way to Handle that kind of lesson. I tell Parents not to
start a lesson telling me what happened at home. IN FACT, That is the
students job in my studio. I don

Patricia said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I agree that we have many, many students in our studios and that different parts of the country may react differently……One of the tenants we ask parents to do when trying to get students to practice is to always end a practice session on a happy ending. So, I know there are students out there who may have had lessons end because of non—focus…. but we aren’t living up to what we ask our parents to do everyday between lessons if we can have a way out… of teaching and that is what ending a lesson before it is done is? I know when I started my teaching training years ago—I saw a prominent teacher—end a lesson before she even started it because the teenage beginner student didn’t want to bow to her? I was appalled—that is not judgement—that is non-teaching? The next day he didn’t even show up—so what did he learn? nothing —all because of a bow?
I wish you had actually finished quoting me above—I stated I don’t want a parent to create her atmosphere in my lesson with her daughter. I am in complete control and if the parent feels the need to tell me what happened at home—they are to contact me before the lesson—not in front of the student. I’ve been teaching long enough to know when a student walks in what I will hear from them…. and then I have to work with what I have in front of me.

If we are professional teachers, we need 1000 ways to teach—then to say it is allright to end lessons. That may work for some of you—but it won’t last and it won’t work for the majority of teachers who have lot’s of teachers who can take students away from you.

Alissa said: Sep 26, 2011
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

There is an assumption in your posts that this is happening all the time. Of course a family would leave is this was an epidemic. The vast majority of my studio will never experience an ended lesson. They only work when used extremely sparingly. The value of this thread is that a teacher should not feel like a failure when they have chosen to end a lesson as a last resort.
If the family feels rewarded or like they have been given a “way out” then the message definitely wasn’t delivered. I’ve left my own lesson with a proper sense of needing to get my act together. I personally don’t think all lessons are left with a “happy” ending. That’s at home with the parent and with me. It’s a life lesson to struggle, get better or not, but try again the next day no matter what. Children also discover that they can come back and be treated with respect, kindness and a belief in them no matter what happened the time before. That’s very positive, but not necessarily happy. Sometimes practice stinks! Who knows why? Dust yourself off. Sometimes the teaching point is to let go and come back later with a clear head. Again this is RARE. To a teacher, this can feel devastating if it’s never happened before. It’s reassuring to hear from other teachers that this has RARELY occured with them as well and the student/teacher/parent survived and was made better in the end.
You have a great point of asking families to talk to you before lessons about issues. Indeed it’s part of my studio policies. Lesson time is for making musical experiences. I do on occassion, discuss unsuccessful practice strategy with the parent and student in lesson so the child doesn’t have a sense we are talking behind their back. I try my hardest to never start the lesson with these talks and keep them short and to the point. “Did I suggest that this spot be a preview spot you do first? Oh you refused to do that huh? How’d that work? Not so good? Ok, I’m sure it’ll be fixed up next time. Let’s do this a little extra now.”
As for the student who was told to leave for not bowing, I try to believe the best in people until they have shown me repeatedly otherwise. There is an unknown history leading up to every lesson we observe from another teacher. If this teacher has well-adjusted, solid, prepared students/families who share a caring relationship with him/her then that studio speaks for the merit of the teacher, not one lesson.

Terri said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
10 posts

I’ve been the parent of the child on the receiving end of the million dollar lesson.

Please, I urge you, if you are frustrated with a child and you are going to do something like this, do not suddenly spring it on the child (and the parent) without warning. Make sure both the parent and the child—yes, even a two year old—knows what your behavioral expectations are and what the consequences will be for not meeting them.

You also need to be very careful to follow up later on. Both parent and child may have an emotional response, even when everyone knows why it happened. Value the child but address the behavior. For my son, a MDL was very effective. Had you tried it on his sister, she would have lost complete trust in you as a teacher and would have been terrified to even enter the room.

For my child, difficulties in his violin lesson were the canary in the coal mine about other learning issues that had not yet been diagnosed. What a strict teacher interpreted as acting out was really a preschooler’s frustration at literally being unable to cooperate because of his inability to decode the instructions. Sure, you can frame it as a power struggle or disrespect…but that changes the lesson into a confrontation. Is that really what you wanted?

Paula Bird said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Good points wonky1. As I’ve said before, my parents are well trained before beginning lessons, and expectations are known from day 1. Nothing is a surprise. I believe in due process (notice or warning before follow through). Unfortunately many educational systems out there allow quite a bit of repeat notice before following through with consequences, thereby lessening the power of discipline (which comes from the root word that means to train by instruction).

I do indeed follow up after the lesson and stay in close touch. I find that many parents need such guidance. How unfortunate that a learning issue caused an undesirable learning behavior in your case and wasn’t identified earlier to prevent a problem. I do indeed consider those possibilities. If you read my blog post about the story, you may recall that I worked 25 minutes with the student before using the MDL technique.

Folks, please don’t lose sight of the purpose of teaching. It’s not just about the violin. Dr. Suzuki used the violin as the vehicle to teach valuable life lessons. He himself was not a “permissive” teacher but had firm expectations. There are anecdotes about his use of what we refer to as the MDL. The MDL is an instructional, educational technique. It is not a punishment and parents should not be encouraged to think so.

I had hoped to spark more anecdotal memories, not a terse debate. Please be kind.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Alissa said: Sep 26, 2011
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Thank you for the parent’s perspective :-) I too am sad to hear your son was misread at first. You brought up such a good point. Some kids will turn around from a MDL, some would find it a total deal breaker. We have to be careful.

To follow Paula’s original intent: The last MDL I gave was to a 5th grade boy who had recently switched to viola and was on Etude. This student had started as an orchestra student and transitioned into my studio after some extra tutoring. He and his mom were having a hard time staying on the same page and he spent a lot of time in lesson blaming mom. We had talked about it and mom was totally over being a scape goat but was having a hard time seeing a way out. So, one particularly grumpy day, he yelled at his mom during his sister’s lesson! This was about something totally unrelated to lessons (a book order for school). Lightbulb! If we didn’t find a way out of this funk, he was going to be jumping on her for everything on lesson days because he was so stressed out. I asked him a simple question: “Has switching to viola been harder than you thought it would be?” He just stared at me super wide-eyed. I said, “Y’know, screaming at mom and interrupting your sister’s lesson are two poor decisions all at once and we talked about that. Your sister is going to get your lesson today to make up for her interrupted and missed time. Each day of practice this week, I want you to write down one thing you liked doing and one frustrating thing. Both you and mom are going to do your best to not talk and just get through your practice chart. K?” Mom asked if it was ok to ask for her son to pay for his missed lesson (remember 5th grader). I said if he’s accustomed to consequences like that then go for it. The following week he came in a totally different kid. “I lied to you Ms. Alissa. I said Etude was easy. Nothing about the viola is easy and I’m so tired.” I was shocked. This kiddo is very stoic or grumpy usually and I had a feeling that he was frustrated, but he wouldn’t open up at all. Nor would he say he wanted to quit or that he hated viola, nothing that would open up a discussion. Those little sentences I assigned worked! He had a list of what was frustrating. We now had a list of teaching points :-) I called mom before lesson to see how it had gone. She said he was silent for the first two practices and mad, but then he told her he was glad she was there to take notes in lessons or he’d forget. I think it was his way of apologizing. He actually ended up with a good positive list too and that’s what mom goes to when she sees a storm coming. “Remember how much you like that low C string? Let’s do Twinkle on C”

I look at that MDL as the first lesson towards us becoming a real team of Teacher/Student/Parent! We all trusted eachother a lot more after it.

Patricia said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I once had a student who came in fighting with their mother—they were both yelling at each other and the mother turned to me looking for solace…. I looked at her and then the student and said—”Mom, go get a starbucks, we are going to have a lesson without you today”….. once the mom left, the student was great, when the mom arrived with a coffee in her hand she had calmed down, and both left the lesson better then they came in.
I also had a family with 3 kids who were always terrific and all of a sudden, they all started acting out…. calling eachother names, calling their mom names, mom got upset and started yelling at them. If I believed in ending lessons, they would have been great candidates…. but I don’t….I decided they were all so angry at life—I had to find a way to change their perspective…….. I played musical lessons where everyone got their violins out and they didn’t know who was going to be doing what next- (pretty hard to do when 3 kids ranged from twinkle thru Bk. 4)—they all seemed bewildered—but you know what, they stopped arguing with eachother, the mom started paying attention to what I wanted and not what she was yelling about and after a little while—the littlest one said—”Ms. L. could you please just give us our lesson—this is too hard”. I then took that moment to get them talking to eachother instead of yelling and found out there were marital problems and the kids thought they would never see their dad again…. and all the stuff you get with a messy divorce…. I told them, you know what it is allright to feel lousy, it is allright to be angry—BUT—when you have to do something—you have to do it. I helped the mom find a great therapist and the kids are healthy and in HS now enjoying both mom & dad. That 1 lesson will always be in my memory—because I was praying I could turn them around…. they were so bad that day?
Sometimes, it is the hardest students that make us the teachers we are. All of my students know I won’t give up on them—if they come in with an attitude, they change it very quickly.
Years ago, I once had a teenager come to lesson—she was my last student for the night—she had been arguing with her dad over something—so the lesson was tense—and she kept turning to her dad giving jabs at him and he was giving it back to her….. I forget what technique we were working on, but finally I told both her and her Dad, Be Quiet—you aren’t leaving here until you do it for me 25 times right…… they looked at me like I was being mean and then—they stopped fighting with eachother and she did it…..
I would never end a lesson for any reason. I hope teachers who do—do it sparingly and I really challenge everyone to find 1000 ways to approach each of their students. It is one thing to be a college student challenged by your professor or told to come back when you are better prepared- it is quite another for a young child to have a teacher give up on any lesson and perhaps hate the learning experience before they ever get started in it.

Patricia said: Sep 26, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

oh, and I know there are many learning disabilities that kids mask with inappropriate behavior—so I never assume a kid is throwing a tantrum just because they want this and not that? I have a wonderful student who would have received many ended lessons if I believed in them, because of her outbursts—but I don’t and worked with the Dad—to find out she was diagnosed with torrents…. When the School System heard her play Becker Gavotte—they didn’t know what to think? she could remain quiet that long and play so beautifully. She loves music, which is the great healer. I am working with her to be able to play in her school orchestra next year when she is in 4th grade.
Wonky1—I hope your son is still playing and your daugher is too!

Betty Douglas said: Sep 27, 2011
 16 posts

Hello! I love everyone’s stories of soothing difficult lessons. I think the MDL should be used VERY carefully, as Alissa and Paula mentioned, and more for extreme disruptive behavior, not for lack of practicing. Sometimes I learned the most as a student on the rare occasion that I had a busy week and couldn’t practice very much. My teachers always taught me, sometimes practiced with me (more rare in “traditional”), and I learned a lot. I view the MDL as one tool in the tool belt- like an air bag in the car (emergency, 1x use). I would use it as a last resort- after you have talked, tried multiple approaches, considered previous behavior (is this just today or is a disruptive pattern developing? Is the child testing the boundaries you have previously discussed?). Then, and only then, would I engage the MDL, being careful to tell the child that “I like you, but I don’t like your behavior/ choices today.” I would be concerned if this would be done flippantly or frequently. I agree with Patrizia’s idea of 1,000 approaches. However, I do think it could be a tool on the tool belt for those who need it. We have different teaching styles, even though we teach under the same philosophy, and cannot walk in each other’s shoes, despite being able to learn from each other. Thank you and happy teaching!

Betty Douglas, flute teacher

Paula Bird said: Sep 27, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Bravo Alissa! Perfect use of MDL and well thought out and planned. I never “miss” the lesson either. Someone gets it, sometimes mom! Lovely teaching example. Look how nicely that worked out for everyone.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Patricia said: Sep 27, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

Paula, I am sorry if you and your friend took offense with my opposition. I wasn’t trying to be offensive—but I do hold a firm believe grounded in experience that new teachers shouldn’t think this is a tool they use when ever. I applaud you for posting this knowing you might create a stir. That is what makes Suzuki Teachers so great. We can have a heated discussion and still respect each other. I know your students love you and you are great with them.

Rebecca said: Sep 28, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

I’ve been following this post and the responses with interest, but today I had an experience that I think fits right in with this thread and I would love some feedback from some more experienced teachers.
I’ve been teaching for almost 8 years now, but as I’ve said in other posts, 2011 is the first year that I’ve had students under the age of 6. (Suddenly, almost half my studio is little ones!) I currently have one family that I teach 4 of, ages 3, 5, 9, and 13. The 3 & 5 year olds share a 30 minute lesson.
Today, I started with 13yr old, and then mom brought in 3yr old. I am not terribly picky about order of students usually (although after today, I’ve changed that policy a bit and said 3&5 have to go first BEFORE playing!).
After 3yr old, mom called for 5 yr old who was in another room. Immediate whining and delaying, followed by mom going to retrieve 5 yr old. So, not a good set-up to begin with. 5yr old arrives already upset with life. I do a sticker chart in my studio, so I quietly counted her stickers up while mom tried to get her ready for the lesson, and then offered her the sticker sheet. I think here is where I made my big mistake: I said, “No whining while we put stickers on.” This immediately resulted in more whining.
Mom tried to step out to let me have the room, which has worked before with this student, at which point 5yr old collapsed in a tantrum on the floor calling for mommy. I waited a few moments, I tried to get her excited about starting our lesson (Show me what you worked on at home/Come help me put your stickers on) to no avail. Mom came back in and tried admonishments, with no result.
I admit, I was frustrated. Not with 5yr old! With myself- having never dealt with a tantrum during lessons, and not having children myself, I didn’t have the right tools in my toolbox (it felt like) to change the course of a 5yr old mind. Older kids have gotten upset, and stubborn, and teary, and angry, etc, but a tantrum like this was a new experience.
So. I still had 9yr old to teach, so I suggested that 5yr old take a break while I tuned 9 yr old, and then return and observe 9yr olds lesson instead of having a lesson of our own today. They left dramatically :) and a few minutes later, came back with a fresh face and watched the full 30 minutes of big brothers lesson- after which I said “I still have time to teach you your lesson if you would like to” and we had a very nice little lesson with no more waterworks or screaming.
This fits in with the walking away/ending lesson topic of this thread, and I felt good about the end result- we accomplished a lesson without resorting to bribery or begging or, worse, getting angry myself.

Before anyone is too hard on me, remember that we all have to start somewhere with learning how to deal with the different behaviors of kiddos, and we all have different strengths and weaknesses. I love the fact that I have this forum to come to as a young Suzuki teacher, but it can be disheartening to see the judgmental tone some take when responding to others. That being said, I would appreciate any feedback/advice on what I did wrong and what I can do in the future to head off tantrums!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Patricia said: Sep 28, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

Kudos to you for keeping your head and turning a bad situation around. I have several families that everyone in the family takes lessons at the same time in my program. I know for the 3 & 5 year old—waiting will be very hard for them… If I had that age range—I would take the little ones first…. and if for some other reason the older one had to take the lesson first—I ask the mom to call me beforehand to let me know that. If that happens, I have something very special for the younger ones to wait in glee for… usually it’s my dog who is waiting to play with them which will keep them awake. The other teachers also rely on Nicolo Amati to entertain special students when they need him too. (my dog). Most of the problem with the younger ones—is they will actually fall asleep or almost fall asleep and then you have to wake a cranky child or one ready to snore off. Over the years, I have had many tantrums and I even had a niece and nephew that I raised that had a few… one broke a cello in half with a nice kick in the belly. I do not give parenting advice of any kind to students families during lessons…. first off I will never talk about a child in front of them…. especially if it is negative; second—I have many different cultures in my school which all have different parenting styles. For my nephew who broke the cello—he was 5 …. At the time, I could barely afford the cello—He saw me cry—and kept trying to hug me saying he was sorry…… I let him quit that day… . but then he studied violin with Terry Durbin when he was older and still plays now. (We didn’t have a cello teacher here at that time- and I was trying to get a traditional teacher into the suzuki method—he wasn’t so great with little ones and only takes college students)
You need to know why the child threw the tantrum? Was she sleeping and woken up—and didn’t want to do anything? Was she coloring and didn’t finish her picture? When the entire family arrived—were they all fine then? was this tantrum a carry over from something that happened early? What I would do—would depend on the situation. I watch everyone when they come in—If you take the 3 and 5 year olds first—have them both in the room—so nobody is left to start relaxing—that little nap can really make a cranky little tike.

I want to comment on your worry about judgement…. I have reread—the comments above—In my original post, I did not call anyone a name—I offered a different way to approach a bad teaching situation…. I did not mind that they replied to me in a aggressive mode. That is what an educational forum is all about. We should all be able to say how we think, what we believe and be truthful in it. I think we can all be good about it and even be able to say let’s end it so our professional respect for eachother is intact which happened above.

I know many teachers say Dr. Suzuki used to end lessons too….. and I love Dr. Suzuki… but some of what he did, you had to know why he did it….. Sometimes ending a terrible lesson was better then having the mother hit the student at the lesson or having the father cussing at the student in front of the teacher….. And in Japan—at the time -(I think things have relaxed a little bit there now)—the reverence for Sensei was—well god-like a little bit.

Dr. Suzuki always told parents who found themselves being mean—to always find something good about their child and hold that in your mind all the time. Dr. Suzuki always said, “There were no bad students, only bad teachers and bad parents”….. I think we can all be better.

Good Luck, Paula what do you think?

Alissa said: Sep 28, 2011
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Becky,
You showed a lot of good intuition there! That first tantrum is terrifying. I too, do not have children and really connect with your experience described. My first tantrum was a three yr old who threw her instrument, tried to hit myself and the mom and ended up in my bathroom getting a spanking :-( Nobody felt good that day and I wish I had this forum. I was too dissapointed in myself to call my mentor, so I called my dad. He suggested that if it happened again (which it did) to ask what she did before lesson. Are you ready? It was a food allergy!! No joke, she had the same fruit exposure each time as a snack before lesson. She felt awful and couldn’t express herself. Still should never have tossed that fiddle, but when she stopped that snack, no more violent tantrums. Now she was still a bossy Bessy and a challenge, but no more violence :-p

So I do agree: finding out the cause if possible is a great start. With little ones, it can be really hard or make no sense whatsoever (to us as adults!) so you might have to shrug your shoulders and try to go around the problem like you did with a break and return to lesson. I try to never barter or coax a tantrum. I’ve seen some kids see that as a reward for the behavior. I do ask them if they want to calm down and explain to me how I can help, but if not, I give them space and work with the parent or sibling and come back if possible. Little guys can go to my porch or the window and look around, lessening the intensity of the situation. In a calm, not sweet voice: “Ok, you’re not ready, I get it, please go and calm down by the window. When you’re ready, come and tell me what you saw.” Usually the distraction of something else like another lesson or looking around works like you saw yourself. So often, they’re tired or hungry. The parent might know right away, but not want to jump in to your situation. This is where parent ed. comes in. Talk about these scenarios when they’re not happening and tell the parent what you expect them to do. Maybe, wait until a few good lessons go by and then talk to the parent in a casual, just an FYI, I was thinkin’ kind of way.

Your little sounds sounds like they gave you an isolated incident. I’ll cross my fingers for ya
:-)

Sue Hunt said: Sep 29, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

What fascinating and informative contributions! It really appears that there are more ways of dealing with tantrums than administering the MDL, which really should be a tool of last resort. It is extremely important to make sure that your families understand how it works and know what may happen when it is used. This includes the exit procedure.

When I was a new teacher, I had two absolute disasters. The first was a little 5 year old boy who refused to do anything in the lesson. When I rather abruptly sent him home, he threw himself on the floor and literally started a carpet biting tantrum, while I stood embarrassed in the corner and his mum tried to cajole him into leaving. Another abrupt administration of the MDL left the child completely unmoved and the parent in tears. I was mortified.

You need to be a very quick thinker in a stressful situation, and that’s not me. Therefore nowadays, even though my parents are thoroughly prepared, I am very careful about using the MDL.
www.musicinpractice.com

Patricia said: Sep 29, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

Tantrums happen when a young child doesn’t have the capability to express their frustration at a situation….. Most of the time they are only seen in young children….. If an older child has one—I see that as a learned behavior. (meaning, they have gotten in the past when they wanted and so they keep the behavior going….. and sometimes I even see adults throwing one that usually takes the form on verbal intimidation). In the Teaching Environment, it is usually because of processing changes….(ie—waiting your turn and then it becomes your turn; or trying to make a good bow hold—and not having enough fine finger coordination to succeed; wanting that sticker before it is earned, etc.) When I have to deal with children displaying this tendency, I distract them by lot’s of things…
1.) making a silly face or speaking in a squeaky voice to a child who is about to go into tantrum mode stops the tantrum cold. (for me at least)…
2.) If a child is coming in looking like this will happen—I give an operatic lesson—they start giggling and the learning can begin…. it is a rather fun lesson too. Some kids come in next time ready to sing everything with their violin on their shoulders.
3.) There are some children more prone to having tantrums. I once had a family of septuplets—only 2 children had problems with having tantrums….. Alissa is right—sometimes a food allergy, or an environmental intolerance could be the root—and I am not a pschychologist, but I wonder if some have some organic imbalances? I have seen children go through their 3 minute tantrum and then descend into more tantrums so a parent may think it was the same one—but in actuality it was 3 or 4 streamed together?
4.) For Parents who have to deal with these—I always ask then to keep a Tantrum diary….. then they can usually find the trigger…. if not, they can share their diary with a professional who finds it. Most of the time, a student who displays that lessons has a problem with it outside, so you as a teacher can be a resource for the parents to find help.
5.) I know some of the experts tell parents, keeping to a time schedule is important—I think that is really true for food and sleep—For teaching, sometimes a surprise keeps the children awake and wondering what is going to happen next…. in a good way.
6.) 3 times, I had a younger sibling throw a tantrum at school—I was fortunate enough to have a good rapport with the parents (2 of them being medical drs.)—When the tantrum started—we walked away from the student and started playing ourselves (parent on the smaller violin)….. in all 3 times, the tantrum stopped with 2 minutes. I know you can’t do that all the time because you have other teachers around—but when you can, sometimes just ignoring it allows the child to figure it out on their own.
7.) I do a lot to make sure young children aren’t stressed out so tantrums don’t happen. This would make a great topic to ask a Psychologist to way in on at the next Conference.

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