How to handle incooperative student

Anna said: Oct 19, 2012
 5 posts

I need some suggestions in how to handle the “silently stubborn” student. Sometimes I cannot get a peep out of this seven-year old student, even if I give choices, re-phrase the question/activity, give an ultimatum, demonstrate what I want them to do, etc. I have taught this student for a couple years now and at first I just chalked up thier silence to shyness…

The student constantly looks to thier mother for answers…which upon my request she hasn’t been giving as readily. But even the mother seems to get frustrated with her child as I am starting to do.

A very experienced teacher is in charge of group classes and I have started to notice the same behavior towards her as well.

Suggestions? (I did read about the Million Dollar lesson…but in this case I think the child would see that as a victory…and I really don’t want to lose this student).

Barb said: Oct 19, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I had an older student who was a bit like this that I initially put down to shyness. (That looking to the mother I really recognized!) I later learned she had some learning issues and maybe what I thought was shyness and reluctance to answer questions etc. was trouble processing what I was saying. Does she have any trouble at school?

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Anna said: Oct 19, 2012
 5 posts

I don’t think this student has any learning issues—she is homeschooled so she has a lot of one-on-one time with her Mom.

She did finally give me one piece of feedback today saying she didn’t hear the rhythm so she didn’t know how to play it. This was very surprising to me, since we’ve been working on the Twinkle rhythms all summer…we say them, clap them, play them, I do it with her, then let her copy. If she hears it right before she plays it, then she can do it, but if I ask her to play it “cold turkey” 5 minutes later, she acts like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

(And the mother is saying “do it, you know it!, stop playing games…”)

Barbara Lamb said: Oct 20, 2012
Barbara LambViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Bass, Cello, Viola
Eden Prairie, MN
7 posts

It sounds as if there is a learning problem. The short term memory seems to be affected. I have a student who seems to not want to talk to adults at school. He communicates with friends and at home but not at school. Is he afraid of making mistakes in front of adults. You’ve got me. This is his 2nd year at a French Immersion School and he seems to be absorbing it. I have him for music class and he won’t even sing his name.

Barb Lamb

Barbara Lamb

Lori Bolt said: Oct 20, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

I home schooled my two children for many years, and I believe a relatively minor learning difficultly can remain “hidden” since the child is schooling one on one…the parent may not realize there is a problem since it is mostly overcome in this type of school setting. Or the child may have a hearing problem gone undiagnosed.

It could also be as simple as finding out how much she listens to the CD and practices.
Just because she’s at home more doesn’t mean these are happening effectively (trust me!)
It sounds like you have your first clue by what the student revealed to you. Good luck!

Lori Bolt

Barb said: Oct 20, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I can repeat Lori’s first sentence verbatim! Her second paragraph might also be the issue.

Or maybe, as you suspect it’s more of a passive aggressive or learned helplessness kind of behavior. Maybe look up some info on this and arrange a conference with the parent to help figure it out.

I’m no expert, but if it’s something like this, maybe the child needs to learn to express feelings verbally. Maybe even starting out with chart of faces showing different emotions, she can point to or draw one she is feeling when you can’t seem to get a response (and maybe sometimes when you can, too!). And you can show (and tell) her how YOU are feeling, too!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Michelle McManus Welch said: Oct 20, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Lindenhurst, IL
42 posts

I was wondering about a learning problem as well. In my experience, many families homeschool BECAUSE of mild learning problems. Often, doubling the amount of listening will cure many problems, ESPECIALLY at the ‘twinkles’ stage. Maybe give her a listening chart with some special stickers to motivate more listening to the CD? Also, I sometimes do ‘mixed up twinkles’ either alternating between them on an open string, or using different parts of the variation for different rhythms. What about a copying game where she plays the rhythms back to you, and you keep bringing up the ‘difficult one’ after she has succeeded on others?

Michelle Mc Manus Welch

Laura said: Oct 21, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Stanton, MN
25 posts

I agree with the sentiment that there may very well be a learning problem. Having also homeschooled for a few years, and knowing the homeschool community, this would not surprise me—I’ve seen it often. Often times a child can succeed in homeschooling, where they would struggle in public school.

I would give one word of caution, however, when discussing this with the parent. Some parents know exactly what their child’s struggles are and are open about them and seek help. Other parents have a much harder time even accepting their child may have a learning disability and can be very defensive about this issue. My experience is that it is important to point out the things that you see are making it difficult for the student to succeed in learning their instrument. Identify it as specifically as possible. Let the family know what you are able to teach, but what is out of your area of expertise. If you have referrals, you can ask if they would like any referrals, but be careful about just volunteering specific ones. Be willing to be met with resistance. If you are, periodically point out areas that you feel are still impeding progress. Over time, my experience is that these conversations lay the groundwork for the parent to be ready to want to address the issues and explore sources of help. With this type of student, I always make sure that I continually tell the parent how much I enjoy the student. I think this positive affirmation is so important, especially in the mind of a parent who struggles with admitting their child may need help.

Sue Hunt said: Oct 22, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

I once know a charming mum, who’s children appeared to be struck dumb in her presence. I couldn’t get a peep out of them. At the ages of 12 and 10, she was their spokeswoman. They would even wait politely while she considered a question before replying. It’s worth a thought.

Lori Bolt said: Oct 23, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

I agree w/ Sue….I saw some of this behavior in my own two children. They out grew it, but it did persist into the early teen yrs.

Lori Bolt

Anna said: Oct 27, 2012
 5 posts

Thanks for the suggestions! This forum is SO helpful!!

I had a great discussion with this student’s mother over the phone and her viewpoint was that the resistance was due mostly to her attitude. She said her daughter really wants to play violin (starts crying when the mother threatens to suspend lessons due to not practicing at home…), but practice was strained/forced at home.

We decided to focus on giving her daughter a little more ownership in her practice at home and asking more questions to get her in the habit of thinking and evaluating her own playing. She was the most engaged she has ever been in her lesson last week—she could identify all the rhythms, and let me know if she didn’t understand something. She also only looked at her Mom twice for confirmation.

I think she was just used to her Mom answering for her or giving her the answers at home and so she could just run her brain on neutral and not be very engaged.

Barb said: Oct 27, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Ah hah! Thanks for the follow-up!

I think I read about this kind of thing, too, in Helping Parents Practice? Or was it one of the Parents as Partners videos?

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Jeremy Chesman said: Dec 31, 2012
Jeremy Chesman
Suzuki Association Member
Organ, Recorder, Voice, Harp
Springfield, MO
24 posts

There are so many reasons a child can be stubborn. I always try to remember what I learned in ECC: If a child can’t/doesn’t do something, it’s not the child’s fault- it’s the teacher’s. The block could be not understanding, fear of failure, learning problem, child trying to gain control, serious problem at home, etc. Sometimes we have to play psychologist to figure out what the issue is.

It does seem, based on what you’ve written, that mom is a little over-involved in lessons. That, in general, isn’t the best idea in my experience. Active listening is different than actively involved in the lesson.

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