Looking for suggestions to help unflexible student

Laura said: Jan 12, 2014
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Palm City, FL
105 posts

I have a student who is not open to change in any way shape or form. She is only 6 and has a very encouraging mother who talks to her about being open to trying new things that in the long run will be easier etc. etc. But she still “breaks down” every time I try to correct something having to do with posture. She says “but I can only do it this way” and “it doesn’t fee right” and “i don’t like it” and “it hurts” (even though we have gone through and tried to fix anything that could possible hurt. I have tried to explain that holding the bow correctly for example might feel uncomfortable at first just because it is different, but that I want her to try it “my way” just for one week and see if it starts to feel better. Our issues are with the violin position on her shoulder and also with her bow-hold. I try to play games to make it fun and to take small steps with the changes I want her to make, but I find myself just letting things slide to avoid the issue and I don’t want to do that because she will form bad habits that are then impossible to change. I am open to suggestions.

Renee Shaw said: Jan 12, 2014
Renee Shaw
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
19 posts

I’m curious about whether this is a new development or you’ve had this struggle for the entire time you’ve had the student? It reminds me of a couple students I’ve had around the same age who dislike any form of correction… I think it is good to remind yourself of the end goal, that it is important to get those skills down.

Suggestion wise, I would do the same thing that you are doing. Perhaps even smaller steps would be beneficial? I’ve lately been trying to remind myself to limit the requests I make on a student, instead of giving them a laundry list every week where the items aren’t necessarily always related. So perhaps one week focus on the playing position and as that improves shifting the focus to the bow hold. It is a lot of physical orientation that she’s having to work out. Keep at it though and I’m sure that it will click!

I’m eager to see if anyone else has more creative ideas about this…

Jennifer Kovarovic said: Jan 16, 2014
Jennifer Kovarovic
Suzuki Association Member
Seattle, WA
18 posts

I often find that when students are resistant to doing something new during a lesson, it’s because they’re afraid of failing. Maybe you could start by saying, “I won’t be mad or disappointed if you can’t get this right away AND your mom won’t be mad or disappointed either.” So you’re essentially giving her permission to fail.

Also, could she be worried about dropping the violin or bow? If you suspect that’s a possibility, I suggest having her practice over a big pillow or fluffy rug. I’ve had great success with that strategy in the past!

Alyssa said: Jan 16, 2014
Alyssa Lawson
Suzuki Association Member
Watertown, MA
6 posts

I’ve had a student react in a similar way, and I agree with Jennifer that it could be a fear of failure. Since this student is new to me, I decided to make him feel comfortable with me first, and deal with technique issues down the road when our bond is stronger. Even though I am usually a stickler for technique, I decided that letting that aspect slide a little bit wouldn’t be the end of the world. Bad habits are never truly impossible to change later on. The real tragedy would be if my student lost his passion for music and shut down completely.

For the bow hold, I ended up using a “bow hold buddy” —my students don’t normally need them, but this student really did! Now he is completely enamored with his CelloPhant! The other techniques are slowly falling into place—I agree with Renee about the importance of one-point lessons.

Good luck!

Kirsten said: Jan 17, 2014
103 posts

Sometimes a shorter lesson time is a help if you are able to do it. Perhaps 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes? I have tried this in the past and it allowed me to slow down and ask less from the student in terms of tasks (going with what Renee was talking about.) Then as the student gains confidence and emotional maturity you can increase the lesson time.


Deanna said: Jan 29, 2014
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

I have just recently found that the words: “Let’s do an experiment” are really helpful. It takes off the pressure to do it “right” or “my way” and it also doesn’t say “this is the way we will always do things from now on”. It suggests that we will just try this and see what happens. The focus is on what will happen and not on the student. Maybe the student could also suggest an experiment for you to try and see what happens to your tone or intontation or posture when you try such and such.

Barb said: Feb 8, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I LIKE that, Deanna!

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