Problem Student

said: Oct 3, 2010
 17 posts

I’m 15 years old, and am in our local youth orchestra, usually sitting in the front stand in 1st Violin. I also help in the beginner orchestra, where I first met my student. Well, I’m not his teacher—I’m his “music tutor”.

He’s sarcastic (on the verge of rude) and impatient.
He has a 5 minute concentration span.
You work on intonation for 2 seconds, and he wants to know if you like discovery channel.
You tell him to use correct bowing and he says that it works better HIS way.
He doesn’t follow directions.
He’s obsessed with getting concertmaster, but won’t put practice into it.
He says that 4th finger is impractical.
He drives me nuts.
He’s 10.
He’s polishing the songs in book 2, and is about to start book 3.
He went to Interlochen this summer.
I’m pretty sure he has ADD or ADHD.

I want to continue teaching him, as I want to be a music teacher when I grow up—I know I’ll have students like this for the rest of my life, so I want to get the experience.

I also don’t want to step on his teacher’s toes. He used to take from a local teacher, but now drives to the Suzuki Institute. I’m only working on what his teacher told him to work on, but I still want to be careful.

How can I keep his concentration longer (I’ve tried giving him breaks, but he can’t get his concentration back)? Also, I’m a perfectionist—how much perfection do I ask of him (intonation, especially)? What should I say when he goes off on a completely different subject? Any other tips?

He’s teaching me a lot—I appreciate him for that. But I also want him to learn as much as he can—which means I need to teach him the best I can. He’s a smart kid, and I think, if he puts his mind to it, that his playing could be STUNNING! He has a wonderful imagination and energy, which could translate into amazing interpretations. But, in the meantime, I’m about to pull my hair out.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Sara said: Oct 3, 2010
191 posts

Have you tried attending his lessons with him to observe how his teacher works with him?
You can gain A LOT of insight just by watching someone teach.
If it’s not possible to watch his lesson, could you call his teacher and have a conversation with him/her?
Being that his teacher works with him regularly and probably knows him quite well, would be able to tell you more than any of us on here could.
What book on the subject of teaching have you read?
Edmund Sprunger’s book “Helping Parents Practice” might be helpful for you. You’re not a parent, but as a tutor and as a future teacher the more you can read on the topic, the better. Of course the standard “Nurtured By Love” and “Ability Development From Age zero” are always good. I re-read those almost once a year and I reference them all of the time.
I hope this helps ~ Best to you!

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

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