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#46 Aquarelle

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 10:20

Thanks again everyone for your interest and support. Just to clarify the boarding school thing it is a bit complicated and not quite like the English system of boarding; The girl will go to be a weekly boarder in September - up near Bordeaux. I have several pupils at this school and they each have a timetable for their practice which they do either at break of during study time. It is one of the rare musical schools here, run by nuns, who do keep an eye on the practice. It is not the same as being able to go to the piano whenever you fell like it but the girls adapt and it works reasonably.

 

The system for boys is different.  There are boarders and day boys at their school. which is near here; However they are obliged to board, even if they live locally  for the last three years of their secondary education. (This may be changing but that's how it is at present.) In addition, day boys can be taken in for periods of boarding. This happens in two cases - if a family has illness or difficulties which make it better for the boy to board temporarily  or if the boy is not getting the required academic results. In that case  parents  can ask or teachers can insist on boarding so that the boy attends study hours. This is what  I think happened to my boy pupil, though when I asked him why he had become a boarder he replied that he didn't know. As the same thing happened at the same time last year I think he is probably being pushed to get better marks at the end of the academic year  so that he doesn't risk having to  "stay down" and repeat a year. it's a hard system!


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#47 Aquarelle

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:04

Just a quickie to say that on Wednesday I will see this family for the last time before the concert.  I hope that mother will not come in. I am actually feeling a bit nervous about these lessons. I think if she does appear and wants to discuss anything I will simply say it isn't the moment, and I will deal with any queries after the concert.

 

Preparations for the concert are, otherwise, going very well and I really don't want anything to spoil it.


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#48 Aquarelle

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 14:16

Second update. Mother did come in at the end of the lessons to ask what time the concert will be on Sunday - though everyone has as already had this information

twice.I told her and added that the two children were ready. No further exchange and she has still not returned the inscription form for September which makes things easier for me in a sense. I will have to make the final decision as to how to inform her  that I can't take the children back in September until after the concert..

 

 

The two lessons this week were difficult for me as I had to give the children something to play this week but I couldn't of course, talk about "holiday work". The little girl was moody  and a bit defiant as she is (not surprisingly) occasionally. The boy seemed happy and smiled quite a lot.

 

Remains to be seen if we get through the concert without any complications. I think I shall  just keep out of her way.


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#49 Norway

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 14:55

Good luck with the concert Aquarelle. You really don't need that drama queen around. I'll be thinking of you. grouphug.gif


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#50 elemimele

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 15:00

Look at the positives of what you have given them: the children will remember their lessons with you, and what they've learned, and who knows what benefits they will find in those memories later in their lives. You have done a lot of good, even if their mother's attitude has made it impossible to continue. They will probably work out for themselves, in later life, why it all went the way it did, but they will still have the foundations you've built.


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#51 Gran'piano

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 16:07

Agree absolutely with elemimele.
Hope it turns out as well as it did in my similar situation. It is hard at the time but seeds that are sown can bring fruit later. Fingers crossed.
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#52 Norway

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 17:55

How did the concert go?


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#53 Aquarelle

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 11:02

The concert went really well – more of that later.

 

Well now I really am in a pickle. I have received from you all very  sensible and intelligent advice which I know perfectly well I ought to follow. But I don’t think I am going to be able to.  As you know, despite the difficulties  with mother both children got good exam results. They turned up at the concert without father. They were impeccably dressed and both played their piece exceptionally well, in particular the boy. He obviously took great pleasure in playing and then turned to me with a lovely smile which hit me below the belt. It  was the confirmation of what I have suspected for a long time – that his music is, for him, a safety valve.

I was at the village hall early to do some last minute preparation. The  first person to arrive was a man whom I didn’t know. He seemed a bit confused about the venue and the timing of the concert. I asked him who he was and he said he was a friend of the X family who had invited him and his children. (I had asked parents to bring along friends who might enjoy the concert.)  Mother X had made a generous contribution and joined in to help the other mothers. I avoided her until the very end when I went into the kitchen and found her there with her elder daughter whom I met three years ago. Mother had obviously forgotten that I had met the daughter and   introduced her to me – she was helping with the clearing up – and I got a big smile from the daughter. (At one time I had been asked to take her on too but as she was between boarding schools – having been expelled from one – there were too many timetable complications and it couldn’t be managed.)  

 

So now I am stuck. Mother and children behaved perfectly and I also overheard a group of other  mothers  talking together and one congratulated her on the way her children had played. This mother is a relative newcomer to the area and may not know of the difficulties people have had with Mother X.  So with this public show of good will and good playing I am not going to manage to sack this family without possible repercussions. Next question – is this manipulation on the part of mother X or is she really unaware of the results of her behaviour?

 

I had originally intended to  get a letter to her or hand a letter to her myself stating that in view of our differences of opinion I felt she should look for another teacher. But the carpet has been pulled out from under my feet. So I have decided to take another course.

 

She asked me if there was another lesson before the end of term – though the  notes for parents on programme clearly stated that there was – so I imagine she will bring her children on Wednesday. I think I will make myself a list of the difficulties she has caused and discuss this with her face to face. I think I will take the line that maybe she has not understood what I require of parents. I will tell her that if she can’t agree then she is at liberty to withdraw her children.

If she wants them to continue she will have to conform to the spirit of my teaching practice, as do the other parents and that any further problem will lead  at once to the removal of her children. Somehow I have to construct a situation in which the sword of Damocles is hanging over her head, and not mine. I have no idea if I will be able to convince her, but at least I will have made my points. I will have to stay calm and professional and if she explodes again I will simply have to close the matter there and then.

 

In answer to Norway’s question the concert  was great. All the pupils  - from the tiny “Piano Adventures Primer” group through to the Rachmaninov Prelude were played with enthusiasm and authority. The group of poems and music from Walter Carroll’s “River and Rainbow” was very much appreciated (though for my part I found several of the readings a bit “dum-di dum-di dum” rather than the expressive way they had read in lessons.) The Rachmaninov drew a lot of applause though the Agitato was a bit chaotic I don’t suppose anyone but me noticed – and  it was a valiant attempt for a teenage boy. One of the most musical moments was when a seventeen year old girl managed to hold the audience spellbound with Debussy’s “Little Shepherd”. I got the child announcing to explain that this was a piece in which the silences and the holding of a single note were expressive moments to be savoured. Despite the number of young children in the audience you could have  heard a pin drop. There was a “cute” moment when an older sister played a chopstick style duo with her little sister. They had prepared this all by themselves and it was quite touching to see how the older girl “managed” the little one. The little boy in charge of the CD player (Piano Adventures accompaniments) got it all right. One or two pupils really excelled themselves and the one girl who is always terrified of playing in public  had a restart and a panic  but once I had set her en route again she courageously got through her  Beethoven Bagatelle without further mishap – though the speed was what an examiner would probably have called “prudent.” On the other hand she played  “The Chrystal Stream”’  beautifully  in the  Walter Carroll group and she did actually read her little poem sensitively.

 

The buffet afterwards was plentiful and tasty. Parents and friends stood and chatted, the teenagers clustered themselves into conspiring groups and the younger children raced around with popcorn falling out of their pockets. (I brought 2 enormous bowls of the stuff and it disappeared in seconds!) Afterwards everyone helped clear up and it was hugs all round and “See you next year.” I got home just before ten and the only person who had not had a good day was the dog who made it quite plain that concert or not, being confined to the kitchen for an afternoon and an evening was not fair play.

 

If anyone has any suggestions or warnings about how I cope on Wednesday please do post. I’ll update afterwards.


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#54 Norway

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 11:16

I think she's trying to play you - it's a power game. I'd just say that due to personal reasons I'm having to reduce my teaching, can no longer teach the children and wish them all the best for the future. And she won't be able to ask you why because the reasons are "personal". wink.png


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#55 HelenVJ

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 11:44

I think it's a good thing for us teachers to be flexible - ie change our minds smile.png. Reading between the lines, I get the feeling that the boy in particular would be devastated were you to sack him, whatever spin is put upon it. I think your plan of having a heart to heart in person with Mme X is a good one, though of course it won't be easy. But neither would saying goodbye to the kids, presumably ( at least in some ways) - and I believe we do also have to think of our students, despite the best efforts of parents to sabotage the relationship ( which you clearly are doing - otherwise it would be a fait accompli).

Sometimes the advice of neutral outsiders can be helpful, but at others it can add to the confusion.

Alors, bonne chance, bon courage, and trust yourself and your instincts. I'm sure we all send you a virtual stiff drink for after.

Great that the concert had so many high points. and that Walter Carroll featured. His music is so pianistic, and not very often played these days.  Our Piano Party was yesterday afternoon too - such a feel-good event, and one of the high spots of our year.


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#56 Gran'piano

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 11:46

I wonder...
Last time I took a different angle from everyone else on here, I got my fingers rapped, but as looking for folk to agree with me is not my goal in life, here goes.
It looks to me that this mother may have found out (subconciously) that by shouting she can get her own way. You do not have to accept this behaviour. However, you would like to go on teaching the children.
If the mother is of French mother tongue, if you are not, and if the conversation takes place in French, one must accept that the two of you do not necessarily mean exactly the same thing when using the same words. There are often nuances which make a big difference. Our background, our education, our age, our areas of expertise, they all influence our thoughts and our way of expressing things. Maybe she finds it very difficult, or even impossible, to explain her point of view. Maybe she cannot understand why for example the children simply missing a lesson is, for you, not an option.
Whatever has happened in the past between this lady and other people, what is now important is what happens in the future to you and the children.
I would try to explain my point of view without antagonising her. I would avoid things along the lines of ‘you did this‘, but rather say, I prefer that we each make our points clear, without heated arguments. Ask why this or that happened. ‘Did we misunderstand each other?‘ sounds far less aggressive and may help to get an answer which helps to keep things on track. This doesn‘t mean backing down or being weak, but gives you a chance to keep the door open.
You are certainly running the risk of the same thing happening again and I believe you are within your rights to say that you are prepared to go on teaching the children under these rulings, and these only.
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#57 elemimele

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 12:12

I do rather like your approach of discussing with her how the way she's handled things. You've managed to write it in a way that cannot be mistaken (you have said, clearly, that her behaviour has not been acceptable) but you've put the choice in her hands: behave or leave. It's good to give her the choice, as it means she won't feel out of control, and yet she must make a positive decision to conform to behaviour acceptable to you. Whether you manage to preserve this positive but firm approach when it comes to a face-to-face discussion, I don't know! Good luck, I hope you manage - but if you don't, don't blame yourself. Others will disagree with this, but I think the discussion will be more positive if it is relatively private. Asking her to accept that her behaviour is bad in public, will probably be too much.

 

My take on this is that there are bad people who deliberately play power-games, but there are also people who are not necessarily intrinsically bad, but who have serious social issues (through a complete lack of empathy, mind-blindness - inability to tell what others are thinking/feeling, and thus inability to predict how they will respond). This second group are very difficult to handle. People who cannot empathise or predict others' feelings are often aggressively-defensive. They live in a world that is, to them, unpredictable, dangerous, full of weirdness. They know they're right (because they can't see how anyone else could have a different opinion...) so they're often also very black-and-white in their thinking (and if you're Wrong, in their view, they will certainly tell you so...).

 

The worst of it is, people aren't always one of these two extremes. A person with extreme social problems can still have a bad side and sometimes just be nasty (though being really nasty actually requires an understanding of your victim). A person who enjoys power-games can also, sometimes, just mess up because they haven't had the social practice to know how to behave nicely. It's difficult to diagnose which a person is. I have no idea which you're dealing with. As a teacher, you're not under any obligation to deal with either group. But if you think there's just a chance that this mother is in the serious social problems category and you want to give her kids a chance, then be proud of yourself. You'll need to be super-clear with her about what's OK and what isn't, because if she's in this group, she won't be able to guess. She'll need clear concrete descriptions of what she should and shouldn't do, and probably carefully-timed reminders, or some planning to make it easy for her to do the right thing (as she may have ingrained antisocial habits: e.g. getting furiously angry, because if people have given in in the past, or at least accepted it, it will have reinforced the message that furious anger is OK. This is why I get so annoyed with soap-operas: the social scripts that they present to people looking for role-models are so, so, so negative). I'm going off-topic. Good luck!


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#58 elemimele

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 12:18

... it occurs to me, if you can keep any on-going contact with the father, that may be a good idea. It's obviously not ideal to be asking a bloke to undermine his missus, but he may be a source of inside information about what's going on, and a source of sanity. He may also know whether she alternates between good and bad behaviour as part of a power-game, or whether she's simply one of those people who behaves terribly if she thinks you're in the wrong, and delightfully if she's happy with what you're doing. Such people have no idea that, for the rest of us, today's box of chocolates is tainted by yesterday's tantrum, and that we find the whole thing confusing.


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#59 Aquarelle

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 14:30

Thanks again for your time and helpful words. I can see there is some very useful advice - and also possible explanations of this mother's behaviour. On reading

elemimele's post I'm inclined to think this person falls into the category of having serious social issues. I am really beginning to think she has no idea of the effect of her words and behaviour on other people - and this I think includes her own family.

 

HelenVJ - you are right about the effect my sacking would have on the boy. His evident pleasure at the concert is not the only instance I have seen that has led me to believe his music is a safety valve and that was the main reason I decided to have another go at resolving this situation. When a thirteen year old lad looks at you that way you feel really mean about punishing him because of his mother. I'll try to have a broader back and to think hard about elemimele's descriptions of the types of personalities that need specific handling. I need to give the family another chance without giving her the slightest possibility of bullying me and yet not making her lose face. it's a tightrope!

 

Gran'piano - yes, I will take into account the language problem. I am  almost (but not quite) bi-lingual after 34 years of living in France with a French companion. However that didn't stop me making a gaff three years ago. I lost a pupil because when I explained that I couldn't sort the timetable until I had had all the responses of all the parents a mother took this to mean her child would be considered last. Of course, what I meant was that when I had all the responses it was very likely that a suitable alternative time would emerge for the boy concerned..


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#60 BadStrad

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 14:31

Well, I think you're being played.

 

After all the bad behaviour she plays nice at the concert.  Big whoop!  Does that really cancel out three years of you treading on eggshells around her?

 

She still hasn't returned the "inscription form"  (I'm guessing some kind of form saying they want to continue lessons next term).  She's asked you to confirm information that you know she already has.  Throwing her a bone, maybe she has some kind of difficulty retaining information, or some other problem such as Elemiele suggests, but does really excuse her behaviour, or more to the point, suggest that she "can" change?  Even if you are crystal clear about what you want what happens if she can't, or doesn't feel the need to modify her behaviour.  Few people think they are in the wrong/behave badly and while people can change, it takes effort and they have to want it to happen.  Are you convinced that this women would want to make that effort?

 

Of course you're probably going to feel like you've let the kids down, or at least feel sad about it, but that pain will pass.  Can you honestly say that you believe the mother is going to buck up her ideas and start behaving reasonably?  That pain would be ongoing.

 

As for having a discussion with her - you say in your first post that she "blew up at you" and "yelled" at you.  I fear that if you try to raise your concerns about her behaviour she will be very defensive and it will be even more unpleasent.

 

Anyway, that's my two pence worth.

 

I hope whatever you decide to do that it works out well and doesn't result in further complications for you.

 

Best of luck with it.


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