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Pupils who can't take any criticism or corrections at all


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#1 Trifle

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 10:09

I find I have an increasing number of pupils who look really put out if I ask them to correct one thing in a piece, such as a bar or a rhythm. I am sure I am very nice and give lots of praise! Is it true that children are getting such easy work at school that they literally don't need to be corrected at all? I have even had pupils who give me a dirty look if I ask them to do something a second time. I am beginning to think that the only way to teach is to give them pieces that are so easy they can do them in a week with no corrections, however this would mean that forward progress is much slower and we would perhaps have to do a book the same level twice. How are you all getting around this? Thank you.


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 10:20

I haven't found this with the students but I have had parents who don't want their children to be criticized and jump to their defence if I suggest there hasn't been enough practice.For an older child, I would explain that there is no point in coming for lessons unless I make suggestions to improve their playing.
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#3 BadStrad

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 10:43

I take pretty much the same approach as LP - I tell the kids and parents they're paying me to help the kid improve, but if they aren't going to practice between lessons and if they're not going to listen when I'm helping them then it's a waste of my time and their money.

If there has been progress, I always point out how X weeks ago they couldn't do Y, but now it is becoming a part of their skill set, how it has gone from "impossible" (in their mind) to do-able (and with practice will become "easy").
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#4 jenny

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 12:32

This is an interesting topic. In the past, I've had a few pupils who didn't take kindly to criticism - one girl, in particular, used to say 'no, I played it right' if I corrected a mistake. She was a challenging pupil in every way! I also used to teach a teenage boy who said a couple of times 'I like it better my way' when I pointed out mistakes he was making.

This last week, I've contacted the parents of a boy who is progressing very slowly and I'm still trying to work out if he's just not trying or if there are other reasons. I told his parents that in last week's lesson, I asked him if he thinks he's a pupil who looks at a new piece at home and thinks 'Oh, that looks quite difficult, I'll never be able to play it' or a pupil who thinks 'Oh, that looks a bit difficult, but I'll try to work it out slowly and carefully'. He said he was the former. I'm still waiting to hear back from the parents. They are really nice, supportive parents and I have always been able to talk openly about any problems with both their boys. We've recently had to put the younger boy's Grade 1 exam on hold, as he's just not ready to do it and they were realistic about that.   


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#5 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 13:16

I've been pretty lucky in this regard, overall.

 

I've had students who suffered from anxiety and perfectionism and would tend to bring out the waterworks when criticized.  With these students (and with all my students, generally), I start off with what I like about their performance.  If they did something I really like (phrasing or intonation, for example) I will make a point of praising that.  And then I suggest that we can make their performance better.  I will occasionally remind them that's my job, and that's why they come to me. 

 

(I really sympathize with these particular students.  I have the same anxiety and perfectionism, and post-traumatic stress to boot.  I must admit that there have been times that I've gone home after a lesson and blubbed, especially after the first few lessons with my Professor.  But I've never let her see me cry!)

 

I currently have an adult student with a tendency to defiance.  But he is also mature enough to realize that he has that tendency, and that it is counterproductive, so he keeps it in check of his on accord.  I really appreciate that.

 

I have only ever had one truly defiant child.  That child also trotted out shockingly racist statements from time to time.  ("Where did you hear that?" "From my teacher in school!" Heaven help the United States...) I no longer teach that child.  (Gender intentionally obfuscated.)

 

Good luck, Trifle!


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#6 Banjogirl

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 14:40

Children at school are routinely praised for everything these days. Everything is super and brilliant, irrespective of quality or accuracy. It's unkind, as it leaves them fragile instead of robust. Any teacher who tells it like it is, good or bad, is helping them massively.

I've never really got the praise thing. I know what I'm doing right. I want to know how to make it better! Apparently this is not normal and I have to tell people when they're doing it right. At least when I tell people that they've done well then they know that it actually means something.
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#7 Gran'piano

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 14:48

At least when I tell people that they've done well then they know that it actually means something.

Sounds like me. Another field but the musical equivalent might be - 'Ah. Yes. Coming on. Now that sounds as if one day it will turn into music'.
Kids who knew me well would tell the newer ones ' Hey, that's praise. Great stuff.'
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#8 DMC

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 14:50

Children at school are routinely praised for everything these days. Everything is super and brilliant, irrespective of quality or accuracy. It's unkind, as it leaves them fragile instead of robust. Any teacher who tells it like it is, good or bad, is helping them massively.

I've never really got the praise thing. I know what I'm doing right. I want to know how to make it better! Apparently this is not normal and I have to tell people when they're doing it right. At least when I tell people that they've done well then they know that it actually means something.

 

I completely agree. Pupils know when something isn't great, and if you tell them it is when it isn't, it discredits you. 


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#9 Dorcas

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 16:55

Welcome to the forum, Trifle!  Your first thread, and it's very relevant.  Personally, I don't think it's because children are getting work that is too easy in school, it's more like reciting a poem, and being told to change the emphasis, pronounciation or speed of recitation.  It can feel a bit personal, particularly if the student feels they did it more than well enough.

 

Just keep doing the job you are expected to do, even if you have to point out that without corrections, the students won't know how to improve.

 

Welcome again.

:woot: 


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#10 ma non troppo

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 19:47

The swear bot will edit this out, so I will try to be creative. How should I put it?

I try to give them "The (es aitch one tee) Sandwich" ...... Praise-criticise-praise.

I do this with everyone. Sometimes it's hard to find something to praise.

Anyone who won't take criticism doesn't last long and I'm afraid the child who said "I like it better my way" in a previous post would be having a long discussion involving his parents as to the reasons for their taking lessons.
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#11 jenny

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 08:30

Anyone who won't take criticism doesn't last long and I'm afraid the child who said "I like it better my way" in a previous post would be having a long discussion involving his parents as to the reasons for their taking lessons.

 

I should have added that this pupil (who had been a very promising pianist when he started lessons, but then became a teenager!) was spoken to in no uncertain terms and wasn't my pupil for much longer.  


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#12 violinlove

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 09:06

I had a couple of pupils like this a while ago and when I corrected them they would look crushed. In both cases the mothers kept phoning me up saying "This is her free time. She's supposed to be playing the piano for fun".

No amount of explaining why mistakes need to be corrected did any good and both left in the end. I don't know what some people's expectations are.

And BTW, I always correct very gently and with praise for the good parts as well.

I find that the children of parents who start talking about "playing for fun" and "it's X's free time" don't last very long either. I've had people not come to lessons because it's Y's free time and he chose to go to the swimming pool instead. (And then wanting the money back.... which they didn't get).

 

Thankfully, I don't have anyone like that at the moment. I do have a boy however, who, when corrected, swears blind that he played the corrected the version the first time..... he's quite challenging but I can deal with him.


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#13 Banjogirl

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 11:29

We get this all the time in the chorus too, that people say they want to 'sing for fun'. I can't see where the fun lies in singing the same things badly every week. But there is a tremendous sense of achievement in getting better, which is all the fun I need. We have a laugh and a great sense of camaraderie, but without the hard work there wouldn't be any real fun. Those people, incidentally, tend to leave and join an, ahem, local commercial choir.
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#14 jenny

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 13:14

 

 I do have a boy however, who, when corrected, swears blind that he played the corrected the version the first time..... he's quite challenging but I can deal with him.

 

I had a pupil like years ago - with her, it happened in almost every lesson and was said in quite an aggressive way. She would also burst into tears quite regularly. Looking back, I'm not sure how I kept teaching her for as long as I did!


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#15 Flossie

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 13:36

I am increasingly getting this with undergraduates - students who only want to be praised and told how amazing they are, rather than receiving balanced feedback on their work and having errors corrected. Often it is the students who are getting low 2:2s or 3rds, believe that they are entitled to a 2:1 and won't engage with tuition at all. They then put in formal complaints because we "haven't given" them the tuition and support they needed to get a 2:1. Verbal abuse and threatening emails from students are becoming normal.

There is also a common misconception among students that 'reasonable adjustment' for disability should mean us adding marks and increasing their classification to 'compensate' them for their disability (which is often self-declared with no evidence being provided to the disability service when requested). At university level, reasonable adjustment for disability is things like voice recognition software, screen readers, dyslexia coaching or a mental health mentor; not grade increases. We have to assess all students against the same learning outcomes and assessment criteria regardless of circumstances and adding marks for students who claim to have disabilities would give them an unfair advantage over other students. If there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. hospitalisation, bereavement involving the loss of a close family member) and clear evidence has been provided, then the exam board have some limited discretion for adjustment when a student is on a grade boundary and the student has demonstrated an ability to work to a higher standard at that specific university level/year.
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