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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Quick Practicing Tip: Teach Me!

It was a hard year for us. One particular child challenged her mother and me to look for many different ways to handle spontaneous behavior disruptions during lessons and home practices. The child's home life changed quite a bit in the past year and a half, and for a typical seven year old girl, this student was handling it as well as we could expect. Still, the behavior problems prevented lessons and home practices from occurring smoothly. The child threw temper tantrums regularly and insisted on vying for control over every step in the teaching process, from telling me what to do and in what order, to refusing to follow instructions. Recognizing that the difficulty the child had stemmed from her altered home life situation, her mother and I rolled with the punches during lessons and practices and later spent time on the phone encouraging each other to "hang in there."

The mother renewed her commitment to continue lessons for the coming year. She bought herself a violin, and we fixed it up. Then the mother enlisted the aide of her daughter to teach the mother how to play. The child enthusiastically rose to the occasion. Now she had an excuse to be in charge, and she thrived on having the tables turned like this.

The mother has reported to me that the child has also altered her own behavior patterns. Whereas the child would refuse to play something if she thought she could not play it perfectly right away, would refuse to acknowledge that she made a mistake in the first place, and would gloss over her errors in general, her mother did the opposite. Whenever the mother made a mistake, the mother would stop and tell her daughter that she could not continue until she had corrected her mistake. Then the mother would practice her trouble spot a few times and ultimately play the passage again to see if the mistake was fixed. The mother noted to me that the daughter began copying this behavior as well. Yay! We have finally shown the child that it is alright to make mistakes and how to fix them in a practice session.

The mother was also able to teach her daughter about manners as well. Whenever the daughter is impatient about teaching the mother or says something in a tactless or unkind way, the mother points out that the daughter's choice of words caused the mother to feel hurt or whatever the emotion is. The two of them can then discuss what might be a more appropriate way to "teach" the mother.

During the child's lesson, I am able to use the mother's participation to teach the daughter. Whenever the child wants the mother to practice or learn something, I always remind the daughter that she must show the mother how to do it first. This method helps me to get the child to play. I have noticed that the child is playing much better now that she needs to role model the best playing for her mother. When the child complains that the mother's bowing is messy in Lightly Row, then I ask the child to show her mother how it would sound if the bowing were not messy. We then watch how carefully the child plays the song to avoid messy bows. Voilá! Excellent teaching and learning environment!

Try this practicing tip. Have your child be the teacher and flip the tables on him or her. Use this tip to reflect the child's behavior. As Joseph Joubert said: "To teach is to learn twice."

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