next to last week

Well, it's my penultimate week at UMKC (pre-finals, of course. not that i have any. thank you to the school gods for doctoral students not having to take written finals.). It was also my penultimate week teaching up at CITS. next week they are doing a concert of all their pieces. Ho boy, what a time...

This week we tried to get everyone to play through their pieces. Because of the disjointed schedule (as always seems to happen in elementary and secondary schools) it was obvious some of the students had put no more work into them since last time. With the final date closing in, we decided to comment mostly on "the little things."

Like having it written down...there are a few students that just seem to refuse to want to write it down. We (as in myself and the head teacher) have tried almost everything with these students. g'ah! one said "well, i have this idea in mind, it kinda goes like this (plays an interesting melodic fragment on his cello)." my answer "Great! write it down for me, and we can work together to flesh it out." he sits down, and proceeds to do nothing for the next 30 minutes while i listen to other people play. i come to him later and ask "So, do you need help getting that written down?" answer: "No, i can do it..." nothing still. When the head teacher approaches him, the student says "Oh, well, i hear it for cello, and, uh...maybe...violin? Oh, and piano. but i don't have a group..." The teacher's answer "well, i'll play violin, and we can ask to play piano. he takes lessons." the student gets quiet...and after a few minutes asks to go to the restroom...

At first i thought he was just having trouble writing it down...then i thought maybe he has some sort of learning disability. he might have some sort of hang up, either as a disability, or as just a different style of learner in general* or perhaps it's more of a social problem...or combination thereof.

Oh, btw, this is the same student that the teacher and i discussed may have Aspberger's. However, it's the new "Catch-all" disorder, with a lot of students that are just plain awkward getting stuck with a label. labels are such a nuisance...

Anyway, i'm starting to think he might just be lazy...his playing is the same way. When he's interested and he WANTS to play, its great. the rest of the time, it's just sloppy. I dunno. I refuse to just "give up" on a student. hopefully he'll come with SOMETHING next week, and i'll just take him in the corner and coax the rest out. But, i won't dictate what he plays. first off, that'd almost be cheating** and it wouldn't help develop his skills really. He can play. he CAN notate (i have seen him write notes on a page previously...just not for the "newest idea" he has.)

in other news with that class, a lot of students wrote very interesting music. but, wow, are they timid players. lol. Every comment was "what, i can't hear you play. play it louder! even if it's soft, play it louder!" i really tried to give them positive reinforcement and let them know the piece is good and that they're playing is good, so play it proudly! it's like pulling teeth getting these kids to feel self-worth

I never had that problem. nor most of my friends. we all thought we were hot shit in band. seriously, it was all about how awesome we were. we'd get in fights about who is the best player. At this school, even with the reinforcement from the teacher, and myself, they all just think they suck. g'ah!!! self-confidence!

the other note i kept saying was "well, you played it THIS way, but it's not written down. just write down what you did!" a lot of students asked "well, how do i write that?" and i gladly tell them. Usually half way through my sentence there is a little lightbulb that goes off as they recall how it was written in pieces they've played.

All in all, it's been an interesting experience with these kids. Hopefully they can come in next week and have their pieces more confidently in hand. There are a few that had fun with it but felt like their piece "sucked." i just ask "did you enjoy it? did you like writing music?" answer: "yes." reply: "well, it's just about practice. if you like it, keep doing it. the more you write, the better it will get! start with simple things, 20 measures or so for one instrument. and as you feel more confident, just write more and more!" i actually saw a couple students light up a bit with that idea. We all expect perfection, so it's good for someone "older and wiser" to tell you "it's quite alright if it sucks. just do it better next time! i remember when i wrote something terrible. it was last weekend..."

*I really thing it's a style of learner issue far more than learning disability. he definitely GETS it. there's not that "fog" as some students put it when describing a learning disability.
**I have helped a couple students write down what they were playing, but i didn't write it for them. and i'm more than willing to sit there and help him get it down, but he seems uninterested in that. Perhaps i should force the issue, but i don't see how that would really be beneficial at the end of the day...

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