I don’t often write about my own teaching experiences here. I definitely don’t write naming any names, and I attempt to keep things as anonymous as possible. I’ve seen teachers write publicly either on a website or, more frequently, on Facebook, and I think it’s wrong to do that, just as I don’t like seeing students write negatively about a teacher. I do, however, have no problem about writing about the issues I and other teachers have faced. They are rather universal so one doesn’t have to point out a certain student or parent to write about them.
Here are just a few issues I’ve had:
The Rude Response
Sometimes I say something and a student comes back with a rather rude response. I honestly don’t think all of them even know they are being rude. Sometimes it’s just lack of savvy to that sort of thing. Sometimes it’s how they behave at home. Sometimes, and I suspect this is most common, it’s a way of covering up fear, insecurity and/or mistakes. I won’t tolerate rudeness, and I call them on that. If they are questioning me in a way that is rude I explain that to them, and I hope I give them ideas about how to ask questions without coming across in a rude manner. Questions are great. Rude questioning is not.
The Lying Response
Students who lie about practicing (and yes, I’ve written before about that) will, in all likelihood, be found out. My response to a, “Yes, I practiced that every day!” when something has clearly barely been looked at is, as I’ve mentioned before, an, “I’m really sorry to hear that! I was hoping you were going to say you forgot to look at this one because it sounded as if you were sight reading!” I am hopeful that most learn that they may as well come clean at the start. If the piece isn’t good enough they’ll have to repeat it anyway, so admitting it wasn’t worked on saves us all a bit of time and energy.
The Questioning Response
Yes, I said I like questions. I really do! What I don’t like is when I tell a student how something should go, or point out a mistake and they look at me as if I haven’t a clue and say, “REALLY?” I’m sorry to say my sarcasm often clicks in at that point and I have to admit I sometimes even say, “No, I was just lying to you.” Mostly I say, “Yes, really. Why would I tell you something that’s not true?” I also get the, “Well, my BAND director says …”. That’s a tough one. I don’t care to contradict a band director, but the majority aren’t oboists and they sure give out a lot of bad information! Recently a few youth orchestra directors have been doing this same thing which was quite new for me to deal with.
These are the students who simply ignore the errors I point out or don’t listen to my instructions. When they do that it’s usually a chronic problem. Again, I think sometimes this is about fear or insecurity. If they just don’t hear me, they can ignore the issues. When I get students like this I have them repeat what I have instructed or have them tell me what the mistake was.
I’ve been teaching for a very long time. I know about all of these responses. I deal with them. I hope that I manage, in the end, to get students motivated and excited about oboe. I hope I also encourage them in the long run. Sometimes, though, it’s incredibly difficult to find encouraging words. At the end of those trying lessons, though, I do hope I send the students home with an, “I know this wasn’t as good as it could have been but I have NO DOUBT you can do better!”
All of that being said, I find these challenges to be somewhat invigorating much of the time.
Do note, thought, that I didn’t write “ALL of the time”!