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Kind of Maybe

Listen.

REALLY listen. 

To the actual words your student uses.

The attitude with which he speaks.

The speed at which she talks.

The purpose behind her words.

"So John," I began. "How are you feeling about this new piece, Skeleton Stampede?" 

"Oh...it's....easy...................................................er........ish.....................................kind...of...............................................maybe.......no......" he replied.

"Hmm," I thought.  That answer covers all the bases without giving me any indication how he feels about the piece. An all-purpose answer.

"John," I said, (after I'd written down word-for-word what he'd said, realizing it might be hard to remember and, I confess, seemed worthy of a post) "Why in the world did you say that?"

"Because then I can't be wrong...............Right?"

Wow.

Hedging his bets to try to make sure he's not wrong. I asked him for his opinion about a piece of music. I don't think it's possible to have a wrong opinion. Uninformed? Yes. But when one is talking about one's feelings I think one can't be wrong.

So what made him feel so unsafe I wondered? What made him so guarded?

John has some learning differences. He particularly struggles with working memory. He always feels on the edge of "being wrong" so he tries to head it off any way he can.

Last week I asked him what he could do to get his thumb onto the correct note in a passage. (I was thinking, perhaps, he might open his hand a bit to get his thumb in the right place."

"Grow a longer thumb?" he replied with a grin.

Sometimes his wit wins out. 

The rest of the time he gets nervous and tries to keep from making mistakes. We're working on it. I'm learning to look for the warning signs that he isn't connected to his own feelings. Trying to understand and help him be more honest with me and with himself.

The next time one of your students gives an all-purpose answer take a step back. Are they giving you the answer to a question that's more important  than the one you think you're asking?

 

 

Halloween's Magic

Halloween's Magic

Snippets of Indiana

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