Welcoming the Gifted?

Contrary to what many assume, teachers don’t necessarily welcome gifted students nor find them easy to deal with. One teacher posted this to a discussion group (lightly edited):

“I had a student recital last week, and most did OK, but one boy played badly. He and his mom have a struggle going on, where he seems proud of being able to resist her efforts and mine. I want to shake him up. He is too smug. In school, he is in all advanced classes. What would you do?”

I offered my 2 cents worth: Make yourself his ally instead of his critic. Talk to him confidentially and find out if he wishes to learn about music & piano, or is it all the mom. If he wants to learn, or is willing to give it a shot, give him a list of possible activities: Learning movie-soundtrack or video-game songs. Writing melodies that go with themselves (canons). Writing 12-bar blues. Improvising. Ear-training. Whatever you think he will find attractive and fun. Since he’s very smart, you and he have a lot to work with. If he needs to feel he’s putting one over on his mom, you and he can figure out something to tell her. If he really does not want to learn, he can help you find some reason not to teach him! Then you can let someone else deal with the situation.

Right now, you are so ticked off that you can’t be of use to him. He doesn’t need “shaking up.” From your description, he’s acting as one might expect from a bright kid forced to do what he doesn’t want to do. Maybe the trick will be to figure out an option which allows him to do things well without giving up that feeling of independence!

Of course, all suggestions like this are just “talking about shadows,” since I don’t know the people involved.

A colleague sees a bigger picture, writing, Philosophically, your answer is great. How practically applicable it is, I don’t know. For someone who makes a living by private teaching, every student might be a necessity.

I wonder, though, what weight should financial necessity have compared to the proper treatment of a gifted student? Must the money side always dominate? Is there never an obligation (for instance) to give up a student, or to send the student to a more suitable teacher?

Copyright © James Boyk 2016. All rights reserved.
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