Drawing out a shy student
Found in: Student Management
Nancy B., Kansas
I have a very shy/anxious student, unlike I have ever had before. She is 8 and has had only about 4 lessons in this group with the 5 other students. Just wondered if anyone has any tips for drawing out a pretty reluctant student. Mom says this is the student’s pattern, getting into an activity and then suddenly she is unwilling to participate, just quietly refuses to play at the lesson. Mom gets visibly frustrated and I keep things light, and she has made progress, for her, at playing a little bit more each time (but a lot less than the other kids). Mom is very frustrated with this pattern and I would love to help piano be something that gets her over the hump of this, unless it ends up being something more involved that I can’t see right now.
I’ve worked with a lot of kids with a lot of needs/issues over the years but I’m just not exactly sure what’s going on. I told her while I’m not able to change to private, I am willing to do several 1:1 lessons this summer to see if we can make some more headway. I would welcome any suggestions or tips that have helped with reluctant/shy/passive students!
Carrie L., Michigan
I would do private if you can. I would suggest it may be perfectionism or a special need causing the severe anxiety. I had a student like this and pulled him from the group. He’s doing well in a private lesson. He’s highly gifted and his anxiety and awareness are very high.
Cate R., Australia
Also, don’t ask her directly or expect answers; sometimes a nod will be enough. I have one that started off with just nodding answers, but now talks–but I have to leave space for her to answer. Sometimes she seems overwhelmed again so we just go back to nodding.
Sue L., California
I have a shy student too, 9 years old, who has been taking lessons for about 2 years. She is now learning reading and playing very well. She is talking more, speaking up for her preferences when I give her choices, although in a very quiet voice. Her practice habits have steadily improved. I always compliment something about her, and during lessons we take some “brain breaks” and take deep breaths.
Erini T., Australia
I’ve found extremely shy students do much better in private lessons, unless they know and feel comfortable with the other student/s. Lots of patience and sometimes thinking outside the box, to try and draw them out.
Jacqui G., Canada
I have a group of three very different students: an exuberant 11-year-old boy, a sweet, shy 13-year-old girl, and a quirky, introverted 14-year-old boy (whose grandma wants him in private lessons). The younger one dominates the class, and constantly acts out to get our attention. Last week it was just the two older ones, and the class dynamics were completely different – calm, happy, and productive. They just click! Now I am trying to figure out how to suggest to the 11-year-old’s mom that he would be better off in a private lesson.
Michelle H., Australia
Could you pair her up with another quiet student? I’d suggest a few private lessons to see if she is any more relaxed.
Being an introverted personality type myself, as a child I didn’t like large groups or anything that drew attention to me. I was very self-conscious and felt awkward and out of step with other students. I also didn’t find the need to make a lot of noise, act out, talk a lot, or be cheeky. I agree with Patti – a head nod or a yes is an acknowledgement for someone who is quiet. Over the years I’ve learned how to be comfortable and okay with these things. I found as a child I learned best one-on-one and struggled in a large group as I didn’t feel heard or other personalities were stronger. Give it time. Introverts think a lot more than they speak and there are all levels of quiet students for many different reasons.