“All right," said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
Ok, so it’s now a crime to engage with a student? I thought part of being any type of teacher is being someone that the student can talk to about topics he may not feel comfortable talking about to his parents?
Yes, I may be his teacher, but I thought it is not so simple as simply teaching. Is there a human element? Or is there a happy medium? FWIW, he did seem deadly serious. That’s why I came to the Dope.
I’m a bit late, but what is wrong with telling your student that you don’t remember if you had a stomach ache or not? That way, you’re indirectly telling him that not everybody believes in such nonsense without making any direct comment about it and can get back to teaching.
Any “engagement” which results in a child casting a hex upon your digestive system is one that was not well managed. You’re a Straight Doper like the rest of us and it’s obvious you are eager to take this foolishness to the mat. Hell …I would be too, but I have nothing at stake in my interaction with him.
You have your professional reputation as a piano teacher a stake and intertwined with a kid who wants desperately to believe he’s a wizard and you are engaging this fantasy. All you can tell him is, effectively “You are full of crap. Your fantasy is nonsense.” and now he’s casting spells on you. If I was a parent with a kid making out like he’s living out a Hogwarts fantasy, and I find his piano teacher is actively “engaging” these beliefs in protracted argument vs ignoring it I would question that teacher’s choices.
Do as you will, but I don’t think the risk/reward balance re your professional reputation is in your favor going toe to toe argumentatively with a kid who wants to be a hex casting wizard. You are not his therapist or his parent.
I’m a parent of a 13 year old boy. My son takes lessons in several instruments. I usually accompany him to his drum lessons. There is often a bit of off-topic banter (or semi-off topic talk about rock musicians). I welcome this- I don’t want lessons to be boring or musicians/music teachers to seem inhuman.
Astro, what you say makes a lot of sense. I am paid to teach, not to indulge childish fantasy, especially at this age. I am rapidly learning the limit to how much I can let the student guide his own lesson. I am starting out teaching, by the way, so I am still learning what’s appropriate. And I am the kind of person who worries that I won’t be a good parent because I’d be too much of a friend to my child and not enough of a father.
FWIW I learned my craft from a teacher who would engage me and allow me to be a kid. I didn’t have this kind of fantasy at 12, but I enjoyed being able to have conversations with my own teacher that were not always strictly music-related.
Growing up,I never got along well with the disciplinarian-type teachers. Now I play jazz piano for a living.
Most of us can understand the concept of what the subject of the thread is, and don’t have this odd desire to try and pick at it. We take the OP’s word for it that the student was serious, as otherwise there is no discussion to be had.
If I were the teacher and he asked me if I got a stomachache, I would simply say, “no, I did not. Ow let’s go on to your music selection”. I wouldn’t be ok to encourage this type of thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about child-like flights of fancy. I love a vivid imagination! The part that makes me question this kid is his choice of hex. I’m somewhat inclined to think this kid is a jerk for “Hexing” you as such. He could have easily picked something that wasn’t intended to cause you duress. Speaking only for myself, if it was a continuing theme, and I could afford it, I would fire him as my student. I don’t at all believe in this wizardry (obviously) but his believing it to want o cause me harm is a bit off.
Well if he found someone who was into Wicca or Witchcraft some other types of New Age religions that actually do cast spells on people (but technically are not supposed to do bad ones) they might find they have a new disciple here.
Your job is to focus on the piano-playing; everything else is his parents’ business.
If he were 6, then playing along as a game might be the sensible thing to do, as long as you don’t let it distract you, so it would be sensible just to change the subject, with an acknowledging “That’s nice” or “If you say so”. As he’s 12, I think the correct answer is "Nice try, but you still have to practise your scales, so let’s get on with it, shall we?
The simplest explanation (and the most reasonable) is that the kid has a vivid imagination or a joking personality. There is literally no other response his piano teacher should give other than, “Nope, on with the lesson!” Trying to analyze what to tell a child who “sincerely believes” (when we don’t know what that means) in magical powers (and who is at an age when screwing with adults with nonsense is fun) is just going to lead you to frustration.
Maybe it’s the only spell he knew?
Maybe a 12 year old’s idea of a stomach ache isn’t as awful as an adult’s?
Maybe the OP had it coming?
Maybe I can’t think of anything else to contribute to this thread?
I mean, the kid was serious. He was acting like it was on his mind the whole lesson. He told me at the end, and it seemed as if he was debating whether or not he could trust me with this revelation. He had been distracted (read: not his usual self) all throughout the lesson. My skepticism was an attempt to redirect him, but I ended up engaging him instead. I didn’t intend to goad him into proving he was a wizard…only tried to say no you’re not, let’s move on. I felt that his goal in casting his spell was to make me believe, because he might have had more revelations for me that I would take seriously if I believed.
Should I have informed the parents? I didn’t, but should I have? What if the kid was getting molested or physically abused and this was his fantasy of power? If you were the parent of this 12 year old, would you want to know about this?