[Transcript] Episode 054 – Johnny Hunter

Transcript: Episode 054 – Johnny Hunter

Transcript for Episode 054 – Johnny Hunter on Student Health and Wellness

Intro

Hi! I’m back with a brand new episode today. Today’s topic has been on my mind for a while, and this summer I met the perfect guest to talk about it.

As music teachers, we have this interesting glimpse into our students’ lives. In most cases, this just means we have a really special relationship with these students and their families. But a few times over my career, I’ve encountered scenarios that have given me pause.

Today’s guest, a music teacher and counselor, talks about how we can make our studios safe spaces for students going through hard things and also how to handle situations where we might notice behavior or have a conversation with a student that is concerning.

Here’s my conversation with Johnny.

 

Interview

[00:01:14]

Andrea: Hi Johnny. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Johnny: Hi. Thanks for having me. My name is Johnny Hunter and I am a qualified mental health professional for children and adults. I work for a company called Dominion Youth Services where I’ve been doing mental health counseling for 17 years. I am also a drummer and I’m glad to be part of the Panharmonic Music Studio.

Andrea: That’s the Panharmonic Music Team in?

Johnny: Chesapeake, Virginia.

Andrea: Chesapeake, Virginia, a beautiful area.

Johnny: It is.

[00:01:50]

Andrea: So that is quite a powerful combination. I think a lot of teachers can relate to the like a piano teacher, music teacher becomes counselor just by nature of the work. So what has been your experience being a counselor and being a music teacher?

Johnny: It’s been a wonderful experience. I like the fact that if I work with at risk youth and seeing different signs of behavioral patterns and just becoming a child behavioral specialist, basically, I’m able to utilize those strategies and tools with teaching which come in different ray like classroom management for one or even just managing a student how to de-escalate situations that may seem like they may be getting out of hand, but at the same time, focusing on a lot of positive characteristics and strengths to help build up the child’s confidence and even basically like a lot of the social skills that they’re learning as they’re growing up and we can do it professionally like I’ve been doing, but you can also do it while giving lessons.

Andrea: I can see that’s been so helpful. I think, you know, we talk about how you don’t learn business skills when you go to music school and become a teacher but you also don’t learn a lot of those child development and classroom management skills either so that combination sounds amazing.

Johnny: Yeah, that’s great.

[00:03:12]

Andrea: So I’m excited to have you on because there have been several situations over my career of teaching where I’ve thought, Oh, it would be so helpful to have either a counselor or a social worker or someone with those skills and knowledge on speed dial. I think we’d go into this conversation just in terms of some of those scenarios that I’d experienced that maybe you can speak to them, I think, maybe other teachers have experienced something similar.

Johnny: Sure. Let’s go for it.

[00:03:38]

Andrea: So the first one that I’ve noticed is just that concerns about the emotional state of a student, like students tell us things when we’re in lessons because we’re that regular presence in their life and they might just tell us something and it concerns us or also students who may be are more perfectionist than is normal for a child and we might be worried about those kinds of things. So what should we be looking for as teachers? What are some red flags we should be aware of?

Johnny: Well that’s a really good scenario and something that I’m sure a lot of us have come across for I know I have as well. I think one of the biggest things is recognizing especially in behavior we communicate. Behavior is just communication and so we communicate more non-verbally than we do verbally. Most of us have that good insight to pick up on the non-verbal cues, so like you said, like a student comes in and he or she may have been very happy but then just come in kind of sad and gloomy for the next few weeks and there’s something that could have triggered or caused this change of behavior and that child is trying to tell us something.

I would say one of the things to kind of just look out for are, I would say, patterns of these types of behaviors, like if there is a drastic mood change, so just like you gave a very happy-go-lucky and all of a sudden they’re not, we don’t know if their parents are going through a divorce or maybe there was a loss and grief and they just don’t know how to communicate that. And then I will also say looking for like extreme behaviors too, like where it’s like, “Wow. Where did that come from?” where they maybe have a sudden outburst, things like that, something that’s just kind of abnormal from their normal routine behaviors that they usually exhibit.

As far as the student who is trying to be the perfectionist, you know that one too can have many different layers. Maybe there is just extra added pressure from their parents that we just don’t know about. But there are some nice little tools that we can use to kind of help. Maybe it’s just them being too hard on themselves and taking it too serious and now they’re becoming frustrated and they kind of get caught in this loop of anger and frustration of not getting it right the very first time. Something that I would recommend for that, especially for perfectionists, is teaching them that it’s okay to make mistakes and making it a game and actually saying, “Alright, I’m going to teach you–like for me as I’m teaching drums–we’re going to do a 4/4 beat and I want you to make as many mistakes as possible,” and just letting them becoming comfortable with saying like, “Hey, it’s not the end of the world when you make a mistake.” So those are, I guess, a little bit of advice I could give just–extreme outburst, a change of behaviors, the mood swings that just seem a little bit abnormal–I know with children, especially if you’re even teaching teenagers, that’s kind of going to be common. I think just allowing them, letting them have a voice to maybe get some of their chests if you notice that, and maybe that’s all they really need is just to have someone to listen to them and so that you can be ready to teach and give your lesson, and they’ll be actually ready to listen and receive the knowledge that you’re passing on to them.

[00:07:24]

Andrea: So let me put some context on those perfectionistic tendencies. So I previously lived in Maryland and I was outside of DC and there are a lot of very Type A parents and I taught their children, and so very achievement-oriented and the kids had really high expectations for themselves. Across the board my students were that way and I had one particular student who would pretty much shut down in lessons and I could demonstrate something for her she wouldn’t want to play it back for me. So, on an already like high-end scale of perfectionism, this student really stood out. So my question in that situation was like when is this so extreme that I really hadn’t mentioned things to her parents, but when is it really crossing a line where they might need to get additional help? There might be something more going on with that student. Are there any signs there?

Johnny: Yeah. The being withdrawn and shut down student maybe like those depressive type of attributes that you might be picking up and noticing; those are difficult. That’s very difficult and I can understand the difficulty of a teacher walking that balance of trying to notify their caregivers to say they think there is something else deeper going on here that’s blocking or hindering their child’s progress, and maybe that’s one way of framing it for these parents who may have very high expectations of their children.

So if I have again teaching maybe piano or guitar or something and you have those parents who set the bar pretty high and they make their child practice every single day, you know, they have a very strict routine and regimen of just practice, practice, practice and perfection, and you don’t want the child to get to a point where they could just self-defeat it. And so they just can’t meet this expectation and meet that bar and it’s like what good is that going to do? If you see that continually, it kind of sometimes snowballs. It may start off as “Oh, I just got this one piece wrong and now I’m going to shut down for about five minutes,” and maybe he or she kind of gets out of there after you know, normally we like to verbally praise and prompt them and encourage them to get back at it again. But if it continues, like that’s one major sign and so I’m like, “Wait a minute. This used to be like a 5-minute little shut down and now it’s 10 minutes, now it’s 15, now it’s almost taken up my entire lesson just from the beginning.”

If you noticed a frequency of this getting larger, that’s, I think, a clear sign. There’s just something deeper going on and that’s where I will probably notify the parents and say, “Hey, I want to help your child but I can’t if he or she is unable to get over this hurdle.” That’s where recommending some type of help, and it doesn’t have to necessarily– I know most of the time there’s a lot of stick ball around therapists and I’m hoping that– I think that’s getting chipped away at a lot because I know a lot of folks who are now kind of more open about seeing a therapist. Even the best therapists have a therapist.

I think the frequency of these shut downs is a big, big sign if it keeps increasing. That’s when I start to recommend because you can start a lesson and it may have been something minor but then now, all of a sudden, it’s just taken up a majority of the time. There’s only so much that you can do and just letting those parents know that by saying, “Hey, they have all the potential but there’s something that’s out of my expertise that I can’t help them with, this road block, and if we continue to push the child to still force them to come to my lessons, it’s going to drive them away from their passion to wanting to play or perform.” In the end, it’s going to be like not a good thing for them to be at.

[00:11:57]

Andrea: That’s it, yeah. So if they’re shutting down for a few minutes just because it hurt their ego to make a mistake, normal, don’t worry about that. But if you see it increasing or more like you said the extreme behaviors then maybe investigate a little further. Okay. And then, is there anything you’d add to that for like the student who comes in just seeming a little blue and the same extreme behavior changes that we should be looking for?

Johnny: Yeah, I would definitely say obviously a lot of teachers were trained to give a lot of praise to and really want to keep them positive and happy like it seems that there is an abnormal amount of gloom, and again, if he or she is not opening up to you about it,  you know, in most children it’s nothings and some of them do open up like a book, so maybe they can and will share and give you some more insight as to what is going on. I would say something as far as like an extreme behavior to you, like if you noticed that at the end of your lesson that they start to act out always at the end of your lesson and like throwing a fit or shutting down or something, it could be that they’re trying to not get go back home. I’ve actually experienced this before where we were working with a certain student and they will be just well-behaved throughout the entire day, throughout the half hour or two hours we were working with them and just when we give them that, “Alright, we got about 5 more minutes or 10 more minutes until we go home,” then it would just be like this eruption and then they try to use it as a kind of a distraction to get away, to stand, staying in your presence and with you. That’s also, I would say, a red flag of going, “Okay. What is going on that’s causing this child to act out in such a way that he or she is afraid of going back home?”

[00:14:10]

Andrea: That’s a perfect segue into the next scenario I want to talk about which was concerns of child abuse or neglect or something like that. About 10 years ago, in my studio, we were doing a summer camp and so it’s group. I wasn’t actually the teacher for this particular summer camp and we had two kids who got in trouble. I don’t even remember exactly what happened but they got in trouble and we resolved the issue between the two kids and then we said, “We need to tell your parents that this happened today.” I think someone end up getting pushed or something like that, like there is some physical part of it so we needed to tell both parents. So one of the students is just like, “Of course, you can tell my mom,” you know she wasn’t worried and the other really freaked out like more than was normal in my mind for a child to freak out about their parent being told about their troublesome behavior. So that gave me pause, like is there something going on I’m not– How long do I need to be aware of because maybe it’s dangerous for me to tell her mom, this student who is generally well-behaved, maybe it’s dangerous for her to get in trouble.

So what are some things there, like you mentioned one red flag to be looking for, what are some other things to look for that might signal child abuse or neglect or something happening at home?

Johnny: Well, safety is always like on the top of my mind when it comes to working with children and just, are they safe, are they displaying safe behaviors and that’s usually what kind of triggers these things for us to go like, “Hmm., what could be happening?” I would say that there are numerous different things because in this scenario that you presented, it just could be that there could be abuse going on that we don’t know about that the parents may choose to punish their child a certain way, whether it is spanking or “You’re not going to get dinner.” I don’t know. There could be a different array of punishments or consequences for the child that might seem maybe a bit harsh. And then, there are also times where it could be he or she just knows that they really don’t want their parents know this because, to be honest with it, just the shame of having done something wrong or bad and kind of taking that perfectionist attitude to like this is a major stain on what I’ve already done. And so maybe it could just really be reacting or overreacting to this small, little stain, so to speak, or blemish on their reputation, and so now they don’t want their parents to know.

But, there are definitely some other signs of what to look for when it comes to safety and thinking about abuse. One of the things for me–and I probably would encourage like I would say for those who are teaching children to know that everyone’s pretty much a mandated reporter. I’m a mandated reporter. You’re a mandated reporter and what that really looks like is even when you suspect abuse, it’s not necessarily I witnessed the abuse but even when you just suspect it, so how will I as a teacher suspect abuse when I’m just giving a child a half hour piano lesson?      

Well, it can look something like he or she, you’re giving lesson, and normally this child and the parents have given you permission to not only give verbal praise but to even give him physical touch of like a pat on the back or the child may like giving hugs, and let’s say he or she does something real well and you try to go to give him like “Great job!” and you give him a slight little pat on the back and he or she winces, that is a clear sign of “Whoa, why are you wincing all of a sudden?” Something is not right. And that may kind of open up the door for you to, once you notice that, and it could be, too, that the child themselves can be very affectionate and all of a sudden they’re not anymore. I would also say hiding bruises or marks by wearing long sleeved shirts or hoodies when out here in Virginia it gets pretty humid, and so as we’re finishing up our summer but if I had some child who’s wearing some clothing that was constantly kind of covering up things like especially when we have some heat index and things like that, it might raise some suspicions.

Now, naturally, they could be really cold inside or they may be cold where they’re at if you’re giving it via Zoom or whatever platform that you use. I would definitely say those are some signs, just the abnormal behavior of like why are they a lot quieter. Again, extreme mood change is a big one. You are so happy and all of a sudden you’re just very quiet and timid and maybe they were the ones who are open books and they were talking all about the fun stuff and then you noticed that they’re not talking about fun stuff their family is doing and it’s very hush-hush or just like, you know, when we start a lesson, “How was your week? How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun with your family?” And you know, those non-verbal cues that you notice. And it could be something as simple as like there maybe some altercations and things that happened in place because every home has those, but noticing some big ones where they’re just like, “I can’t say anything. I’m not supposed to or something. They’re red flags that go up big time.

[00:19:56]

Andrea: You mentioned mandatory reporters. Can you tell us what that means?

Johnny: Yeah. A mandatory reporter is myself, you, it’s teachers, it’s folks who interact or have a daily interaction with children on some type of professional level, and that means that if I suspect abuse I need to take some type of action even when I suspect abuse, not just when I see abuse, and I think that’s probably the biggest misconception. It doesn’t mean that your suspicions are always correct and it doesn’t mean that we’re out to get someone or you have this “Aha” moment that I knew these were some bad parents or things like that. It just truly means that as we’re concerned about safety for the children that we interact with on a regular routine, then we need to do our due diligence of notifying the proper authorities when we suspect there is some abuse.

[00:21:06]

Andrea: And who are those proper authorities?

Johnny: In Virginia, we have the Department of Social Services and they are the ones we need to contact and their division is the Child Protective Services, the CPS. You may have heard that. In the social work field there’s an acronym for everything so I’m going to try to make sure I say it right and not just saying, “Well you can contact DSS and DBAHDS.” But CPS, Child Protective Services, they actually have a local line here in Virginia and then they also have a national hotline that you can call.

I know it’s usually something very difficult folks kind of have a hard time weighing in their mind like call or do I say something. I can let you know that if you do call, if you decide to that you think that situation calls for you making that call to CPS, you can do it anonymously so you don’t have to worry about saying this person, a music teacher, Johnny Hunter at Panharmonic Music Studio, reported you. You can do it anonymously, which is a good thing, and that helps protect you from anything maybe the students, so that way the student can keep their trust in you if that happens. You can Google “Child Protective Services” and it will come up. I think it’s usually at the Department of Social Services website which is DSS.virginia.gov and from there you should be able to navigate. They’ll have a Child Protective Services tab you can click on. And again, they have a local Virginia toll-free number and also an out of state number.

[00:23:03]

Andrea: Okay. And I imagine you can Google “Child Protective Services” and your state name and you’ll come up with the place you need to contact.

Johnny: Yes. Absolutely.

Andrea: I imagine part of the hesitation on a teacher’s part might be they’re not sure what’s going to happen after they report that and maybe they’re concerned about if they misreport something what are the implications for the family that they’ve reported. Can you tell us a little bit about that process like what happens after you make that phone call?

Johnny: What typically happens is the social worker will get as much information as they can, which is the why, what you’ve witnessed, what you suspect that’s going on, who’s the child. They ask you a series of questions. Usually, they say they will start an investigation and from there, it’s really you may not hear much of anything after you report it. Typically, that’s what may happen because they’ve started an investigation. Unless they need more information from you, that’s where it kind of falls they will do their investigation and then they will take different precautions and they have their own whole set of protocol what to do when you get something.

Say, a child was being yanked, pulled on in a store or something and there were a lot of eyes who saw that and you may call CPS but it’s going to be very difficult because unless you know the child. So for us, as teachers, since we already kind of have a lot of the information, you’ll be able to provide that for them and then they’re going to say, “Thank you for this information and we’ll take it from here.” That’s usually what will happen. There’s not too much unless there’s more and then something does happen and go deeper, they may go, “Hey, how long have you known? We suspect there could be something going on too after we’ve interviewed the parents.” Someone may come out to you and contact you to get more information.

[00:25:14]

Andrea: And if it’s a situation where we had suspicions but they ended up not being anything, what are the implications for that family?

Johnny: Sometimes there actually could be positive implications. I know it sounds weird, meaning like getting your act together, you know, it’s a kind of help them to understand that people are watching and that they need to, like I say, keep things together and not just as a facade but more of just as like, “Hey, this is your child. People do care about them.”

The major implication that could happen is obviously there’s mistrust. Where are they going? Who reported? Who said something? Why are they doing this for my child? Sometimes the families do try to find out who reported so I would just say be prepared for–

[00:26:14]

Andrea: Someone to come like perhaps question you like, “Did you report my family?” Is that what you’re trying to communicate?

Johnny: Yes. So basically they could come to you and kind of figure out and say, “Hey, this took place. Did you report me?” And if you did anonymously, it’s up to you. You can be honest and open with them or you can play dumb if you will. But I would say most parents do try. It would be very common if like all of a sudden they’re like they cancel our lessons for the rest of the month because they’re kind of paranoid a little bit as to who would do this. Even if nothing was found, it’s different for everyone, but just know that could possibly happen where they could kind of have their suspicions or they don’t know and then they tell the child, “Hey, you really need to be quiet and not tell Ms. Miller everything of our business.” They may suspected you but don’t really know 100%, so that could possibly happen in pressuring the child to withhold information. And then, again, you’ll notice it and you’ll see it as a behavior going like they’re usually open and now here she is very quiet and upset. And even the child may even be upset with you. That could be another implication, too. I think that’s the biggest fear, just kind of going back to the beginning of the question, teachers think, “What’s going to happen? Are they going to be taken out of their home?” That doesn’t happen often. There’s a very long list of checkmarks that need to be checked off in order for the child to be removed immediately. Don’t go to that extreme thought. What I want to say to teachers is if you have to report, just don’t think that it immediately means that child is being taken away from them.

[00:28:22]

Andrea: Thanks for clarifying that. Are there any questions that you might ask if you’re trying to figure out with this particular student? In my scenario, I was trying to figure out like this is a theatre camp and she was kind of a dramatic child, you know, she was great for the theatre camp, and so I was trying to figure out, is she being dramatic or is there really something going on? What are some questions we might ask or how might we prompt more inquiry about that?

Johnny: Yeah. I know. I get it. So here you are teaching theatre class and you’re kind of training them how to be dramatic and here’s someone a bit overdramatic when you said “I’m going to tell your mom.” You can ask different questions as to just like “Why?” “Why did you become so upset?” or asking them questions as “You know the rules. You’re not supposed to push or hurt anyone, right? Would you want someone to do that to you? So why did you do it?” And then, “Why did you seem to be more upset when I told you that your parents were going to be notified about this?” And then trying to see what their perspective is a little bit. That way you can kind of gauge and kind of assuring them like, “Hey, I am disappointed but this happened. You made that choice but you’ve made a lot of really good choices as far leading to this,” and maybe kind of padding it with like, “I’m really here for you but I still have to follow the rules myself as an adult facilitating camps,” and things like that. Sometimes ask them why because, again, some of them could be open books like, “You don’t understand. This is it. This is it for me,” and maybe there could be something, you know, the mom said, “Hey, if you get in trouble one more time…” and maybe there’s some other incidents that we’re just unaware about.

But at the same time, it could be other things where it’s just in that perfectionist attitude of they may think I’m a perfect son or daughter. Those types of things could be happening. They could just say, “I really didn’t want to let you down” or “I don’t want to let them down” or they could say, “Oh, I could get suspended from it.” Parents make a lot of different threats and some of them are not really– They are what they are. They’re threats to help motivate them, to kind of put a little fire under them.

You definitely want to get down to the bottom of like, “Why did you do it? Why would you react? I’ve never seen you do this. Why? What’s really going on?” Taking some time to do your kind of investigating and as you talk to the parents, letting the parents know what you discussed with them, and hearing their side of it too because, unfortunately, as cute as children can be, they’re very manipulative as well.

[00:31:28]

Andrea: I like that response that like padding it in, “You’ve made a lot of good decisions and choices today and then there is this one and I have to follow the rules myself too,” because that’s just an issue of shame for them. They’re embarrassed that they did it. I think that kind of “Let’s set it aside,” and assures them that we don’t see them as failures.

Johnny: Yeah, absolutely.

Andrea: Thanks for that guidance around there. Now how about the third scenario that I’ve encountered periodically in my studio is just when I know a student is going through something hard at home, like their parents are getting divorced or there’s a challenging situation at school or just those situation we’re all in right now with everything heavy going on in the world? Do you have any advice on how to just check in with students and wanting to respect their privacy if they don’t want to talk but also making it a safe place for them to talk if we just want them to feel that way?

Johnny: Yeah. Actually, you kind of started the solution there, so making it a safe place for them. What that really means in my eyes is making it comfortable for them to open up to you, the teacher, and that can come in many different ways, you know, if they already have a passion for it, their instrument and things like this is sometimes they really look forward to learning something new from you and things like that. So continuing to make it a safe place by saying, “Hey, how has it been going?” And maybe I would encourage everyone just to be just as transparent a little bit, too, in the sense of, “Hey man, I don’t know about you but I really miss your hugs. I can’t wait to get to see you again in person. This is really killing Mrs. Miller because I just miss seeing your smile in real life instead of on a screen.” That just kind of helps them to see like, “Oh, I’m not the only one going through this video conference fatigue,” or “I’m not the only one who’s having frustrations during quarantine. Oh, my teacher is too.” So now, maybe they’ll start to open up a little more when they see that even your being transparent with them.

It’s just simple questions. I always like to talk about some of the positive things that’s going on too so that way the conversation doesn’t get too heavy and dark at the same time. But, if that’s how they’re feeling, that’s how they’re going to be feeling and that way I can kind of inject, “Well, for the next 25 minutes we’re going to put all that stuff on pause and we’re going to have a blast making a lot of cool beats.” You can be, hopefully, seen as that positive safe place for them in a sense where they know I can be who I want to be in their class and that I can be free to even tell them when I’m not so happy and even when compared to when things are happy. I think just having that security in that allows them to open up. Even when you might in the beginning get some of the short answers, just affirming those short answers, that just kind of gets them to week by week kind of open up a little bit.

[00:35:16]

Andrea: That’s a really good reminder because I think my tendency is to just be like enthusiastic and “Hey, how are you doing today? I’m so excited to see you!” and kind of rush pass the, you know, I might not express my own boredom with their week or tired of staying home and yeah, so like that.

Johnny: Yeah, because they’re seeing you during this half hour window and if it’s always like, “Hey, things are great!” and they’re just like, “Really? We haven’t gotten to go eat in a restaurant in months. What’s that like for you?” And maybe they want to hear that. I don’t know, but seeing a little bit of more of that transparency definitely helps and just to let them know that like, “Hey, yeah, we’re all going through this and it’s all part of being human and it’s A okay.”

[00:36:08]

Andrea: With all that’s going on in the world right now, are there any questions that you’re doing or things that you’re doing to check in with your students that we might adopt for our own studios?

Johnny: All the stuff that’s going on, I would say the biggest thing is just checking in not even talking about music or the music that they are having to practice. It’s what’s going on in the here and now. Have you been able to go outside? Are you enjoying the weather? Those type of things. Just to let them know that you are there for them and it’s not always about, “Did you get the lesson? Did you practice?” They get enough of that and so that kind of helps them to just stay very fresh and renewed to know, “Oh man, my teacher really cares about me, not about music lessons.” And then I think you said are there questions that I use?

Andrea: Yeah, like is there a question that you like to ask to invite conversation?

Johnny: Some of the questions I ask and you’re saying in the context for my students, right?

Andrea: Yes.

Johnny: Yeah, those questions, I mean, besides your generic “How are you doing” and “How is your weekend?” It could be, “Hey, what is the new meal that you’ve been enjoying since being home most of the time?” And then I move in to music, “What are you listening to now?” Most folks are on YouTube a lot and they’re trying to listen to music or whatever streaming platform that they utilize. “What are you really listening to?” And that kind of gets you to kind of understand like where are they at a little bit and so that maybe you can utilize some of those things.

We did something similar with that with my teenage stepdaughter who is really into a certain artist and she plays violin and when all of this happened, we saw obviously a major slump in practicing, and so we just said, “What are you listening to?” And her mother actually was able to say, “Alright,” and found some sheet music of that pop artist and said, “Hey, do you want to play this song? Let’s learn it together,” and that’s how we got her practicing again. It lasted for about a few weeks. It was something to kind of motivate, just like the medium where they’re at. Meet them where they’re at, so “What is it that you’re like listening to” or “What is it that you like?” and that kind of helps them instead of just going, “Are you practicing?” or “Are you doing this?” you know, those type of things.

Andrea: I knew a youth leader who said, “You can tell what they’re thinking by the music they’re listening to” and I thought that was really smart. If you’re listening to a lot of dark stuff you might be thinking a lot of dark stuff and that can also be revealing.

Johnny: Yes, absolutely. That’s a really good point.

[00:39:01]

Andrea: Alright. Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think we should know as teachers and people who care about our students’ well-being?

Johnny: I think we covered everything. I’d just encourage everyone to stay very positive and to just really listen to where your students are at. It’s going to help you as an instructor in the long run so that way we can kind of create our lessons around that instead of fighting tooth and nail with our students on something else. If we really listen to them, it’s going to just help us craft that lesson around them and there’s nothing better than seeing a child smile and just being so happy to be playing something or learning something for the first time that they thoroughly enjoy. Stay positive and that’s the biggest thing. If your suspicions or your red flags go up, don’t dismiss those. I would say, definitely, don’t be afraid. If you’re weighing it on the back of your head then you definitely need to take some action some way, some form, whether it’s telling the parents or even having to make a phone call.

[00:40:12]

Andrea: Alright. Thanks. And where can listeners get in touch with you if they have more questions on this topic or maybe need to be pointed in the right direction for our resource to help?

Johnny: Sure. They can reach me at my email address and it is my name, [email protected] I’ll gladly point you in the right direction or arm you with some resources if you have other questions.

Andrea: Alright, Johnny. Thank you so much.

Johnny: Right. Thanks so much, Andrea. I really appreciate it.

[00:40:48] [End of interview]

Recap

I’m so thankful to Johnny for delving into this gray area to give us some guidance on how to handle these tough situations. Obviously, every one of these scenarios I’ve encountered and every scenario you’ve encountered are full of nuance and require its own thoughtful response.

I hope Johnny’s insights help you care for the students, and even the staff, in your studio. Especially in this time with so much isolation, where we might be a student’s only 1:1 connection outside their home.

That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week!

 

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