A measured response

I’ve been remembering back to something when I was a child.  I used to have piano lessons, half an hour twice a week.  Two ladies were business partners and Wink and I went one day to one and one to the other.  Neither of us ever did that well, to be honest.  We were more dutiful than enthusiastic.  Wink stopped her lessons before me, probably because I’m stubborn.  Not stubborn enough to work hard, just enough to not stop.

Anyway, what I was remembering was a time I was given a new book of exam pieces, just before a holiday.  I hated piano exams.  I didn’t mind theory exams in the least and got top marks in several of them, never less than 96 out of 99, but I was so shy that the practical exams were a nightmare.  This exam book – it was probably the Easter holidays, I can’t remember, but it can’t have been as long as the summer – there was one piece I rather liked and I practised a lot.  I got quite keen and played all of them, but I was note-perfect in this one by my next lesson.  And I played it and waited for comments – I played too fast.  That was all she said.  I didn’t care much after that, I did get through the exam eventually, scraping through as usual, but I had lost my enthusiasm.

Friends of ours have a daughter of Ro’s age, and they decided to take her from the local high school for the 6th form and send her to the girls’ private school in Norwich (which Weeza attended) as they thought she’d get higher grades at A level with the extra push of a very ambitious school.  The first time I saw them after she’d started, I asked how it was going. “It’s marvellous,” my friend said.  “The first work she handed in, it was marked and given back and she was told  ‘You’re not going to get A grades with this.'”  “Was that all?” I wondered.  Indeed, it seems that this was the gist of the initial feedback.  My friend was very impressed.  I wasn’t.  “But  how about being given some positive feedback? Just being told it isn’t up to standard isn’t very helpful, especially with a girl who’s just joined the school and doesn’t know what style or form of homework the school wants.  How does she know how to improve – and surely some of it was good, why not mention that?”  Her daughter was appreciative.  That was just her reaction, she said, she had felt discouraged and embarrassed.  My friend hadn’t thought about it that way, but she could see what I meant.

I have two letters to write.  I won’t do them tonight, though I probably should make a start.  But they are both ones that have to be done right.  I won’t send them the day I write them, in any case.  I don’t draft blog posts, but I do letters.  I know some people who dash off over-hasty emails, and that can really cause bad feeling.  In fact, it’s because one has (to someone else, although I was sent a copy of it; I think that ‘reply to all’ is inappropriate if you’re going to be sarcastic) that I am going to write.  I’m hoping to oil a few wheels.

The other letter is an awkward one that no one on the PCC wants to have to write, so they’ve roped me in.  Hm.

15 comments on “A measured response

  1. 63mago

    It can be small words that do the damage and bring in a wrong tone. In German I avoid some words at all costs. What I never understand are “reply to all”-mails and mails without proper adressing, incipit: After all it is a letter. I saw such mails in a company once and it made me – and I was not employed there – feel a bit like a dog at which a bone is thrown.
    So much goodwill and motivation is lost daily because of rude words, thoughtlessness or plain ignorance.
    And because you are not guilty of all this, dear Z, they catch you and ask you to write the more delicate letters. After all they understood.

  2. Z

    Right, first draft of one letter sent to interested party for first reaction.

    Second letter deeply boring. A diplomatic way of saying that a churchyard is not the place to exercise your dog off the lead and that people are fed up with clearing shit off graves when they come with flowers. And yes, it does need to be said diplomatically.

    Breakfast time now.

  3. Dave

    Well done! No spelling or other serious mistakes in this essay. The penultimate sentence of the penultimate paragraph was slightly hard to follow, but I managed it. B+

  4. Christopher

    The Associated Board and the kind of piano teachers who thrive on it have a lot to answer for.

    I think Dave’s pretty stingy: clearly from your title ‘A Measured Response’ and your limitless sense of duty you must have gone out in the snow on a cold winter’s afternoon to count the dog turds and calculate the graveyard area they covered in order to strengthen your case. Alpha plus, at least.

    Please don’t feel you need to post any photos, though.

  5. Z

    It did more to put me off music than I can say, Chris. Terrifying, and it meant weeks of playing the same few pieces of music, chosen to demonstrate ability rather than encourage enjoyment. At least I learned scales, which I couldn’t be bothered to do when I took up the clarinet. I always resolutely refused to take any exams for that, I had nothing to prove and no need to demonstrate progress.

    I have no comment to make about Dave’s generosity. My first letter is ready to be sent and it has used all my diplomacy for the day.

  6. Eddie 2-Sox

    This Dave seems rather a pedantic bore? Decent brickie though. Bet he never does anything wrogn.

    You’re right not to reply immediately. A day’s reflection can make a world of difference to your view of correspondence. Amazingly, because of Norfolk Single Dad, I’ve had men contact me who were/are going through separation, and really, actually, asked for my advice. And tip number two is always “Never reply to the ex’s emails straight away. For one, the delay will allow you to be more rational, and two, the wait will seriously piss her off.”

  7. Z

    Oh no, Dave is lovely and it’s an act, this judgemental bit. He knows he can tease me (you know I enjoy a tease, darling), and also knows just how to provoke – we’re good enough friends for him to get away with it. I tease him just as much, don’t worry. Now you’ll have hurt his feelings, he’s very sensitive.

    You haven’t mentioned tip number one, Simon. I suspect there’s a good reason for that?

  8. Z

    Indeed. If one does, it’s especially hard. But from my observation, there’s often one ex partner who is less scrupulously fair than the other, even if there’s not a deliberate attempt to be spiteful.


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