Music Teacher's Helper Blog

The Toxic People Test or “When Is It Time To Fire a Student?”

I found this advice on a few days ago.   I felt it was great advice worth sharing, and I am “grading” all my students by this standard this week.

Over at Orange Crate Art, Michael Leddy quotes this terrific advice from graphic designer Milton Glaser on avoiding toxic people:

“There is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energised or less energised. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished.”

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  1. Ed Pearlman

    Good point. It’s important to be nourished and to appreciate and spend time with those who nourish you. And yet, as teachers, it’s important for us to be nourishing too. I think a truly toxic person relentlessly draws energy from you over time, not on a single or even on several occasions. They will even make you think too much about their issues when you’re not teaching and even at night, possibly making you lose some sleep; nothing you do or say will seem to resolve things. All students draw some energy out of us from time to time, but they’re not all toxic; sometimes the problem could even be our own and not the student’s–maybe we weren’t prepared or are trying to sort out how to adjust our expectations of a student. Still, this nourish vs. drain test is good to keep in mind; I would just extend it over a month or 6 weeks before drawing a conclusion that might lead you to “fire” a student.

  2. Klaus Georg

    Great post. I agree that you want to look at it over some time–thought I think a month may be sufficient.
    You can also apply the same test to an organization, an activity, a job, or even your practicing! When I leave certain rehearsals, I feel extremely energized. When I practice as outlined in “The Perfect Wrong Note” I feel energized. After singing the Verdi Requiem with Muti I felt like I could start at the very beginning and do it again!
    Other times, a day job, a gig, a group of musicians are draining. Fire them, too!

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