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A Slovenly Student


This is the kind that vexes the very soul of every careful teacher, and is surely the kind that materially aids in the development of those peculiarities of character and that excess of temper which are supposed to distinguish musicians.

“Why, I did not think that he was a musician because he is just like other people.” One often hears just that or something quite like it, and if the slovenly pupil had a conscience it ought to trouble him much. How can a teacher refrain from inward groans shown by outward twitchings, etc., when day after day, week after week, and, alas! month after month he has to correct the same mistakes and preach the same sermon about carefulness?

In this one branch of study—music—success or failure might not matter much, for often there is no talent and scarcely the desire to get on, but every other undertaking, both great and small, will lack just the same amount of being perfect. Any pupil who is satisfied to play a little out of time or to sing a little out of tune forgets that he is not only making this one failure but that he is marking out a kind of work-thermometer, where his standard of perfection is plainly registered.

It is a courageous teacher that can even try to correct when there is not one single thing carefully prepared. So many faults can not be changed at once, and one or two taken out will not alter the whole mass of carelessness.

Pupils who are so lazy that they do nothing at all are less annoying, as there is always the hope that if they can be goaded on to do any work it may be good.

The “good-enough” pupil must be a close relation of the slovenly one, for he is only a shade less trying; up to a certain point he works fairly well, but beyond that point he will not go; to all urging he replies that it is “good enough,” and so it may be for him, but that kind of work does not merit and seldom brings much financial gain. To be sure, one often does good work and gets but scant pay in money or reputation, yet there is a contentment that goes with thoroughness that becomes its own reward. Failure after one’s best efforts is sad enough, but it is infinitely more painful when it comes as a sure and positive result of one’s own carelessness and lack of application.


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You are reading A Slovenly Student from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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