Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Is you Inbox overloaded with emails titled “Person/company name’s response to COVID-19″?

Are you feeling a little bit like you’re in the Twilight Zone?

Do you just want to make it all go away and get back to normal?

Is one side of you glad to know that “we’re all in this together,” and another part of you tired of hearing the phrase already?

Yeah, me too.

 

Strong Declarations

Over the past week as posts on Facebook have ramped up regarding online lessons, we’re seeing success, generosity, and encouragement, but also escalating anxiety and even negativity.

Several posts popped up of people expressing their frustration with online lessons and in the heat of those frustrations, they declared them to be “worthless.”

Really?, I wondered…

Worthless? Continue reading

Implementing Incentives

The Struggle Is Was Real

To incentivize or not to incentivize. That is the question.

(Or maybe you’re simply wondering at the moment whether or not “incentivize” is actually a word? It is, by the way. 🙂 )

Do you struggle with implementing an incentive program?

Is it because you’re torn between the philosophy of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation or is it because it’s a struggle to be consistent in implementing something? (Or maybe a little of both?)

While there’s plenty of research supporting both sides of this age-old question of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, today I’ll be sharing my journey with (and support of) implementing incentives. Specifically:

  1. Why I struggled for years with implementing incentive programs.
  2. Four things I found an incentive program (and I) needed for long-term success.
  3. How others in the field helped inspire and develop my own philosophy regarding extrinsic rewards along the way.
  4. How short term rewards can turn into long-term joy including a specific example from my studio.

In a later post, I’ll get more specific with the incentive program I’ve been using with success for several years, and a list of popular prize box items.

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Three Books Every Piano Teacher Should Read

Did you know there was a whole page devoted to books for piano teachers on Piano Pantry?

It includes more than 30 books that can help you in your career as an independent music teacher.

I’ve divided them into seven categories to make your browsing easier:

  • Music Education and Teaching Inspiration
  • Music Business / Entrepreneurship for Independent Music Teachers
  • Elementary-Intermediate Piano Pedagogy & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Intermediate-Advanced Piano Technique & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Music Learning Theory (Introductions)
  • Music Learning Theory (In-Depth)
  • Faith and the Arts

In this post, besides letting you know about the Books for Piano Teachers page, I thought I would share more details on the three books that are not only my favorite but are ones that I strongly feel every piano teacher should read.

Basically, if you were to only read three books on music teaching in your lifetime, let it e these three.

I’ve included three things for the three books I’m highlighting in this post:

1. The book descriptions directly from Amazon. (Yes, I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will earn a small percentage if you purchase through the link but it won’t cost you anymore.)

2.  A statement on why I love the book.

3.  A listing of 6-7 of my favorite quotes/excerpts that I feel best define the content of the book.

 

#1 Intelligent Music Teaching

Intelligent Music Teaching:  Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction by Robert Duke

Description: In this collection of insightful essays, the author describes fundamental principles of human learning in the context of teaching music. Written in an engaging, conversational style, the individual essays outline the elements of intelligent, creative teaching. Duke effectively explains how teachers can meet the needs of individual students from a wide range of abilities by understanding more deeply how people learn. Teachers and interested parents alike will benefit from this informative and highly readable book.

Why I love it: The first sentence to the preface of this book says it all. “This collection of essays is not about how to each. It’s about how to think about teaching and learning.”

Favorite Quotes:

Teaching is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning. People can learn without being deliberately taught and a teacher can inform, instruct, explain, and demonstrate in the presence of students without the students’ learning what the teacher intends to teach. (Page 10)

Learning to play or sing any scale, any exercise or any piece is never the real goal of music instruction…The real goal… is for students to become superb musicians, doing all of the things that superb musicians do, irrespective of what is being played or sung at the moment… The far-reaching goal remains the same from the first day of instruction to the time when the student reaches the highest levels of artistic musicianship. In this sense, the goals of the lesson plan never change, regardless of the skills or experience level of the students you’re teaching. Only the contexts in which the goals are taught (i.e. the activities, the music) change over time. (Page 29)

Students need to learn to study effectively, to practice effectively, to think effectively. So, when and where will they learn that? In class, with us. Not by our telling them what to do when they’re alone in a practice room or in a carrel in the library, but by our leading them through the very activities that we expect them to do on their own in our absence. (Page 61)

…the decisions of what to teach when are central to artistic teaching. (Page 103)

In order to become independent thinkers and doers, learners must eventually use information and skills in situations in which they have had little or no prior experience. (Page 141)

All of this suggests a redefinition of what it means to learn something. Much of what we learn as part of formal education is presented to us in very limited contexts, and we have few opportunities to practice applying what we know and can do in contexts beyond those in which the knowledge and skills are initially taught. But if the goal of educaton is that students learn to use knowledge and skills effectively in the future, even in unfamiliar circumstances, then transfer must be definited as the goal of instruction. The goal is no longer the acqusition of knowledge and skills but the application of knowledge and skills in situations that have not been taught explicitly. For the developing musician, the goal is no longer to play a given piece beautifully, but to play beautifully (period). (Page 157)

 

#2 The Ways Children Learn Music

The Ways Children Learn Music: An Introduction and Practical Guide to Music Learning Theory by Eric Bluestine

Description (from GIA):  The perfect introduction to Edwin E. Gordon’s music learning theory!

With clear and compelling language, Eric Bluestine sheds light on the most vexing issues in music education—all the while drawing from the contributions of perhaps the most influential thinker in the field today, Edwin E. Gordon. In the process, Bluestine unlocks the mystery that frees a child’s mind to think on its own musical terms.

Why I love this book: Please don’t let the fact that it’s an “introduction to Music Learning Theory” deter you in any way! Even if you weren’t necessarily looking to learn more about MLT, music teachers of every instrument and philosophy will get great value from and depth of understanding of how to teach music from this book.

In all my years of music education, this is the first book I read that really addressed how to teach “music.” That is, how to understand the sound that music is and not just the symbols (a.k.a. music “notation”) that we often define as teaching music.

Favorite Quotes:

I hold the elegantly simple belief that learning to understand music is its own reward. (Page xiv)

One of the basic tenets of Music Learning Theory is that children do not audiate intervals; they audiate functional tonal patterns made of intervals…In short, we don’t audiate pitches, or even intervals. We audiate structured pitches, pitches that we organize into functional patterns that relate to a tonal center. (Page 42)

Music education could be separated into four topics. They are 1) the musical and pedagogical principles that give rise to Music Learning Theory “irrefutable truths about music and music education”; 2) Music Learning Theory itself; 3) learning methods; and 4) classroom teaching (techniques, musical examples, and materials).  Now, think about these in a pyramid shape with #1 as the larger foundation and #4 as the top of the pyramid. (Page 60)

The nature of Music Learning Theory is that one cannot use it directly. To use it, a music teacher must design a method based on it, and then use techniques, materials, and musical examples to get the method off the ground. (Page 75)

A child is not a miniature adult! (Page 88)

If we are to help our students to become independent musicians and musical thinkders – our most important task – then we must encourage them to generalize what they hear. (Page 149)

 

#3 Coffee with Ray

Coffee with Ray: A Simple Story with a Life-Changing Message for Teachers and Parents by Nick Ambrosino

Description: Through the eyes of a simple piano teacher, learn the strategies to remove any self-made learning obstacles so that you can achieve all you put your mind to.

After ten years of teaching piano, Matt had become completely disillusioned with his career choice. Teaching was increasingly more frustrating, students were more difficult to motivate, and coping with the stress had become much more challenging. He was on the verge of quitting until he decided to have a cup of coffee at a cafĂ© suggested by his GPS. That’s where he met Ray and that’s when everything started to change.

An engaging, funny, and thought-provoking parable, written as creative non-fiction, Coffee With Ray will introduce readers to revolutionary ways of communicating that will help make students become more accountable and teachers more skilled at facilitating learning.

Why I love the book: I especially love that this book is an easy read. It’s simply a direct peek into the life of one teacher and is a beautiful example of how we can learn to be better at our profession by learning from others, not in our profession. This would be a great summer read. It feels casual but is still directed toward being a better teacher.

Favorite Quotes:

Teachers tend to think about teaching a subject. When you redefine yourself as a facilitator, you become responsible for facilitating your student through the learning of how to teach himself. (Page 61)

Instead of telling my students what they should do, I offered suggestions and asked them to take responsibility for choosing goals that felt best for them. (Page 102)

I asked her what she had accomplished this week that she felt proud of (I found that to be a better and more effective way of starting the lesson than asking them if they had practiced.) (Page 102)

[The last four excerpts are focused on using “but” vs. “and”.]

I like the way you made contact with that pitch, Mike, and now you’re ready to turn your back foot. (Page 74)

The point is that if you validate someone’s performance, as Dominic did, and then you use the word ‘but’ to create a change in the performance, the student never remembers what came before the ‘but.’ “If, however, you use the word ‘and’ as the invitation for change after the validation, the student feels he has earned the right to go onto the next part of his training and he will both remember the validation AND create the change. (Page 75)

You feel as though there is always something to fix. While that may be true, the word ‘but’ creates a feeling of ‘less than.’ It creates a closed condition for learning as well as an ‘undesirable’ feeling. The word ‘and,’ however, creates a feeling of greatness, of progress. It creates an opening for learning and that is a much more desirable feeling. (Page 76)

Everything you have ever accomplished was at one time outside of your comfort zone. Yet, by labeling it as hard you put a question mark on your ability to learn or accomplish it. By labeling it as new you never question your ability but, instead, actually acknowledge that you are capable. (Page 78)

 


Do you have any favorites? Share in the comments!

 

Friday Finds #95 Teaching Tactics and Eye Tracking

 

1 – Spotify Playlist

Even if I didn’t play music at the beginning of my recital, I would still enjoy Sara’s recital mix playlists on Spotify. There’s a new one posted for 2018!

 

2 – It’s In the Sauce…or Not

Why yes, there is a difference between pizza sauce and pasta sauce and it’s a simple one.

 

3 – Teaching Tactics

Add these two to your teaching toolbox: Decorating the Cake: Helping Piano Students Play With Expression and Heart and We’re Not Robots: Helping Young Piano Students Get “Beyond The Notes”

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Piano Teacher Adventure: MLT in Boston

Where to begin…

It all started with a foggy early morning departure from my home in Indiana. I gently woke my husband to say our goodbyes, anticipating the two weeks we were about to be away from each other – the longest time ever.

John Denver’s words seem to fit the scene,

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say good-bye.

But the dawn is breaking, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waiting he’s blowing his horn. Already, I’m so lonesome, I could die.

So kiss me and smile for me. Tell me that you’ll wait for me. Hold me like you’ll never let me go.

Of course, I didn’t leave on a jet plane, just my trusty 2007 Ford Focus. Off I went to pick up my partner in crime.

Joy Morin of ColorInMyPiano.com

joy-amy-driving-to-boston

After a long 16-hour day on the road full of traffic jams and several hours of intense downpouring rain, we made it to our Air BnB.

Bright and early the next morning, we weaved our way through traffic and Boston’s bumpy, crooked streets to find our home for the next ten days.

Brookline Music School, our awesome host.

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We were both lucky to receive Teacher Enrichment Grants through Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) to attend a piano certification course/professional development workshop put on by the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML).

Dr. Gordon’s work was not about the best ways to teach music, but how we learn, thus impacting the way we teach.

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A Fountain of Joy

The word “joy” has been on my mind quite a bit lately as it seems to be a recurring theme that keeps popping up in a variety of events in my life.

Today, I want to share some of these moments as well as ways we can transfer the goal of bringing “joy” into what we do as piano teachers.

 

Joy: A Recurring Theme

It started with reading the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Besides learning how to store clothes in a way that makes good use of space, the word “joy” came up frequently. The author, Marie Kondo strongly encourages readers not to skip one important step when working to reduce and organize “stuff” in our life. That is, we should hold every single item physically in our hand and ask “does this bring me joy?” Such as simple question!

I finished that book on my flight to San Antonio a couple of weeks ago and the next day was once again asked to consider “joy” when I heard Robert Duke speak.

His basic premise is that if our goal as teachers is to make everything perfect and to have students not make mistakes or “choke”, we may be setting our students (and ourselves for that matter) up to only feel relief when playing/performing well. I had never thought of that way, but truly, how sad? Joy should be the ultimate goal.

He shared this video of a little boy singing and playing a Ukelele. So what if he isn’t playing perfect notes or rhythms? There’s true joy in this child!

Fast forward a week. I’m rehearsing with a local choir, and they’re singing “Joy in the Morning” by Natalie Sleeth.

Hmm…I think the theme is starting to sink in. LOL

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FaceTime Lesson

Around 11:45 today, I received a call from the mother of my 1:00 student. She wanted to check with me as “M” had been complaining of a sore throat and said she was feeling a little achy. Although she didn’t have a temperature or seem sick otherwise, the mother wanted to see what I wanted to do. Thank you! I was grateful to her for being considerate of my health. She knew I would be traveling for the next week and wanted to be especially cautious.

At first, I suggested I would do a video lesson for her; I have been trying this for the first time this year and have had good feedback from parents. (I still need to figure out a better way to record videos other than with my iPhone but that’s another conversation). It then dawned on me that I had not yet replenished my Piano Adventures 3A studio copy. It makes it hard to do a video lesson without the music they are working on!

Then I remembered I updated my policy this year to read:

Students who are ill should not come to piano lessons. I reserve the right to send a student home if they arrive sick. If students are only mildly ill, please contact me and we can do a FaceTime lesson or I can record a short video assignment for them during their regularly schedule lesson time.

I had yet to try FaceTime with a student so we decided to go for it and I’m so glad we did – we all agreed it was a great success! The mom held the phone and was able to maneuver around as I needed. We were able to cover all the material we normally do during her 45-minute lesson. Mom dropped by the studio about 30 minutes later on her way to Walmart to pick up new sight-reading cards, a fresh assignment sheet and a few other things.

Yea for technology keeping me healthy!

facetime-collage

Dynamic and Tempo Meter (Free Download)

Adagio, Andante, Allegro, Moderato…whaaat?

Have you ever had moments when you feel like banging your head against the wall during a lesson with a student? Those moments seem to happen to me most often with musical terms and symbols.

I’m not shy to say there are times I’m screaming in my head “Seriously, how many times have we used this term during lessons? It’s called a ‘staccato!'”  while my more experienced and sensible teacher-side calmly says“Ssssttttaaaa” trying to draw the word out of them with a verbal cue or gives them multiple choice.

When asked what the term Andante” means, the student looks at you with a sideways glance, eyes squinting slightly in uncertainty as if they had just eaten a piece of sour candy, hands twisting, and mind whirling. “It means…it means like slow….or well, maybe fast?”

At this moment, my teacher-conviction takes over, and I remember:

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