Personal Teaching Tweaks

Recently, in an attempt to work on letting my students take more ownership of their lesson and learning, I’ve tried tweaking a few things with my teaching style. It’s nothing major but I thought it might be fun to share.

 

Ownership

As a very organized person who likes things neat and tidy, and wants to be as efficient with our short amount of time together, I found myself doing too many things for my students.

For starters, with younger students especially, because it takes them forever to get their books out of their bag and their coats off, I would often take their book bag and while they removed their coat (and for some, talked my leg off), I would get their books out of their bag and put them on the piano.

At the piano, I was the one to move the student’s books around. It may seem like a silly thing but when it was time to play from another book, I would set it on the music rack and sometimes even turn to the page.

When it was time for sight reading, I would pull the cards out of their binder pocket. After finishing one card, I would move it out of the way to do the next card.

Time to play with the metronome? Who would set it? Me.

When it was time to write a note on the music whether it was a finger number, note name, practice strategy, or highlighting dynamics, who often did it? Me.

If the bench was crooked, too far away, too close, not centered? Who would move it? Me.

Stop!

I can’t recall if I read an article or if I had a sudden realization, but it hit me one day that I was not helping my students but disallowing them to be in charge of their self.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do EVERYTHING for the students and I don’t think I’ve always been like this but again, in an attempt to have a “productive” lesson (a.k.a. getting through everything), it just slowly spiraled over the years.

I think I’ve completely thrown my students off now because I make them do EVERYTHING. They move all their own books around, switch their sight reading cards, make all the marks and notes on their own music, and set the metronome (they’re learning to use app, digital, and the vintage-style wind-up metronomes).  This last one was a total eye opener for me-many of them had no clue how to set my metronomes….I’m totally ashamed of myself!

I don’t dictate what we do next anymore. I ask what they want to begin with, then what they want to do next. Sometimes I’ll give them options. Like I’ll say do you want to do your technique exercise next or run your One-Minute Club flash cards?

We don’t always get through everything, and it’s really fine!

I feel more relaxed, and students have the chance to make their own decisions. I could probably go on and on but you get the point!

 

One More Time vs. Again

The other thing I wanted to share with you is that I’ve been trying to be very conscious about is to stop using the term “one more time.” Julie Knerr talks about using the term “again” a lot and this has been a hard habit to break, but a good one.

Often I would say “one more time” but then we would end up needing to repeat more than just one time. I want my students to get in the habit of playing things over and over. Again, again, again. We do this in their lesson, then I make sure I always state that this is how they should practice at home.

I wrote these things down so I wouldn’t forget and kept reminding myself over and over until it has become second nature.

 

What little tweaks have you made in your teaching style that have made a difference?

3 Comments

  • I have been aware of the “one more time” remark and try to avoid it unless I know FOR SURE it will be the last time.

    I also tend to do a lot for my students (especially the young ones) to save time. I will sometimes ask them what piece they want to start with. Thanks for the reminder!

  • I can totally relate to your first tweak, I feel the need to be efficient in lessons (30 minutes isn’t enough!) so I often pull books out of their bags, open to the correct page, etc. Do you notice that students like taking ownership and doing this themselves? I’m curious to know how the students feel about doing it themselves. I can definitely see the benefit in having them learn how to use the metronome on their own.

    • Hey, Spring! I don’t know that I really notice the students having feelings one way or the other about doing it themselves. Sometimes, again, especially with the younger ones, it’s like they didn’t even think about it because they were too busy telling me a story or getting themselves on the bench and I would say “where are your books?” and they’re like “oh, whoops!” they’re still sitting on the couch. LOL. I guess it’s just about them going through the exact motions of how they do things at home. At home, there’s no one getting their books out and turning to the page they have to practice (unless perhaps they’re REALLY young and need more help.) There are still times I help some but I’m definitely just trying to be more conscious of these little things…

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