What I’ve learned Teaching Music
I have taught a number of people in my years tutoring privately, in groups and in classroom settings. It is incredible what you learn as you teach.
Something that has been quite eye opening for me is working with a group of people with a history of various mental health issues who are in recovery. I will be honest, this work has been so rewarding and valuable to me, not only financially, but in experience and changing my perceptions.
First of all there is a lot of stigma around mental health. And I will be the first to admit that I had a number of negative stereotypes in regard to those with mental illness. Before taking on this position I had reservations about working with people who I knew were suffering in this regard. This privileged experience has taught me that people with these conditions are just ordinary people who are struggling with something in their life. Aren’t we all! They are the most down to earth, real people I know.
So one of my first lessons in teaching is never be afraid to try something different. And never refuse someone tuition. It is all a learning curve. You deepen your insight into teaching and develop ways to teach that aid the learner. I have tried numerous different ways to teach guitar in the guitar group and will probably try numerous other ways in my time there. I’m not changing because one way is wrong, I am changing to see if a different approach will help my learners improve more.
As people who educate we should never get caught up in religiously doing everything the exact same way all of the time. The fact of the matter is each person who sits in front of us doesn’t learn the exact same as the previous person. So although the content of the lesson may be the same the approach to the lesson has to be slightly or even completely adapted/altered depending on who we have in front of us. We need to always keep this in mind.
One thing I have always tried to do, and I think works well, is getting the pupil(s) involved in their learning. Seeing what their interests are, asking them what kind of music they like. I do this with nearly every single pupil I have. I have found that the suggestions they make to learn are the ones, when I prepare the necessary sheets and music, they practice more. If they are going to practice, why not encourage them in giving them something they want to practice? It is then up to myself as the tutor to take out the various techniques, chords, scales and concepts etc and make sure they learn that through the piece.
Another thing I have learned while doing, in particular, one to one teaching is not to be afraid of having fun. Make a joke, make a random silly face, sing together the songs you are learning, jam together, whatever it is you should aim to get a smile out of your pupil in some way through out your lesson.
Sometimes lessons become too formal. And for music particularly I think that is what causes a lot of people to lose interest because lessons are too formal and structured. Most people take music up because they really want to learn an instrument and they want to have fun doing so. If you rob them of all the fun they expected to get learning their instrument they are not going to learn. Yes it is hard work learning the instrument but the process should be fun in a way that motivates at the same time real in a way which makes the learner understand there needs to be discipline.
Balance in this regard is definitely key I believe. Too much fun will result in undisciplined practice and therefore sloppy technique on one hand and on the other too much discipline will result in someone probably having great technique but no sense of fun and fulfilment in learning. In each case the pupils will definitely quit music at some point because they simply do not get better due to lack of discipline or they quit because of a lack of joy in music. Which is a tragedy in both cases.
So these are a few insights I have gleaned in my 10 years plus of teaching. There are more but these are the ones I particularly wanted to highlight here. Please comment below with your experience of teaching music, and things you have learned as well.