Create intentional value in your teaching (Part 1)

Make the implicit in your teaching explicit

Now that the year has well and truly warmed up, there are many values in my teaching that my wonderful students are making me aware of on a daily basis. But awareness is just the first important step! To even hope to be at my best (and beyond!) I can’t just be aware of these values, I have to action them. Only then can I bring these values intentionally into each of my students’ music educations, and, in turn, make my teaching more valuable to myself, my students, and their families.

Over the next few posts I would love to share some of these values with you and how I have actioned them.

Here we go!

Celebrate the Highs

There is no greater reward for your teaching effort than seeing your student smile, skip, run around like a mad thing with glee, stand proud, or jump around straight after achieving a big goal. All I can say is that you want to make sure you are present to see this! Go to their exams, go to their performances. Make it a priority. Because being there smiling and supporting calmly will not only help your student, but will help deepen your relationship with them and their family and in turn will make you love and value your work so much more. Miss out on these moments and it’s like being in a relationship where you are there for the bill paying but miss all the birthdays, anniversaries, and all other great celebrations - and what kind of relationship will stand the test of time if you miss all of the awesome stuff?

Support the Lows

All of my students have, at one time or another, gone through rocky patches. These patches can be for so many reasons - I have seen my students retreat into themselves from bullying at school, watched their confidence shatter due to low grades, seen numerous kids completely drained from school and its pressure, and of course there are the emotional challenges of simply growing up, maturing and learning to work positively with their family.

All I can say is expect these times - they will happen and communicating with the parents is vital. For parents, to know someone outside their family is helping them and looking out for the best interests of their child is gold as they are themselves are worried sick about their child. You will be giving a little extra time during this period but I can say it is definitely worth it.

As for the student, talk to them about the situation and allow them to have a big say in what they want to do with their music during this time. It gives them some control and choice in their life - and it often means changing their music goals completely. As a teacher, this is the time to set aside your own expectations and ego. It can be a real challenge, however, I have found that allowing the student to take more time to achieve smaller (or no) goals in the short term will, in the long term, make their music more meaningful to them, deepen the trust they have in you as a teacher, and their inner confidence will skyrocket along with their playing.

As a teacher in this situation it can be very hard staying supportive but patience, encouragement, empathy, compassion and elasticity are key. However, boundaries for certain behaviour must still be clearly in place and adhered to. Remember that these are beautiful people going through a rough patch and that, by staying by their side, you can build such incredible strength in the relationship that it will stand any other test. This is where the power of music can be at its greatest and it really is the most incredible reward to a teacher (and of course the parents!) to see students back on their feet, loving their music even more, and soaring through goals with more ease than ever as they are empowered with the understanding that their music enabled them to heal.

Comments are really welcome, so don’t be shy: what values do you practice in your teaching?

That’s it for this post — more of my values will come in the near future!

Emma, May 2017