There is a gap between we music teachers of a certain age and our students.
Chances are our opinions, values—even the way we learned music—are different from today’s budding performers, who have a whole different take on learning the art we share.
The “stand-and-deliver” method of pedagogy has disappeared from the classroom. And if that top-down approach to transferring what you know to your kids and drilling them on skills isn’t working, try a new approach.
Mentoring and teaching are related in terms of purpose, focus, structure, and interaction.
Successful mentors, for instance, have a broad focus that goes beyond simply imparting knowledge to encompass personal and professional development. Where traditional teaching follows a locked-in curriculum, mentors guide their students in exploring and experimenting with music.
Mentors teach without judging comprehension. Instead, they account for new learning styles and personalize instruction to fit with them.
Enthusiasm is one place where mentoring and teaching intersect. Passion is infectious. Use yours to build your students’ enjoyment and desire to improve. When they see someone more seasoned enjoying something, it speaks volumes to its benefits.
A little more about top-down teaching. It will surely alienate your students and produce little, if any, results. Mentors, on the other hand, take some time to find each student’s goals and motivations. That’s part of mentoring, finding each student’s motivation and using it to inspire them. While you may not be able to customize a teaching plan for each and every student, you will likely gain valuable insights that will make you more effective with a greater number of students.
Be patient. Today’s technology has created a culture of immediate gratification, but unless you have a prodigy on your hands, regardless of natural ability or inclination, becoming a skilled musician is anything but instant. That’s where patience comes in. Kids are hooked on social media and every influencer and garage band projects an air of expertise that students want now. What they don’t see is all the work it took to become an Instagram star. Take the time to dispel the myths as well as provide constructive feedback and positive reinforcement. Help your students set goals and work with them to overcome challenges and obstacles—and be sure to celebrate their achievements; this is where knowing what drives them is very, very valuable.
There’s a lot going on in your students’ world, and kids being kids, everything impacts on them. So, expand the relationship beyond instruction. While you don’t need to get into kid-speak or actually participate in their interests, you can often find connections between what’s important to them and what you’re trying to teach. With that objective in mind, use technology. Find videos or other online content to support your teaching. To borrow a quote from Mr. Holland’s Opus, “Playing music is supposed to be fun.” When a student enjoys what and how they’re learning, they’ll not only stick with it longer but also reap greater rewards.
By sharing your enjoyment, being adaptable and not limiting yourself as a teacher to just teaching, you’ll be able to shore up the generation gap and turn learning music into a rewarding adventure for your students.