It’s an interesting question to pose to yourself as a teacher, from time to time, when you are evaluating your work with a student: Whose side are you on?
The administrators of our educational systems are increasingly fond of focusing on tangible results, i.e., testing and grading, or are required to do so by law. In music, we do continual assessment of students, but we generally do not need to test and grade.
Testing, grading, and competitive activities are adversarial in nature. Put in the best light, we think of them as challenges. Sometimes we rationalize the coldness of testing by maintaining that it prepares students for the real world.
Don’t get me wrong–challenging students is important. In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, let me quote him here: “The worst thing you could do for your loved ones is that which they can and should do for themselves.”
Still, it seems to me that if a teacher spends more time as an adversary than as a mentor, the student’s learning environment is an unfriendly place, and probably not a very constructive one.
Is it a good idea to instill a competitive spirit into a student who is only beginning to develop a passion for music? Will it help or hurt?