Today – a list of questions to ask ourselves
As private studio teachers, what are we here to do? Of all people, we surely know how hard it is to make a living in the arts. What are our expectations of our students’ future? Do we tie our students’ success into our perception of our own worth? Do we only teach the students we see as “talented” or will we teach anyone who has the desire to learn?
Future expectations: What is our goal for our students? Is not the student who truly desires to improve and works their tail off to gain incremental ground in understanding as important as the student who shows the potential (and the will) to have a career in music? What about our avocational students who are in lessons just because they enjoy the time taken each week for music, even if it is the only time they touch their instrument? Should we not take the time to enjoy their time?
Talent: What do we do when we find a “talented” student who just refuses to work? How do we respond? Do we get frustrated with them? How do we help to encourage them to practice/improve? Is this even our job – to identify and encourage talent? Even with a “talented” student, what criteria do we have that helps us to identify that talent? What right do we have, ethically, to tell a student that they have talent, versus not encouraging another student to such a high degree?
Conversely, what about the student who shows little to no ability on their chosen instrument? What is our obligation to that student? Especially if the student states their goal of becoming a professional musician, what is our ethical responsibility in encouraging the love of music while discouraging the dream of becoming a professional? How do we balance these two dichotomies?
Do we identify our professional success with our students’ success? What defines this success? Is it, for the student who has struggled to match pitch, singing an entire song on pitch? Is it how many students we have accepted into higher education music performance degree programs? How do YOU define success in the studio? Is it the same for each student, or do you take into account each student’s personal goals when defining student success?
We also have chosen to make a living teaching. The ethical razor-wire balancing act between our responsibility to our students and our responsibility to our business is something we must assess from time to time, ensuring that we are honest with both ourselves and our students. We have an ethical and fiscal responsibility to both encourage musical study and to be honest about what we see as student potential.
What questions are you wrestling with today?