becoming a music teacher

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The Virtual Music Education Conference produced by Janice and Kevin Tuck packs four days with online presentations by experts in the field of music education. Even though it’s been around for years, my very first time to attend the online conference was this year. To be honest, I attended because I was invited as a presenter for the conference. I discovered that it was not only an honor to be included in the schedule as a speaker but also an honor to have access to the highly esteemed conference and learn from so many leaders in our field. There’s still time to access the conference. Learn more here.

I was glued to my seat listening to the first day’s presenters. In fact, I already purchased a couple of books while listening to the first two sessions! One of the books that I’ll be rereading soon is Todd Whitaker’s entitled, What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most. As I listened to Whitaker speak and then while reading his book, I kept thinking that I should have absorbed his advice years ago. It would have helped me to deal more professionally and effectively with troublesome student behavior and needy parents!

As I know you’ll want to purchase his book yourself I won’t “ruin” it by providing those 17 things here in this post. Instead, I’ve made some tweaks that show how I applied Whitaker’s advice for me as an independent piano studio teacher. For those you don’t teach piano, please make minor adjustments!

Begin each of the following sentences with: Great piano teachers…

1) Know that it may be the teacher that needs to improve before the student can improve at the keys.

Ex: Before you believe the student is the problem, check to see if you might be the problem and make steps to find a solution.

2) Understand that the method book and exams are not the keys to measuring success on the bench.

Ex: If a student wants to play “Fur Elise” great teachers will adapt their curriculum and realize that even though this may be the 100th student in their studio playing “Fur Elise”, it’s the student’s very first time to experience and enjoy “Fur Elise.” [···]

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music mentality

According to Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, in chapter seven of her book Rising Strong, we are hard-wired to tell stories to explain the world around us. By “stories,” she means our perceptions of ourselves and others. This inclination is so strong that our body actually releases cortisol and oxytocin when we come up with a satisfactory story to explain a situation. Unfortunately, most of our stories are constructed without all of the facts, especially since we cannot read other people’s minds or know all their history. Our stories also reflect all of our own past experiences and the stories we have created around them.

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It is easy to fall into the trap of being simply a music instructor. You have a series of lessons in mind, and you introduce new concepts each week, even if the student has not mastered the previous concept. After all, you are getting paid to teach: if your student is not learning something new in the lesson, they may not be getting their money’s worth, or so it would seem. If you follow this plan, however, you may find that your students cannot keep up with the new material, perhaps becoming discouraged, and they may even eventually quit.

Being a good music teacher actually has two aspects, and only one of them is instructing. The second aspect is coaching your students. These two sides of teaching work hand-in-hand in your lessons. Nevertheless, you will want to distinguish between instruction and coaching, as well as understand how they work together.

Music Instruction

When you instruct, you present new information to your students in a structured way. You use various instructional aids and different methods of communication to convey that information as effectively as possible. Anytime you show something new to a student, you are instructing them. [···]

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