My students know they can come to me with any troubles they are having.
When I ask a student how practice went during the week I am looking for more than just a “good” or “bad.” I want to know what they struggled with, what was easy, what was rewarding and what was challenging. I also ask for the journal to read because students don’t always remember how each practice went. This gives me the tools I need to know how to help each individual student.
It is important that they know they can tell me what they need and I will help them. That I would never use the information against them. I am here to uplift and encourage their growth and skills not diminish them. Just as Maslow’ hierarchy of needs suggest, a person must feel safe before they can effectively learn. It is my duty as a teacher to make sure my students feel safe and secure in my studio so that they can open up and explore the many facets of music.
No matter where you are at in your musical journey, you will run into plateaus and bumps in the road. It is the job of the teacher to guide you across them so that the next time you come to it, you are more capable of doing it on your own. For example, I had an 8 year old student named L who was struggling with her homework one week. Up to that point she wasn’t having any trouble and was truly enjoying lessons, but I noticed a shift in her during one lesson. I asked her what was wrong and she told me “practice was bad this week.” I reminded her that it’s ok to have a “bad” week. Not everything in music or life will be easy, but if you take it one step at a time you’ll be able to do it. To demonstrate my point, I took the piece she was having trouble with and broke it down into smaller parts and asked her to do just a little, when she felt like she had it down, I asked her to do the next part and then add the two parts together, we did this until the song was learned. By the end of the lesson, she felt very confident about the song and was able to feel good about her ability to perform it from beginning to end. I asked her if this process helped her learn the piece better and she happily replied that it did. And now she has that tool in her box to use when she gets stuck again. To break it down, little by little and add each piece in at a time. And I have shown her that she can trust me to guide her on the right path when she doesn’t understand a concept.
I want my students to understand that learning music is more than just notes on a page. It’s about understanding that failure is the opportunity to find a new way of doing something. That there is something to learn about yourself through your mistakes. That it takes courage and discipline to do anything worthwhile. This is why a safe space is necessary. To allow mistakes to teach lessons and that success is always possible with the right tools.