Every year I have a masterclass workshop for my students and it’s all about goal setting for the year. I present them with a list of performance opportunities, participation opportunities, music history study, theory study, and workshop opportunities. At this goal-setting workshop, I help my students understand the difference between a long-term goal, short-term goals as steps to achievement of the long-term goal, and tactical plans to help them with the process. Goal setting is essentially beginning with the end in mind; planning is devising a way to get to that end.
An example might be a student who wants to participate in the Junior Federation Festival sponsored by the NFMC. This is her long-term goal. Her short-term goals would include reading and understanding the requirements to participate. Then she will choose her pieces that she will perform. Her short-term goals would also include having a certain number of pages learned by a certain date; a memorization goal set by a certain date. Her plan would then be her day-to-day practice time, i.e., 60 minutes a day from 6:00 – 7:00 pm each day. Imagine learning this in her youth and how advantageous it would be in college and in her career.
Oftentimes I will have a student come to lessons so overwhelmed with “everything” and he has “not had time to practice.” If this happens consistently, I take the time to discuss with this student the principle of time management. I will literally go through, with him, his hour by hour weekdays and weekends. It’s always interesting, first of all, how busy these kids truly are! But we almost always find time for practice. It’s also a perfect time to talk about quality of practice time versus quantity. I like to let my students know that I do understand the need for downtime and for social time, but I also talk to them about making sacrifices.
Arranging and rearranging priorities:
When it nears the time for adjudications or recitals or competitions, I help my students understand the need to adjust their priorities. We always refer back to the original goals and then look at schedules and see what priorities need to be readjusted. I use the example of them taking a test at school. When it nears test time, the study of the subject picks up substantially.
Choice and accountability:
I work at giving my students choices, and then holding them accountable for their choices. I encourage participation in performance events, but I never force. If they choose to participate in a competition and I do everything I can to help them prepare but they do not practice, they should take responsibility for their choice not to practice. If a student registers and pays for a competition but chooses not to do the work to have their very best performance, I help them understand that it is no one else’s responsibility (the judge, their parents, the lighting in the room) that they performed poorly. I believe that taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions is sorely missing with each new generation of youth. Making excuses does not cut it in “the real world.”
Public speaking / performance:
When I have a third-grade student who is “scared to death” to perform, I have no idea if she will end up being an advertising executive, a lawyer, a business owner, or a professor when she grows up, so I try and teach skills on how to handle stress and fear. This goes hand-in-hand with the teachers at school who ask kids to give oral reports. It’s a great skill to learn while young, when a child has no idea what they will be doing in 25 years. This is a beneficial life skill when this little girl ends up being the PTSA President at her children’s school!
Each year I hold an Ensemble Recital. Students must perform with at least one other student or in an ensemble. This may include a duet with me or with a family member, or it may include a trio of singers, or it may even include performing with a friend from school on another instrument. The principle behind this recital is to teach teamwork. I want my students to learn how to communicate and compromise, how to work with another person’s schedule, and to be helpful. This recital almost always ends up being our favorite recital of the year, and each year we see more and more parents and family members getting involved in the teamwork!
LESSON #91 – Being More Than Just a Teacher
We, as teachers, are asked to be more than just teachers sometimes.
What a great opportunity we have to help these young people learn skills that will benefit them for their entire lives!