Liking Our Students

 

Recently I took my young son to a trial class for a local music program.  I was determined to enroll him in the class, but just wanted to investigate it first.  I loved the curriculum and he had a great time.  In the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to sign up for the session.  During the class, I found myself wishing that the teacher would interact with the children.  She gave direction to the parents but didn’t laugh at the antics of the children or smile to share in their enjoyment of the activities.  I just didn’t feel like she connected with my child.

 

Since that class, I have been thinking a lot about my connection to my students and how passionate I feel about it.

I insist that our first priority as teachers should be to value and “like” our students as human beings, regardless of their musical capabilities (or inabilities).  I think there is something very special about each child.  Our job is to know what it is that makes a student valuable and endearing to us.  I stretch this to say, “If you don’t initially like a student, fake it until you do!”  I want to be a teacher who enjoys the time with my students at their lessons, simply because they are wonderful people.

 

Beyond that, I think both parents and students should know that their teacher values and respects them as people.  It is easy to convey this to students:  giving appropriate and genuine praise, taking an interest in their life outside of piano (even as much as asking them about their day at the beginning of the lesson), smiling and laughing at their jokes, and simply letting them know you are glad to see them each week.  It is more difficult to convey this to the parents but no less important.  Communicating with the parent following each lesson is vital.  Comments such as “I’ve enjoyed my time working with Susie today” are meaningful, as is celebrating a child’s outside accomplishments (“Mary mentioned to me that she won her tennis match over the weekend; what a wonderful accomplishment!”).  In conferences with the parent, I think it is important to include something positive about the student’s personality, such as, “I appreciate John’s bright and cheerful personality.  He brings such joy to the lessons.”

 

Once an initial rapport and connection has been established, students feel secure knowing that the teacher appreciates them for who they are, not their work or accomplishments.  And the parent knows that the teacher is an advocate for their child, and is trying to help him/her learn.  With this connection established the teacher can focus on effective teaching.  The student is motivated and committed to learning.  And when it comes time for the tough conversations (not practicing enough, behavioral problems, etc) both student and parent know that the teacher has the student’s best interests in mind.

 

I have always felt successful in connecting with my new students.  My recent experience with my son, however, caused me to reevaluate my own teaching.

  • Do the students who have been in my studio for many years know that I still like them and value them as human beings?  Or do I get so wrapped up in the week-to-week challenges and details of the music that I am overlooking the person?  
  • Am I always considering that my student’s personal growth is more important than their musical growth?  

I can be honest and share that some students frustrate me because they do not listen well enough in their practice and I find myself correcting the same errors each week.  When I squelch my frustrations and think about what the student really needs, the musical problems gradually are fixed.

 

I am committed to showing my students and their parents that I enjoy their lessons and respect and value them as humans first and musicians second.  This is why I love teaching, why I need it in my life, and why teaching is so energizing for me.

 

[h2] How about you?  What do you like about your students? [/h2]

 

Post your responses below!

2 thoughts on “Liking Our Students

  1. Thank you for this reminder about the importance of fostering the student-teacher-parent relationship. Private teaching provides us the opportunity to connect with students in such a personal and unique way. I love getting to know a student, developing that relationship over time, and letting them know they have my full and undivided attention -musically and personally – for the duration of their lesson time. What an opportunity to make a difference! When I reflect on my own teachers, the ones that made the effort to connect personally with me are the ones who also influenced me the most musically.

  2. This beautiful message was sent from Angel in response to Rebecca’s blog. Thanks for your thoughts.

    “This is a truly beautiful and inspirational piece. I can relate whole-heartedly to your message, both as a parent and a teacher. Yes .our children are so precious. I often watch my daughter go off to school with her heavy back pack, looking like she’s carrying the cares of the world on her shoulders and wonder . How does she fit in? Do her teachers like her even a little? Will she feel successful, supported and encouraged by her teachers and peers?Then, as a teacher, yes . I try to create an environment that will nurture every child who comes into my room. There are times, however, when I feel I am inadequate for the huge task at hand. Sadly .no ..I don’t always reach my students. As hard as I try, I cannot provide for them in a way a parent’s interest in their well being, their education can do. There are many who experience so many obstacles to being happy and successful that come into our rooms .You have put an enormous challenge out to us all .parents and teachers alike. You have given us all something to think about in a unique and poignant way. Oh, if only all parents could express the same level of passion in their children’s education as you have for your children’s education. But while many parents are just trying to keep their lives afloat, at least they have you to be their spokesperson to speak up for their children. They are, after all, the whole reason behind what we do!”

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