Let’s Talk About It

Teaching is easy. I bet you’re laughing right now. But really. Think about it. You know your subject. You are passionate about your content. You know what’s difficult? Talking to parents. Think about it for a moment. Even if all you’re doing is giving the parent an update on how their child is doing, it can be a nerve-wracking conversation. But there are ways to make it a less daunting prospect.

First off, relax. Both you and the parent(s) want the best for the student. Both of you are also probably nervous. Don’t get defensive. Both of you do know best and now you have to find a middle ground.

Before you start the meeting, have an idea of what you want to talk to the parent about. Even if all you can think of are negatives, make sure to have some positives. Start off with those positives. But don’t use them all up, keep one in reserve for the end. You want to end on that positive note.

Parents, please don’t go into the meeting thinking that the teacher is going to tell you all the things they think you are doing wrong. While you’ve known your child longer, they see your child in a different light. I promise you, your child can sometimes seem like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when you and the teacher compare notes. And you might not know which side of the child you’re seeing.

Finally, as with all meetings, both parties need to go into the meeting with an open mind. In the long run, both the teacher and the parent want what is best for the student. That’s something we can all agree on.

guitar, student

Learn Your Way

For many years, schoolrooms all looked the same: a teacher lectured from the front of the room while obedient students sat in rows and absorbed knowledge (at least that was the goal). I’ll bet some of you even remember rooms like this (I know I do). Schoolrooms now are a completely different story. Students are often moving as are the teacher (or teachers). There’s noise (and what may seem to be chaos) and the only quiet may be test day. Why this change though?

One reason is the use of differentiation in the classroom as teachers try to reach all students. The other is teachers adapting to learning styles. Yes, even in something like a music class.

Depending on which school of thought you adhere to, there are either five or seven learning styles. The seven learning styles to be considered are visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, or solitary.

  1. Visual–also called spatial means that students learn better by reading or seeing what they are trying to understand.
  2. Aural–means that students learn better by hearing or having music involved in their lessons.
  3. Verbal–means that students want to speak their lessons aloud.
  4. Physical–also called kinesthetic means that students want a hands on portion to their lessons or to learn by doing.
  5. Logical–means that students apply logic to their learning.

These last two are not always included with the others, but can help a teacher decide whether to group students or let them work alone.

  1. Social means a student prefers to work in a group.
  2. Solitary means a student prefers to work or learn alone.

Now all of these learning styles do not mean that is the only way the student learns, but just means that might be the way they learn best. It also means they might learn best in more than one way. They could be a visual and an aural learner. Or a physical and a logical learner or any combination.

What it all comes down to is there are many different ways to learn and no teacher should teach one way.

If you’re curious about how you or a student learns, here’s a quick test to see. A better way is to talk with your student and find out how they feel they understand best and discuss different methods to learn and see how each of them sticks.

Getting Children to Practice

In order to improve, students must practice. While the teacher does as much as she can with the student in the classroom, encouraging the student to practice at home will also help.

One good way to reward and keep track of practice at home (and that the Michelle Tuesday Music School encourages) is to complete a minute of practice per age. So if your student is five, that child should practice for five minutes a day. You can set a timer so they don’t over practice. Give her a small reward once she’s finished this time (a sticker is a good one) and keep track of her time. You might consider letting her pick a prize once she’s earned a certain number of stickers. That’s all up to you.

At the school, she’ll get to prove that she has learned the song (and put in the time practicing), by playing it. If she shows she has mastered it, her teacher will put a sticker in her book and she’ll get a prize from the candy box. These little rewards will not only give her something concrete right away, but also give her the satisfaction of looking back through her book to see all the songs she’s mastered.

There’s an old adage ‘Practice makes perfect’. Sometimes just a little goes a long way.

The Music is the Thing

When most people think about music lessons, they envision groups or single person lessons of softly played Bach or Beethoven, even Tchaikovsky and Chopin. Maybe throw in some Mozart or Wagner. If the teacher or the student is really ambitious, they might attempt Rachmaninoff, Brahms and Liszt.

Music teachers have shifted to a more interesting take on learning music. Today’s kids don’t want to learn classical music (at least I never did as a teenager; although I have an appreciation for it now) and musicians like Lindsey Stirling and the 2 Cellos are making more current music popular are typical classical instruments.

Instead of focusing on classical music, students can examine a broad range of choices. Everything from rock and roll to country to video games. The use of more enticing music means a student is more interested in practicing and playing.

By giving students options for their music, teachers have opened a whole door into not only new students, but new avenues for expression.