From years back, I happened to experience something that rang my bell.
It was when I taught Michaela who had been my piano student for a long time. She normally pays attention well and follows up piano lessons, but this one day, she looked pretty tired. So I made a suggestion.
“What about we swap our roles today?
Why don’t you become a teacher and I become a student?
Would you like to teach me piano?”
My suggestion totally changed the vibe, and it made me happy to see Michaela glad to teach me. Plus, I was even excited to find out how she would teach me.
However, what I experienced was beyond shocking.
Have you ever had a chance to film yourself speaking or teaching someone and surprised to find new things about yourself? Like the way you speak? This was those kind of experience from an unexpected moment. I witnessed my student teaching me just like a split image of myself.
The words and expressions that she used, and the teaching style completely mirrored what I used to teach her.
Of course, I was happy to see that my piano student has grown musically under my instruction but in the same time, I felt that I could’ve taught differently. It was the moment of learning how I could be better teacher with the reflection from my student, and most importantly, it was the moment of knowing how much I could make an impact to my students.
Learning from my student
What I noticed from my student was that I repeatedly used the same expressions. For example, I kept saying “good job” to make a compliment while there are other options such as “that was a steady tempo” or “you followed the notes well.”
When specific feedback is given to children, they understand what part they do well and what part they need to improve.
From this experience, I became to say compliments with details such as:
“great focus until the end” or
“you fixed the mistake right way, good job“
And, I started to say more with growth mindset such as:
“great performance, what’s one thing that could have been even better?”
Student is teacher
A few years past, our studio had the event called “Student is Teacher, Teacher is Student” which a student becomes a teacher and a teacher becomes a student.
The objective of this event was to provide an opportunity for students to become independent thinker and musician by leading and teaching the lesson, and for teachers to project our teaching styles to find a better way of teaching/coaching just like what I experienced a few years ago.
After the event, all the instructors had a reflecting time and exchanged what we’ve experienced.
Some of them was:
A voice student asked about how voice works, created her own warmup exercises from it and teach the instructor.
A piano student came up with a unique way to count the beat and helped the instructor who struggled to count the beat.
We want to teach our students as independent thinkers and learners which they can figure out the new notes and rhythms on their own, find the mistakes and solutions on their own, and think how to practice the weak spots on their own. We want to encourage this during the lesson but sometimes we end up giving answers with “spoon feeding”.
I hope this role change event gave the opportunity for students to think about the aspect of independent thinkers and learners.
Because we have to know in order to teach.
tEACHER IS STUDENT
We also talked about one thing it could be done differently.- Teaching new piece of music to students.
When we first introduce a new piece, we could talk about the title of the music, composers’ thoughts, and the feeling of the music. Sometimes, we could imagine from the illustration on the page and think about the lyrics.
But, the first thing that we often ask to our students is to find what the first notes are and where their hands should be placed. Why do we so focus on finding the first note on the piece instead of taking a glance at the entire music?
Of course, it is essential to read notes on the accurate beat and keep a steady pace while playing. However, these are the skills that students could improve as they keep learning and practicing.
We all understand that learning music is not always about reading notes or fixing mistakes.
When we learn music, it is important to:
- Project emotions through music.
- Express feelings through playing.
- Discover new notes and rhythms.
- Improve difficult parts through practice methods.
- Understand the mood and the flow of music.
- Take a preview of a music piece with finding patterns and spots to pay extra attention to.
It was fun and productive event that all our instructors and students had enjoyed. I definitely think about planning this event every year!