From Grainne Murray
Posted November 1, 2005 at 05:22 PM
Make the student feel valued, like they are your best student.
Have a ‘Don’t rush, don’t rest’ attitude.
Persuade even non-musical parents to become involved.
Be a good role model.
Have rules (e.g. punctuality) and stick to them, always.
Make it fun.
Basic Teaching, Technical Work
Be aware of what they were supposed to practice.
Ask questions to make them think about what they are playing.
Show what you mean.
See the problems, and be able to come up with creative solutions
Making Music out of Notes
Let their talent and ability flow
Have the student visualize stories, and characters within the music
Focus on the love and passion, not just the notes
Grainne - interesting post. Here are some of my thoughts based on my experiences (including pitfalls).
To Be A Good Violin Teacher
"Make the student feel valued, like they are your best student."
This does not work and leads to problems in the long run - including lack of reality and ego (always bad). I would suggest making the student feel valued and treating all students equally, no matter what the talent. Encourages mutual respect and prevents long term problems.
"Have a ‘Don’t rush, don’t rest’ attitude."
"Persuade even non-musical parents to become involved."
Depends on the parents. Sometimes, the parents are the sources of the problem. Each case is individual. The parents should be eliminated if they are the problems.
"Be a good role model."
Yes! Have integrity above all at all times.
"Have rules (e.g. punctuality) and stick to them, always."
Most of the time. However, a little kick in the behind is good sometimes.
"Make it fun."
Yes, in the sense that it should be a joy to learn. However, one needs to understand that work is not always fun, which doesn't make it less important or less worthwhile.
Basic Teaching, Technical Work
"Be aware of what they were supposed to practice."
Yes, and more importantly, how to practice.
"Ask questions to make them think about what they are playing."
Yes, and how they are playing objectively.
"Show what you mean."
"See the problems, and be able to come up with creative solutions"
No. Most problems on the violin are simple. There aren't a million solutions. Show the root of the problem, and the solution. Many problems have only one if understood correctly. Teach them to analyze the problem and use the correct solution.
Above anything else.
Making Music out of Notes
"Let their talent and ability flow"
I would rather say guide their talent.
"Have the student visualize stories, and characters within the music"
Yes. But many are imbedded in the score. Textual fidelity comes first.
"Focus on the love and passion, not just the notes"
Yes, as long as the notes are there, and the energy is well channeled. Miscontrolled passion and blind love are sometimes part of the problem. There is a fine line. Know it at all times.
Remember the movie Fargo? ;)
i started when i was 3and a half^_^
I'd like to jump in here on the word "nice." I believe that different people define it in different ways, therefore I'd like to be more specific...
Children (and any student, for that matter) should ALWAYS be treated with respect. This means that you should always acknowledge their efforts , as well as their feelings. However, acknowledging does not mean that you are necessarily going "easy" on them. For example, if a child complains that something is hard, you might relate to them that you remember things feeling hard when you were a child. This shows them that you empathize, but it doesn't in any way imply that you are backing off of a request.
If being "nice" is defined as not asking things that are hard, then I don't support that definition. Not helping a student realize their full potential is not nice at all. (Sorry for the double negative!)
Anthony, I am very concerned about a lot of the language that you use. Being a forceful teacher is much different then being demanding. I consider myself demanding, but not forceful. There is a big difference.
Also, I really object to "making them cry." Sometimes children will cry in the lesson, but it shouldn't be because the teacher goes out of their way to "make them". If I am asking a lot of a student in a lesson, sometimes they will cry. I usually try to read them for how far I can push, and I will (try) to stop before they reach the breaking point. Occasionally, I do misread it, and that's when the crying happens.
But I interpret "making them cry" as saying hurtful things such as "you sound terrible" simply to make them feel bad. There is certainly a long history of this kind of abuse in the history of violin pedogogy. It has even produced some great violinists. But at what cost? There are definitly better ways to get results.
And always ending the lesson with candy? Maybe occasionally, but certainly not always! Then their parents will have to deal with a sugar crazed, hyper kid! Also, accomplishing something big in the lesson is the real reward. If you always need to end lessons with candy in order for the student to feel good, then something is seriously wrong.
I agree with Miriam's emphasis on respect. I think a teacher should act with respect for the individual, and respect for his/her abilities and potential.
Also, also one must have respect for a student's challenges. And yes, the solutions may be simple and finite, but expressing them and getting to them sometimes requires a lot of creativity. "Move your thumb" will not work for every learner. Some need you to take their thumb and press on it and say, "the violin should press on your thumb here." Or "see where the one tape is, the thumb goes right behind it" or "straighten your thumb, don't bend it" or "fix your thumb while I look away for a minute, you know where it goes." All those approaches could be for the same one problem. A teacher has to have the ability to know what works for whom, and to switch gears if it isn't working.
I think it's bad news if a teacher just assumes that a student has problems because he isn't working. That's your problem, too. Motivation. But being abusive is just being abusive. It's not necessary for good teaching or good discipline.
In either case I don't like the idea of motivation comming from the teacher in the form of a kick. There is a difference between motivating somebody and pushing. When I was first starting out I'd work to please my teacher, then I started working to please myself. I never worked because my teacher would yell at me if I didn't, or because of any negative emotion at all. I have a feeling I would have quit back when I was very little if I was
Due to all the crazy hormone stuff, we can be a little emotional sometimes and we get frustrated easily. Good teachers should recognize this and be patient. Because many of us like to think ourselves better than, let say, the girl down the street, we might actually work our butts off if we get the proper motivation (e.g. "You know, I think you play this passage more smoothly than my other student"). However, just saying "You are terrible" does not help at all. For example, my friend only made the last chair second violin this year in the youth orchestra, and her teacher became all sarcastic and told her that she was horrible. That only made my friend angry and rebellious and she refused to work hard. I don't think any teacher would want to be in this situation.
We are all human beings and we all have feelings. Before you say something that you will regret later, please consider if you would like to be treated the same way when you were younger. Learning to do new things on the violin is supposed to be an enjoyable process; let's keep it that way!
Geez, now that I read this, I guess I'm a real type A violin teacher. Credit to my students for enduring! :0)
in terms of how hard to push a student, i think it depends on the student's make-up. some can handle it, some can't. some can only go far with push, some only need gentle reminders. still, it is important to not to crush hope, to leave some room for the self, to mandate an open dialogue. here is a recent link showing physiological response to stress.
What about keeping written records, i.e. practice logs and lesson logs, and encouraging students to do so themselves?
I started doing this as an adult and I find it makes a big difference in what I remember from week to week between lessons. It also makes practicing much more efficient and less discouraging--and helps me keep at it. It gives me a way to quantify my progress (or lack thereof) and is an aid to analyzing and figuring out problems.
But this is something I've started doing on my own, as an adult. None of my teachers, including my current teacher, has ever mentioned it or shown any interest in how I keep my log or what I write in it. This laissez-faire is probably appropriate for adults, but I think for at least some kids, adult/teacher guidance in the matter would make a big difference.
I can think of some situations where a break is called for, such as being physically sick (having a fever or injured arm or back), or emotionally stressed out or depressed. The latter is particularly hard to detect, as it could show up as though the student is not being diligent or lack of motivation. How would an experienced teacher help in such type of situation?
Another way of framing the question is, when a normally keen student appears to be plateauing, where should the teacher look for causes? If it turns out that the student is going through some emotional struggle, such as overwhelmed by school/work environment, or suffering a loss of loved one, at what point a teacher should say to the student that keep practicing at this point is doing more harmful than good to the longevity or the progress of one’s violin playing?
I have offered copious amounts of specific advice throughout various teaching related threads on this site so I'll be brief this time.
Never be ordinary. Extraordinary love, devotion and enthusiasm are required to produce extraordinary results. It is no accident that the teachers who reliably produce wonderful players tend to have big personalities, abundant energy and focus.
- It focuses and challenges your listening
- It focuses your correction
- It keeps you from overwhelming them
- It keeps you pushing them forward
- It means you can be mostly encouraging, even when the only bright spot was the three times they were almost in tune
- It helps them focus on their strengths, which will develop much faster with focus and encouragement
There are very good tips in the book "Casals and the Art of Interpretation" by David Blum (I think that was his name..)
He talks about looking for scales, for instance if it goes up, make a crescendo, if it goes down a diminuendo. There was a whole load of good and interesting suggestions.
When a normally keen student appears to be plateauing, and if it turns out that the student is going through some emotional struggle, such as overwhelmed by school/work environment, or suffering a loss of loved one, at what point a teacher should say to the student that keep practicing at this point is doing more harmful than good to the longevity or the progress of one’s violin playing?
Teaching should be joyful for both teacher and student. Be sure your student knows you are enjoying your time with them.
Never, ever compare one student with another even while complementing. We opted not to have our son take regular lessons with one teacher after two lessons where she compared him with her most successful student. My son thought she was insecure and trying to prove that she was a good teacher and it made him unsure about her competence. More importantly, this type of behavior can cause unhappiness amongst the families in a studio.
Would that all violin teachers held to this! One of the richest rewards in teaching comes from those moments when one sees a student increasing in self-respect because he was inspired by the teacher's respect for him.
In part, I am a product of a teacher like that. In high-school, I would leave her studio in tears after an hour of constant pushing, raised voices, and negative motivation. Granted, I came back every week able to play what she wanted but I was very insecure, always stressed and when I played it was with a huge fear of screwing up and getting yelled at. Even if students rise to challenge and play better (like I did) it doesn’t mean the teaching was good – and eventually, the student will have major confidence issues later in life.
Now I’m 31, and when I started with my current teacher I would cringe every time I made a mistake expecting the same kind of treatment. But he doesn’t work like that. Overall he is mild-mannered and very patient and I’ve never heard him raise his voice. But on the other hand, he has an extremely focused attitude toward music and he loves what he does and it shows. We students react accordingly. We work hard, but we stay relaxed and I think’s due to how he approaches teaching.
As a result, the perfectionist attitude I thought came naturally to me is beginning to disappear. I think it’s because I’ve finally been given permission to make mistakes – and now that I can make mistakes without the abusive treatment I find I stay relaxed and recover much more quickly than ever before and results in higher quality musicianship from me.
I cannot tell you the damage this woman wrought on the psyche of many a young musician or the number of very talented string players who put down their instruments because of her. She is a big reason why I didn't pursue music after high school. I regret this deeply.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward
May I add, "The mean (not nice) teacher destroys."
I responded well to the very hard handed approach of a teacher who was trained in Russia, I'm a COMPLETELY different player now. It did me a lot of good.
However I don't treat my pupils this way.
~Try to know each student individually, so that you are able to communicate with him/her most effectively.
~Acknowledge when you (as a teacher) are frustrated because they didn't practice/prepare the correct songs, etc. Let students know you are not upset at them personally, but rather at their lack of preparation. Briefly discuss the benefits of being prepared for class.
~Laughter - I like many of my classes to have intense, concentrated moments, while allowing time for laughter. When diagnosing a "problem," occasionally present it in a rather humourous yet memorable fashion. It really relaxes the mood and 99% of the time, my students listen to what I'm saying - when it's funny.
~Emphasize what a student is doing well, rather than always correcting ("I LOVE your straight left wrist!"). Be specific when it comes to suggestions for improvement ("I see you concentrating on keeping your second finger low, but don't let your first finger slide off the tape!").
The teachers who help the most were those who do
not play everything along with their students. The student who never plays by him/her self is deprived of the experience they need to develope confidence. Duets are great, but leave your violin alone when your students are working on etudes and solos.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!