"You teach; should I? I just really enjoy working with kids and with people, but I don't know where to start..."
Whenever my performing friends say this, I can't help but try to rope them into teaching. The world needs good teachers, and if you have studied fully the instrument and have an enthusiasm for teaching others, then you have what it takes.
So over the years, I've encouraged a number of my performing friends to try teaching, and also to get training in violin pedagogy -- Suzuki pedagogy, if they are interested in teaching very young children.
The problem is that sometimes I think people have found pedagogy training to be discouraging.
For me, having taught for about five years before, pedagogy training gave me a shot in the arm. It gave me more "tricks" for my bag. It also gave me a deeper understanding of certain techniques, particularly techniques that have been easy or natural to me for a long time. I've found that the technique you struggled with most very often is the technique that you teach best. Conversely, it's harder to see what's difficult about techniques that feel "easy" to you.
So why would pedagogy training be discouraging?
Recently a new teacher, an excellent violinist who is clearly devoted to the idea of teaching, was comparing notes with me, asking about my approach. She'd recently taken some Suzuki pedagogy courses, and she was re-thinking various approaches to her own teaching. Before the training, she'd been letting an older beginner use the music, and afterwards she felt she needed to make her learn by rote. Before the training, she had introduced the use of lefthand fingers one way, and afterwards she felt she should try the rather complex method taught in the pedagogy training.
"I don't really understand the point of what they taught me to do, actually," she said, "it's really confusing for my student, and for me. Do I have to do it that way?"
The answer? NO!
We study the means and the method, but what matters is the end result. Sure, explore all the pedagogy you can, observe great teachers, read books, go see what the V.commies are saying, but in the end, it's just you and your student, learning to play. Know what you want to teach, and teach it any way that works.
I told her that when I teach students vibrato, before I try breaking it down into 45 detailed steps and exercises, I try the following:
"Do this." I play a note, with vibrato. "Try it!"
Sometimes, it's there. Usually, something is there, however elementary, and that's our starting point for deciding which of the 45 exercises will work.
It's easy to be impressed with how brilliantly a pedagogy expert or experienced teacher can teach the "teaching points."
Don't teach the teaching points. Teach your students. Learn all you can, and then do it YOUR way.
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