An alternate for the terms "Student" and "Teacher"

February 1, 2019, 8:57 AM · I get frustrated with the way both young musicians as well as their instructors and programs all use school based language. My frustration is that the instrument gets placed in the part of their brain labeled: "School." As a result, school holidays, vacations, summers, are seen as times not to pick up the instrument or come for skill training.

This morning I thought that a return to the language of the Guilds could break the link between school and instrument. A young musician starts out an apprentice and as skills increase they become fellows, then journey-women and eventually masters of the craft with Grand Master reserved for the top professionals and pedagogues. (Ok, it also sounds Masonic but they borrowed the terminology from the guild system.)

I doubt that anyone will agree with me but I do think it is time to re-think the process by which the skills are transmitted from generation to generation and we understand that playing an instrument is a life skill, not simply a subject that you study.

Replies (29)

Edited: February 1, 2019, 10:56 AM · Your basic premise seems to be that students will associate practicing and learning with something unpleasant--school--simply because of the labels.

Therefore, according to your logic, if we just change the labels, the task will suddenly be something they want to do, even during summer vacation.

The reality is that the task is still the task: violin is difficult. Yes, it requires practice when we don't feel like it. Many things in life do. I just don't think changing how we label ourselves will make these tasks more palatable.

For example, many kids in middle school hate and dread phys ed. If you change the teacher's label from "coach" to "fun master" would it make any difference? I think people who hate gym class will hate gym class. Pushups are still pushups and dodge ball is still dodge ball.

February 1, 2019, 9:44 AM · Pupil and instructor. Boom.
Or master and apprentice.
February 1, 2019, 10:28 AM · I have a coach. She has whatever she wants to call me - which is probably student because some of them are younger than 10 and it gets too complicated.
Edited: February 1, 2019, 10:50 AM · Since I am called "professor" by my students, and since I believe my violin teacher is someone worthy of just as much respect as I am (probably more if we're being honest), I often refer to him as "my violin professor." Remember in the Jack Benny episodes -- he called his violin teacher "Professor LeBlanc." Of course we don't live in the 1950s and my teacher and I are on a first-name basis. For that matter I am fine with my research students (the ones who work with me in the lab) calling me Paul. My parents chose that name for me, and I like it.

What I find mildly irritating is "Mr. Paul" and "Mr. Jim" for children addressing grown-ups. If a grown-up asks a child to address him that way, that's fine. But I don't think it should be the default.

February 1, 2019, 2:14 PM · Names, titles, who cares if the relationship is to the benefit of both parties? As far as I am concerned, you can call yourself Yoda, but it is useless if your students are not progressing.
February 1, 2019, 4:49 PM · I almost think George is implying that the power relationship should be equalized--the student is on the same level as the teacher, with neither in a position of superiority.

Sorry, can't buy into that.

February 1, 2019, 5:06 PM · I like the idea in theory, but the reality is that this change would only positively affect adult learners, not children. Most kids' issues don't stem from the idea that their violin teacher is like their school teachers, but rather would prefer not to work so hard in one subject. The ones with good attitudes tend to succeed, regardless of what they call me. And I'm pretty clear with all of my students that all I care about is their progress, not whether or not they refer to me by a formal title.

Adults, on the other hand, can sometimes have issues with being thought of as a "student" or an "underling.". However, these adults usually aren't great students anyways, because they essentially have an attitude problem, and I doubt that can be fixed simply by then calling themselves apprentices.

Paul, I agree about the "Mr. First-name" thing. I just find it weird, and actually have found that it's *less* conducive to the student respecting me than if they just call me "Erik.". However, if it feels normal to them (or, more often, feels normal to the parents), I don't really have an issue with it. It's just weird when people force their kids to call me that.

February 1, 2019, 6:08 PM · The guild system was of course for professionals. For people who learn a trade to make a living. The majority of violin "students" are never going to live by playing violin; they will be amateur musicians or--more often than desirable--no musicians at all.

So maybe the system is not such a great fit. Besides that I agree with those who say changing the labels won't cause much other change.

Edited: February 1, 2019, 6:19 PM · How about “cathode” and “anode”? Energy flows from one to the other.
Edited: February 1, 2019, 8:00 PM · “Intern” when you can’t play without constant supervision, “resident” when you can play some easy pieces in your sleep, and you actually do. “Fellow” when you can play independently with your mentor’s nuanced advice. Then go hang out your shingle.
February 1, 2019, 8:18 PM · Part of my formal education is graduate degrees in human learning. Not teaching. Not how to teach. I spent years learning how people learn. Probably as many years as most musicians at any level invested in learning their music skills. I learned to create environments conducive to learning. When I worked in classrooms the learners were learners. Learning was what what they were expected to do. I told the learners I was not a teacher. I was a facilitator of learners. Show me what you have, I'll figure a way you can learn whatever you need to demonstrate to pass. My classes were loaded with learning difficulties, social skill difficulties, criminal gang colors, mental retardation, and the gifted who would pass the state tests no matter what so they constantly misbehaved in other classes overseen by "teachers". No violinists there.

So, there you have it! Those who learn are learners. Those who facilitate learners are facilitators of learners. Anyone who thinks either job is easy has psychological delusions.

Avoid the old guild achievement levels. Not many guilds left that actually teach skills, mostly unions no matter what they call themselves, and, at least in the U. S. of A., often associated with organized crime. Study your middle American history--the truths can not be denied no matter how hard the media tries. I cherish the idea of more appropriate titles for students and teachers. I abhor the guild classifications because of the union influence. Children learn to despise such classifications as they learn the dark sides of history, and resent being called such names, eventually.

Edited: February 1, 2019, 10:54 PM · I respectfully do disagree with the idea that students don't practise because of the terminology they use. It's more likely laziness or just not needing to.

Also, I've always thought it appropriate that a certain amount of deference automatically comes with calling one person the student and the other the teacher. I find it the most productive environment: one person is learning from the other.

If an appropriate alternative can be found ('learner' is a good suggestion) and proven to make a difference, that might be another story.

February 2, 2019, 6:31 AM · Though it's not really violin related,but i liked the post, Ken! Thank you for sharing the idea!
Edited: February 2, 2019, 6:52 PM · The Greeks, the prime teachers in the classical Roman world, had words for everything, including words for “pupil” and “teacher”, several in fact, depending on the context.

The common word for teacher was “didaskalos” (think “didactic”), and for pupil it was usually “paideuma”. There was also “synousiastes”, but that had more the meaning of disciple, or perhaps in our terms an advanced or senior student, such as a doctoral student.

A good one to note is “paideuteos” - someone who must or ought to be taught. Now that might ring a bell or two ;)

Of course, I'm in no way suggesting that these old words be brought back into circulation. Pity :(

Edited: February 2, 2019, 9:36 AM · Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach. Those that can't, teach gym. Those that can't teach gym administrate. Those that can't do, teach, teach gym, or administrate are students.

What's interesting is that George's assumption--that something in education isn't being done correctly and must be "fixed," is a common one. In Oregon, for instance (and in probably most other states) there is a bureaucracy devoted to churning out new standards, buzz words, and acronyms to be shoved down the throats of teacher and student alike, as if it will improve anything. It doesn't, but I guess it's job security for state workers with Phds in education.

Charter schools, Montessor, Waldorf--all attempts to "fix" education.

Reminds me of a joke: why did the Hampshire College student cross the road?
Answer: to get credit.

And speaking of education academia: next time you're in an academic library, check out the professional journals having to do with education. I've never read so much obtuse garbage in my life...

February 2, 2019, 9:55 AM · Scott, "... bureaucracy devoted to churning out new standards, buzz words, and acronyms to be shoved down the throats of teacher and student alike ..."

We have precisely that going on in the UK, not only in education but in other spheres of professional life.

Any observations from our friends here in France and elsewhere in Europe?

Edited: February 2, 2019, 10:19 AM · I see George Wells' point about the ideas and feelings that get attached to anything associated with "school," including "teacher" and student," in children's minds. A lot of the discipline we subject kids to in school is not really for their benefit--sitting for hours quietly at a desk, not being allowed to talk, to go out of the room, or really to move very much, unless given explicit permission, etc. And then we give them busy work to occupy them. It's discipline in the service of managing a large group efficiently, not discipline so they become more proficient in math, science, and reading. On some level, kids know that sitting still for seven hours doesn't help them achieve more academically. Please note: I am not blaming classroom teachers--they are often doing their best to teach in the circumstances, we, as a society, expect them to manage.

However, the discipline involved in violin playing (curl your pinky on the bow, bend your thumb, your left wrist should not touch the neck of the violin, etc.) IS related to better violin playing. Without a good bow hold, you're not going to get a good sound. Without an efficient left hand, your intonation is going to suck and you're never going to be able to do fast runs.

But kids are so used to having their bodies disciplined at school for purposes that exceed direct benefit to them. So, understandably, they are suspicious of someone who wants them to train (especially inhibit) their movements at such a micro-level.

February 2, 2019, 10:30 AM · As a corollary to this topic, I would like to see something universally recognized to strive for other than which “book” you are on. It always means the Suzuki series and not everyone uses that violin method. I know the OP does not use it. Like the martial arts with their belt colors indicating increasing levels of progress, there needs to be something here in the USA for young “students” to aspire towards. That will keep young students motivated - shoulder rest colors anyone?
February 2, 2019, 12:14 PM · "it is time to re-think the process by which the skills are transmitted from generation to generation"

Why? I fail to see what this has to do with semantics.

"we understand that playing an instrument is a life skill"

Really? I don't think so. It might be a life long skill to develop, but certainly plays no role in one's ability to survive or strive.

Sorry I just fail to agree with the argument which is the premise for change in semantics. Call the teachers tutors or masters and the students pupils or apprentices if that makes you feel better, but that won't stop them from wanting to fool around and have a good time during academic breaks!

February 2, 2019, 1:46 PM · Scott wrote: "Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach" That is such a put-down of teachers. Let me clarify: you are basically saying that teachers are all failed performers.

I hope you don't mean that because that means Auer, Galamian, Gingold, Yampolsky, Delay etc. were all failures.

What your phrase misses is those that can teach, teach - which negates the whole logic.

February 2, 2019, 3:03 PM · What's the goal? What does anyone who plays the violin want to eventually become?
A musician? An artist? A musical artist? An interpreter? A professional? A re-creative artist? A performing artist?

Suppose a teacher uses terminology as a goal the student (hopefully) has?

"When you play this piece, I want you to think like Beethoven's interpreter, the one who is re-creating Beethoven's musical vision, his voice. That is your mission. And mine is to help you get there."

I don't know if those are the right words or the right names, but isn't that the whole idea?

February 2, 2019, 5:12 PM · Definitely Sanders (although I would add a blending of Beethoven's and your voice) - but how many teachers actually teach like that??
Edited: February 2, 2019, 6:55 PM · A teacher is someone special. It is a very fine word. Students and pupils are those who want to learn. To me the terms are fine.

Actually I think that my violin pupils or violin students think of me as their violin teacher. Thus I think they do not associate it with school I think they associate it with learning to play the violin.

Anyway, since I am Danish I actually use the similar Danish words.

February 2, 2019, 9:59 PM · "Scott wrote: "Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach" That is such a put-down of teachers. Let me clarify: you are basically saying that teachers are all failed performers"

Elise, lighten up.
I've made a career out of both teaching and playing.

Edited: February 3, 2019, 2:18 AM · It's an old quip Elise. It's George Bernard Shaw. The joke has been extended to “He who can does; he who cannot, teaches. He who cannot teach, teaches PE”

Also, Elise, you are committing a logical blunder: -

To infer from "he who cannot do, teaches" that "he who teaches cannot do." Is the same mistake as to infer from "He who is French speaks French" that "He who speaks French is French"
Being French is a sufficient condition to speak French, it is not a necessary condition.

February 3, 2019, 3:08 AM · You are right Andrew but the actual 'out' is that 'He who can teache, teaches (in other words if you are a great teacher you teach). But you know that that is an exit by logic not by intent and generally - including Shaw himself - the intent is my interpretation.

From Scott's comment I take it he did not mean that - sorry if my interpretation was too 'heavy'. But it still needed to be said because I think most people would interpret it as you said it.

Edited: February 3, 2019, 4:59 AM · Yes, you are right, but I suppose the context matters. Shaw wrote in "interesting times" when much doing needed to be done and Nietzsche had philosophised with a hammer, or so he thought, and Marx had said something similar about the need to change history, not record it, I forget the detail.

Anyway, I was going to agree with whoever said if you teach, you are a teacher in any language, (probably Scott) but he has deleted it. I was going to add something about the Latin derivation of studere, but it's a tricky one. Although ultimately one of studere's meanings is to be zealous, which is what one would hope of a student, but I don't think zealot would be a good name change!

February 3, 2019, 3:34 PM · "Student, Teacher", the words are simple and functionally valid. What can get distorted is that the teacher forgets which way the money is flowing, that he is also an employee, servant of the parents. Wicked idea; Sometimes I wonder if the original old Univ. of Paris had the right idea. The students owned, controlled the school, and hired the teachers.
February 8, 2019, 9:53 PM · Mr. Cole's point is more valid than parents want to know. Toss his first paragraph and the rest of the post are things that need to be said louder and more often for the benefit of our learners.

A significant majority of people with advanced degrees in education are synonyms. Read FRAMES OF MIND: THE THEORY OF MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES, by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of aberrant psychology. Well, he used to be before Harvard saw more income selling misinterpretations of his work to teachers dumb enough to believe all those synonyms.

Seems like half of the education clan publishes a new set of synonyms on the same old topics. It is very difficult to find a facilitator of learning capable of self-thought, much less one who works in an environment where self-thought is cherished.

Most administrators haven't learned a thing about developing cognitive ability since their freshman Introduction to Education and Psychology 101 courses. Behaviorism doesn't work with kids, those on which the theory is practice become manipulators. Yet, all my years teaching, administrators never asked why, they just demanded I be a behaviorist. They were too stupid to understand the role of a facilitator, but they connected the right dots to become administrators. Maybe a good thing for them because all the records I saw when counseling showed most to be failures in their classroom as facilitators of learning, anyway.

That is why I choose to drive a truck these days--it is possible to fix stupid, but the client rarely survives the crowbar, and that's what the system needs if more children are to be served better. Start at the top.

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