Written by Paula E. Bird, ©2014
What a difference practice makes!
I have such a varied group of parental approaches to practice sessions. Each approach tells me so much about the parent in terms of the parent's background, values, parenting style, and parenting philosophy. The past two weeks were very revealing to me in terms of my studio parents' various approaches to ability development.
Holiday breaks can be tricky times for many families because this is the time that many families can spend time together. Families travel during these times or they make plans to spend time visiting relatives and friends. Practice sessions drop down the list of priorities, and that is to be expected. I was prepared to face a few weeks of getting everyone back on track at the studio.
One child came without the practicing parent. The other parent sat on the couch in the nearby room. Practice sessions were very spotty over the holidays. We had to take a few steps backwards in our progress and pick up where we had been a few months ago.
Another child came completely prepared. He and his mom had practiced fairly regularly and had also included his younger brother in the sessions to encourage the younger child to begin his own lessons soon.
Another child came unprepared but eager to play. He had been very sick over the holidays, but his mother kept up his interest by playing the recordings more often and by talking about lessons starting up soon.
Another child came with nothing prepared, and her mother seemed a little resistant to getting things back on track. The mother wanted to take a few steps back and redo assignments that had been learned weeks ago. This mom was also looking for ways to simplify the child's learning, such as writing out cheat sheets of the fingerings to songs (something that I do on occasion to help the mothers check on whether the child is playing the songs correctly. Unfortunately in this case, the mother wanted the child to use these fingering sheets to learn the songs, except that the child was not learning the songs. The child was learning how to rely on a fingering sheet to play the song, which is a result that the parent still does not recognize nor believe is undesirable).
Another child came prepared to begin new material because she had done a really good job of practicing her assignments over the holiday break. In fact, her mother laid out how they practice at home. They play through the list of assignments, playing through each song and often more than once in some cases. Then after going through the assignment list in this way, they go back and review the list once more. No wonder this child was prepared to move on!
As a teacher, such varied approaches can be dicey to work with. My assignments are not consistent across the board between students, because I need to tailor my assignments to fit what a parent and student bring to the lessons and what they will take away for home practices. I am frequently balancing my parents' and students' practice values with my own decisions about whether to raise or lower my expectations about what I think the child is capable of doing.
Such is the life of a teacher. For many parents, at the onset of music lessons, such was the choice of the parent as well. Generally, parents want their children to succeed at ability learning. Somewhere along the way, however, life seems to raise its head and cause ripples in the learning process. Parents run into harder assignments, and students grow in and out of physical, emotional, and mental phases that cause ripples in the students' ability to progress in a linear fashion. This is all to be expected. It is how the parents and students regroup, recharge, and recommit to the ability development vision after these bumpy patches in the road that will determine how well the children will succeed.
This week I will spend thinking of ways to help my parents regain any lost enthusiasm and motivation for learning and for teaching their child at home. This may be a good time for me to revisit the parents' goals for their child.