Friday, October 12, 2012

A Word of Explanation

As my output on this blog has been a bit down over the past months I thought I'd offer a brief word of explanation. In short, I've felt God calling me to spend more of my time and energy on other endeavors. My blog will still be available for those who are interested in past posts or printables, and I'll be posting from time to time, but my presence here will continue to be limited.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Learning to See Things Differently

Sometimes, all it takes between what we as teachers perceive as a great lesson and a bad lesson is a matter of perspective. I'm writing this post because this is something that I personally struggle with a great deal. Before lessons, I am usually guilty of setting goals for the upcoming time period. There are things I want to accomplish, projects to be finished, new projects to be started...

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with setting goals! But there is something wrong with beating yourself up if you don't actually accomplish all those goals in each lesson.

I have a student who has been a real struggle for me this year so far. His level of energy and lack of constant focus in lessons have been a source of stress for me each week. As I set my goals for his upcoming lessons each week, I found myself approaching the lesson each successive week with more and more of a sense of despair. I knew that no matter what, the goals wouldn't even be remotely accomplished because half of my time would be spent trying to re-gain focus. And the entire day of lessons would end on a sour note as I reflected on that one lesson and what a failure it had been.

Not good!I knew that I needed to change my approach, so this week I decided to try something radical (for me at least!) :) . I approached his lesson with no expectations, no goals, no thoughts of "we have to accomplish x, y, and z...". Rather, I just let things happen. I worked with what I had. We spent the lesson engaged in more activity- jumping back and forth between the piano and keyboard, changing up the usual format of the lesson, throwing in some new stuff...and the lesson ended up being much more successful. Was the child more focused? Not really. What had changed was my approach to the lesson. I decided that success wasn't really based on accomplishing goals, but more on finding creative ways to engage and help this student experience success. The result was that I ended my day of teaching with a much more positive attitude, rather than starting my week off feeling like a failure.

As teachers, having goals and expectations are definitely important. But there are also times when those same goals and expectations can get in the way of a truly successful teaching experience. Sometimes all it takes is a small change of perspective to make all the difference! Have you ever dealt with this in your teaching experience? I'd love to hear your stories of success and tidbits of advice on how you overcame a difficult situation like this and made it a positive one!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Marble Jar

Over the summer, I decided that my incentive programs were getting a little out of control. I had contest upon contest upon contest, which meant that at the end of every term I was buying rewards for 5-7 students. It really started adding up! I decided to simplify things this fall with a more streamlined incentive. While still fostering competition, this incentive also rewards personal achievements. And with only 2 winners at the end of the term, it saves my wallet as well! :)

Enter the studio marble jar:

A simple concept! At the first lesson, students were given a goal sheet to fill out and place in their binders:

Then each week as they come to lessons, they get to put a marble in the jar for each goal met. If they met their practice goals: 1 marble. If they memorized a song: 1 marble. There are also some more long-range goals on the sheet that we'll be working on for a month or more, but the whole idea behind this contest is that they will see rewards every week (through marbles in the jar) from working hard at home to meet their goals.

At the end of the term I will draw a marble at random from the jar and that person will receive a special prize. The second winner will be the person with the most marbles overall.

So far this week, the marble jar has been a big success! Simple concept- big results! LOVE IT! What are you doing this fall to motivate your students?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome Back!

Last week I welcomed my students back for the start of the fall studio term. The first lesson after a two-week break is always a bit of a toss-up. Some lessons involve students who haven't even looked at their music or even thought about piano over break, but then some lessons involve students who made the most of the extra time.

This time around, I was really really pleased to see more of the latter type of students! I had several who surprised me by taking advantage of the extra time to memorize some music, and a few of my students even composed songs during the break! Way to go! I think we're off to a great start.

We kicked off the fall practice contest last week as well, so look for some upcoming posts detailing our contest and how students did over the first week.

Anyone else out there have some success stories to share about students who took great initiative over a term break?! How about your own plans for the fall term?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ending the Summer Term on a Good 'Note'

This past Saturday, as a final summer activity, I took 5 of my available students to a local nursing home for a mini-recital. They each played between 2-4 pieces. We picked a variety of solo pieces, duets with the teacher, and even had two siblings play a round together! What fun!

After the performance, I played some music while the students made cards to hand out to the residents, thanking them for listening to the performance. I even got a card as well! ;)

This was our first trip as a studio, and I'm looking forward to making it a regular activity in the upcoming terms.

(the clearer pictures are thanks to a parent- my own pictures turned out rather dim and blurry as you can see at the end of this set of pictures)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Great Music Race is Over!

The past 10 weeks have completely flown by. Summer is fast coming to a close and schools are starting back up here in Maryland in just one week!

My summer teaching term ended this past week, and I'm looking forward to a 2-week break from teaching before starting the fall term. While summer is always hit-or-miss with regards to consistency with my students, I was really happy to see the majority of my students show discipline and effort with practice over the summer term, as is shown by the distance many of them were able to travel on our studio racetrack. There were a few students who cut out mid-term, but those students who decided to participate in the contest and stuck it out to the end did a pretty good job staying consistent for the 8 weeks they took lessons over the term.

There are also quite a few flags decorating our racetrack, showing the memorization efforts put forth by my students as well. It was a great term, and while I'm looking forward to a break and vacation, my mind is already full of ideas for the fall practice contest!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Letting Go...Moving On

It's the middle of July, which means that I am starting to think about the fall term. I've already had several families inquire about fall lessons, so I've spent some time this week thinking about the fall calendar, picking a recital date, creating the registration form...and deciding to let some students go.

I've previously posted about my thoughts on letting students go and how this doesn't mean you've failed as a teacher. That realization has been so healing for me. I've come to discover that knowing when to let go is actually a sign of respect, both for the student and for yourself.

That being said, I made the decision this week to finally let go of a family whose respect toward my time and resources has been nonexistent. I'd been trying so hard to just make the best of it, but it only resulted in mounting stress from one term to the next. I've finally come to the decision that the best scenario for all parties involved is to let them go. As I made the decision, a HUGE weight felt like it had been lifted off my shoulders. There's something so freeing about realizing that as a teacher you have an option, you're not just stuck with what you get! There's no rule that says we as teachers have to put up with a lack of respect, and it's not being respectful of myself when I let other people treat me that way.

It's taken me awhile to embrace this mentality and feel comfortable with the idea, but now that I've accepted it my entire approach toward teaching has changed. I feel so much more positive about lessons! I'm really hoping that this decision will help foster a better perspective toward lessons as the fall term gets closer.

Have you ever had a family who showed little or no respect toward you as a teacher or as a person? Did you feel guilt over getting rid of them? What helped you to step up and decide to respect yourself and your rights as a teacher?