"No matter how far removed the student's product is from the ideal, there is always a way of starting from a positive angle."- Christos Tsitsaros in Creative Piano Teaching
January has been a great month in my studio. My students have been motivated, they've been enjoying lessons, and it's been a very positive few weeks of lessons. But for some reason this first week of February is not continuing the trend. It's not been a very positive week so far. And I think I know why. We've had a good deal of snow here in Maryland over the past week, and some kids haven't been in school for almost a week. Now, you'd think that so much time off would result in more practice, but (speaking as a previous student) I know that just the opposite often happens. A few days without the normal routine and motivation goes down the drain!
That being said, I've seen this unfortunate trend reflected in lessons thus far this week. Practice is way down, motivation and excitement aren't there, and progress hasn't been made like I'd hoped. I've been tempted several times to give in to a negative attitude in lessons, especially when students return with the same mistakes we had fixed in last week's lesson or continue to struggle with the same passage even after a week's worth of practice on their part.
That's why I found this quote so convicting today as I was reading. As teachers, we have two options. We can either tear down or build up. That's not to say that we should overlook problems or issues and just smile and say "that was great!" no matter what. There is a positive way to correct. But as a teacher, I feel that I should never react to a poor performance or a week where a student's progress has been less than acceptable with sarcasm, harsh criticism, or a 'let's fix this' attitude that makes the student feel like a failure.
Instead, I try to focus on the positive and move on from there. Yes, the rhythm might have been incorrect, but what about the dynamics? Did they miss a note there- maybe- but they managed to maintain a steady speed as well.
This style of teaching takes a lot more effort! It's a lot harder to maintain a positive attitude and find a way of correcting problems that doesn't leave a student feeling discouraged and completely trashed by their teacher. But I want to be the kind of teacher students enjoy taking lessons from and don't approach with fear. I want to creatively help my students to achieve excellence and feel they can succeed, even if they have an off lesson or two.
Easy to say, not so easy to do. But as I slog through the rest of this week, I'm determined to keep a positive attitude and foster an encouraging environment with my students.