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?