Last week I had two small encouragements while teaching music. They may not seem very significant, but for me, as a young teacher seeking to become more effective for my students, these two events were gratifying. Here is the first story.
An eight year old, Andrew (not his real name), came to his lesson in a bad mood. The instant he walked in with his family, it was clear that he was frustrated, tired, and ready for a fight. He continued to argue with his parents as he sat down. I figured that maybe a few of his favorite pieces would be a good place to start in order to calm him down and maybe put him in a mood more conducive to music-making. It definitely helped but Andrew continued to bicker with his parents as they made remarks like “this song would sound better if you had practiced it more” or “stop slouching”. Andrew finally burst out with, “I can do it on my own, stop telling me what to do, you guys!” His parents seemed a little taken aback; however, they refrained from further comments, which I appreciated.
Later, as I turned in Andrew’s music book to the new piece I had chosen for him to learn that week, he said rebelliously, “I don’t see why I can’t learn some new notes, some hard notes that I haven’t learned before.” I hadn’t planned on introducing new notes for another few weeks, yet it seemed more important for this boy to have the freedom of choice in this matter because it really wouldn’t do any harm for my agenda to change in order to accommodate his wish. “Sure,” I said, and turned to a different song with new notes on the guitar.
The look on his face was remarkable. First it was surprise, then disbelief, then a slow rise of excitement as he realized that he was actually having his way. Andrew sat up straighter in his chair and listened attentively as we explored the new concepts and played through the music. It was more difficult than he had anticipated, so he struggled a bit, but he showed every intention of working through it. At the end, the smile on his face showed how important it was that he had been given the opportunity of choice in this small area of his life.
I’ll post the second story tomorrow!