However, a new learning year approaches, and in preparation for it, I have been reflecting on the process for both teacher and pupil. How do I want to develop my role this coming year?
It's a fact that we can't do our students' learning for them, we can only facilitate the process as best we can. Every year I begin with a reminder to self of the unique character of each of my pupils. Some are from the same family, but are still diverse in personality - hence how they respond to different aspects of learning changes too. But I try to establish a framework for learning, just as I did when teaching in schools. All those years of learning in the classroom are still valuable, even on a one-to-one rather than 30+ basis.
So here are my 'notes to self'...
1. Make explanations as clear as possible and in a way that a particular pupil will understand. That all comes back to knowing your pupil, his or her likes and dislikes and preferred learning style, so that descriptions/demonstrations relate to what is familiar and accessible to them.
2. Have a long term goal but break it down into smaller portions with timescales that allow for regular success. Together we can then re-assess in terms of the longer term goal and try different approaches where necessary.
3. I am going to encourage pupils even more to find different interpretations of a piece where possible - both mine or via a music app such as Spotify. YouTube is particularly interesting for generating discussion - some performances are better than others - what do pupils think of this performance as opposed to that one/would they approach it differently? etc.
4. Encourage singing even more. Knowing where the melodic line is in a textured piece is vital for tone control, so identifying a melody and singing it, for example, is a good way of internalising its place in the texture. Singing to and with a pupil when learning a piece/scale can't be underestimated.
5. Cut back on demonstrative chat. Some students can talk for England, but so can some teachers (sorry) and I want to make sure I am following the 'involve me and I learn' maxim for the pupil as much as possible rather than talking about the music too much. Demonstrating to a pupil is important, but by asking, "How do you think that might sound if...?", then the student is encouraged not only to think about the teacher model, but develop their own way of exploring sound.
6. Provide the support where needed but know when and how to take it away - see 1 above. Pieces might have to be broken down into chunks of all sizes and speeds. Interim goals might be smaller for some, more demanding for others. Expectations about HOW to practice will continue to be made explicit. Parents! I am fortunate to have very supportive parents of pupils - so valuable.
7. Some pupils enjoy sight reading and I know I do the best I can in terms of instilling pulse, rhythm, key recognition and keeping going, but it remains a stumbling block for some. I fervently believe that the more a pupil plays pieces other than those being studied in lessons, the more confidence they will develop. It's a sad truism that many pupils only practise pieces for exams - there is little time for anything else in busy school lives and in a world of virtual realities. I want to encourage independent learning in my pupils, so for those who do not show the enthusiasm for exploring 'extra' repertoire, at least quick studies can become more regular components in their lesson preparation this coming year.
8. Feedback 'f's - make it fun, favourable, fair and where necessary, firm. Start with positive comments by all means but make them detailed too - why something sounded good, for example - that will allow for the constructive feedback to be made in the same way.
Bring on Michaelmas Term 2017!