It was 11:30pm, and a light bulb went off in my head. A great big, bright, shiny light bulb. It said to stop stressing about things, and start finding solutions. So, I’m sitting in my bead googling the teaching ideas I have running through my head. Did I mention it was 11:30? Thank goodness the next morning had a strength workout instead of a run!
Since I’ve been working through the Soul Detox study with the ladies over at She Reads Truth I have thought a lot about what I say, how I react to things, and the relationships I have with different people. It’s also caused me to take a good look at my violin teaching. Am I being the best violin teacher I can? Or do I get to wrapped up in reacting emotionally to things? I’ve been frustrated with my teaching lately. I’m stressed that several students have left, and my studio is the smallest it’s ever been. But why? While some of the reasons people have left have been “interesting” I still feel that I need to examine myself. I don’t have the luxury of having a professor observe me teaching anymore to guide me when I may fall. I’m an adult. I have to figure out what works and what doesn’t on my own, which is why I was on my computer at 11:30pm googling things.
I have always loved learning. I am a big fat nerd in that sense. When I run I try to push myself to become better. When I practice my violin I am working out technique, and pushing myself to become better. And then it occurred to me that I’ve stopped doing that when it came to my teaching techniques. I’m not saying that what I was doing was bad or wrong. But instead of pushing myself to come up with new, and fun ways to keep kids engaged I would back off and hide when the going got tough. I need to be more proactive because let’s face it. These days if a kid isn’t having fun, learning, and getting better they aren’t going to hang around for a long time. We live in a society that expects instant gratification even if what’s being presented isn’t 100% at it’s best. So if you mention that the stars for a good job go away if you can’t make it through something there’s a good chance you may be less one student the next week. In some ways I feel more like an entertainer than a teacher sometimes.
I use to do teacher training all of the time. When the economy started going down hill I stopped going to training camps, and cancel subscriptions. I forgot how much I enjoyed getting back into the little details of how to teach music, what skills to work on, and how to engage kids. I got so bogged down in the things going on in my life that I forgot about recharging my teaching skills. I miss that! Thanks goodness for google! So now I’m sitting with flash cards around me creating me games, and trying to come up with creative ways to solve student’s issues with the piece they’re working on. I feel refocused, and re-energized.
Something happened yesterday that has never happened in the nearly ten years that I have been teaching. I almost sent a student home early because it wasn’t worth it. She clearly didn’t want to be in my studio. She said at the end of the lesson that she was mad at me because she needed to practice the material we’re working on during the week.
This particular student is a very sweet girl. Things are often tense at home, and I try to keep things as laid back, easy, and supportive as I can. I use the sandwich method. A compliment on what she’s done, something we need to work on, followed by another compliment. Since September I noticed that she had stopped practicing our music. She would mention that she was working on orchestra stuff for school, and couldn’t get something. I happily helped, but I was concerned about a pattern that was showing up. We practiced together on what needed to be worked on, and she would come back the next week with the same problems. And then yesterday I noticed she looked “off.” We talked about what was going on. Her orchestra teacher had stressed that they needed to practice a lot because of a competition in 18 days. I asked if she was having any problems. No she wasn’t, but the piece was 2 pages long. Well just practice the part that gives you trouble, and see if you can work for 5 or 10 minutes on your other music. Apparently this was a huge mistake. 30 minutes in I was tired of pulling her along. I asked if was worth our time to even continue. She said no. If I had known her dad was there I probably would have let her leave, but he usually isn’t. We continued on. She mentioned something she wanted to learn, which I would have done with her except I didn’t have any copies for her, which I explained in addition to mentioning that she would still need to work on the other things we were working on, all of which were things that she herself had said she wanted to learn. Huge mistake! The look I got at the end broke me. She said she was mad at me for asking her to practice, and she was thinking of stopping.
Usually when things go wrong I can look back and find something that I can change, but this time I’m at a loss. We have dragged on for so long, and the behavior was so rude that I don’t know if I want to go on. In all my years as a violin student I never got mad at a teacher because I had to do work to move forward. My parents worked hard to pay for my lessons. If I wanted the lessons I had to practice. End of story, no questions. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that she was livid at me because she had to do a little work. And all I said was 5 or 10 minutes of practicing. I didn’t want to push too much. I know that kids today have much more work then I ever did. I have no problem practicing with a student. I’m always looking at what we’re doing and trying to figure out ways that work, or understand what doesn’t work. I have no idea anymore with this student. Fortunately, the student after her got stuck in traffic, and was late. I didn’t want to go on anymore after that. Even this morning it is still messing with my head.
I hit me this morning as I was doing my post run strength training that it’s been exactly a year since I started adding push ups, sit ups, and other such exercises into my regular fitness plan. Recently I rearranged things to go back to some more traditional strengthening exercises, and I immediately noticed a difference, in my violin playing! Yes, I said my violin playing. Not that it isn’t already showing up in my running, but you wouldn’t believe the difference it can make in other walks of life as well. A lesson I realized yesterday as one of my students and I were on the floor of my violin studio doing push ups. She busted out 4 of those bad boys (she’s only 7!! I should also mention that I don’t actually make any student do push ups. She brought it up).
So what’s so great about strength training?
- Posture, posture, posture! If you can’t stand up straight it’s going to start hurting at some point. It’s the sad reality and one of the primary reasons I got hurt in high school right before all of my college auditions (can you say really bad timing!!). Even the smallest adjustment, or strengthening can make a difference
- Those push ups sure do make my arms stronger! Which is a really good thing cause I have all of these audition excerpts that require the bow to bounce, which needs some serious arm strength when you on the 5th one and still have 5 more to go…
- Musicians are like athletes. Don’t want to get injured? Get those muscles stronger and make sure you’re using them the right way!! (same goes for runners)
- Are you tired after that 3 hour rehearsal or concert? You have to hold that instrument up some how…
- Hills? What hills? (okay this is clearly a running one)
- You’ll be ready when you end up in a push up contest with a 7 year old!