chelson wrote: ↑
Sun Jun 16, 2019 5:37 pm
Let's not continue this thread with explanation on what we have said that might seems animosity, instead please shared your valuable experience and challenges for being a classical guitar teacher. How did you deal with difficult student from different perspective, demanding parents, or even interesting pieces or technique that you felt are more challenging to teach?
How did you deal with difficult student from different perspective
It isn't enough to know the material. You've got to make sure the student understands what it is that you want them to do. They also need to have a very good answer as to why. And it is ALWAYS far beyond merely getting them to do something very specific. It involves getting to the very specifics of fundamental movements and foundations. If there is any weakness there, it will come out. And the closer you get to those fundamental movements, foundations, etc. the very way of thinking is challenged. This makes a student terribly vulnerable. It becomes a precious and delicate situation. This requires the teacher to have the knowledge as a mere minimum requirement. And I am a very strong believer that it also requires a deep and sincere passion from the teacher. The teacher knows EXACTLY what will work, why it work, and the student will better be able to trust the teacher if the teacher can demonstrate a SINCERE passion coupled with the knowledge. A weak person easily persuaded through peer pressure will often let the student down. Personally, I've found the nuts and bolts of teaching to be the easiest part to learn. And those nuts and bolts are a necessity! But they are the easiest part. You have to understand a student's passion. You have to have chemistry with the student. And you have to convince them to trust you. And your own knowledge, passion and sincerity will go a very long way.
But the other half of that comes with the student seeing a reward for trusting you. This will allow them to trust you more as time goes on. And that reward is always great playing from their hands. Even a couple of measures played well with your guidance can sometimes be enough. "See how I showed you how to work? I didn't do it. You are the one that did the work. In a short amount of time, you are playing a couple of measures at a near professional level. Look at the next two measures. They are no different. If you were on your own, do you believe you could learn them in the way I taught you?" This is merely one example. But the student needs to feel empowered. Not just a bunch of heady abstract manure. They need to quickly experience that through their own work in the way you guide them, they will get great results. And it is an upward spiral. The more trust you develop, the less difficult that student becomes.
But seriously, knowledge, sincerity, and passion goes a very long way. The teacher is the one in charge. Not the parent.
interesting pieces or technique that you felt are more challenging to teach
While what I am about to say is true for almost anything, I think the first challenge for me comes when a student is first introduced to free strokes with i,m and arpeggio patterns are needing to be taught. You have two extremes to deal with. Although comical, here is my cynical view of the dichotomy:
Assuming there is a well-developed right hand at this point: if you say absolutely nothing and just allow the student to play, this is the strongest potential for greatness. In a best case scenario, you could have a student playing a movement with relative ease, grace, freedom, and a very natural looking right hand. But, the student has no idea exactly what the fingers are doing and why it is working. On the other hand, you could instead explain the specific movements in great details. You have a better chance of the movements being more "correct" in a very contrived and superficial way, but you have pretty much destroyed the opportunity for the hand to play to play with relative ease, grace, and freedom.
I think the above is a great first example for those who want to learn how to teach. You quickly see the "problem" in almost everything you do. I like to think of a polite conversation as an analogy. In this polite conversation, you aren't going to compromise your convictions. There are times you talk, times you listen, and times you may change your mind. Think of the constant and complex trial and error that is going on as you choose your words carefully. "Ouch, that was a bit much, I'll smooth it over in the next sentence." And your thoughts continue: "That is a really good point they are making. I'll be sure to acknowledge it." Or perhaps it is really, "this is taking too long, I've got to stop talking." Or maybe, "they are really paying attention, now is a great time to make a deeper point." We probably don't think about it, but this is a very complex skill.
In a way, every single second of teaching is kind of like that. You are constantly monitoring the student. You are looking at the eyebrows. You get them to do what you want them to do. And if it isn't just right, you try another way. And you are constantly making mistakes. Constantly. And you correct them in the next few seconds or minutes. It is a very deep and complex paying of attention to the student. And every single lesson with every student is a unique moment in time that will never be duplicated. Regardless of how well structured a lesson plan may be, the delivery can be wildly different and can take many left turns. And as a teacher, all of this can start to be learned merely from observing what happens when you start to introduce the most basic right hand arpeggio. Pay attention to it is my advice.
What is my real practical advice for someone that wants to learn how to teach?
Find a competent teacher that is a superstar at working with beginners and learn how to do exactly what they do. As an example of that was, after eleven years of wasting time and money with incompetent teachers, I was fortunate enough to meet Tom Poore. As another example of exactly that, was my undergraduate pedagogy course. It wasn't a survey talking about Sor, Aguado, etc. posed to look serious and academic. No. It wasn't anything like that. Rod Stucky played the role of a five-year-old child. It was our responsibility to teach him, and with the added difficulty of short attention spans, cultural conditioning, etc. Many music teachers would have either changed their ways or failed his class. In addition to the knowledge, you have to be strong. You can't let students rule the studio. You are being paid good money to do a job. Don't back down. And you will innocently be placed in this situation constantly. Whether they want to admit it or not, many teachers don't want to risk losing a student. As a result, they set aside the responsibility of teaching. That is really my first piece of advice to someone wanting to learn how to teach. My extensive remedial training with Tom Poore coupled with the core pedagogical work with Stucky is the foundation of much of what I do. And as a teacher, you too will have the same situations to deal with that I've proudly dealt with for decades.
If someone really wants to learn how to teach, I think that is totally awesome! As I have said before, the world needs you! They really do! And sure, there are years and years of experience that help one become a better teacher, but I don't think it takes that much to begin. Especially if someone is already a great player, there is an extreme benefit to learning how the absolute weakest students can get from playing one open string to learning how to play beginner repertoire with security and confidence coupled with musical expression and stellar practice habits. I am a firm believer that anyone can learn to do that. I am also a firm believer that someone that has taken the time and effort to do that will be set apart from many other teachers. If someone really wants my sincere, honest opinion on how to take up teaching, this is it!
And only if anyone cares to read on:
In spite of already playing for eleven years before meeting Tom, I didn't know how to practice. I didn't understand technique. I endlessly wasted time learning music that was too difficult for me. And I was passionate and persistent. I figured that if I kept working harder, I would prevail. I dedicated my life to the practice chair and just kept pushing on. I missed many parties, many social events, and set many alarm clocks so that I could dedicate all of my time to practicing and trying to be the best musician I could be. In fact, I was often criticized by my friends for taking school way too seriously. But in spite of my best efforts, it wasn't enough. Honestly? I sucked. And no one during those first eleven years seemed to have any advice to do anything about it. I mean just like everyone else, I hacked my way through an archaic method book and dove into intermediate music immediately. Soon came the advanced music. Some of the first pieces I learned after learning to read with whatever technique I "managed" on my own with no help? The Carcassi 25 etudes. The Segovias 20 Sor studies. Romanza. The Bach Bouree from the E minor lute suite. Canarios. El Testement. Villa Lobos etude no. 1. Recuerdos. If my introduction wasn't absurd enough, the years that followed were even more ridiculous. Sound familiar?
What was the straw that broke the camel's back? I became friends with a musicology graduate student who's primary instrument was guitar. He had studied with Julian Gray at Peabody and was a fine player. In fact that same year, he won the concerto competition playing the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez. He wasn't my teacher, nor did he take lessons himself as a musicologist. The truth is, he would have been far more qualified to be running the guitar program. As busy as he was, he gave me a few pointers two or three times. For the first time ever, someone was showing me how to shape my nails, and how to get a good tone. He tried to show me how my right hand should be working in a very basic and fundamental way. But without the dedicated repetition and the continuous follow-up required, it was too little information and did nothing to help me with the demands of the piles of advanced music my "teacher" had me working on.
For the first time ever, someone was kind enough to actually start showing me what I should have learned from the very beginning. And of course, my understanding of what he was trying to show me was very limited. I made the mistake of asking my "teacher" to help me with some of the great things this graduate student was trying to show me. And to this very day, I can still quote verbatim EXACTLY what my "teacher" said to me:
"You know, to be honest, this really pisses me off! X doesn't have a degree in guitar performances. I have a Master's degree in guitar performance under the hand of *Unnamed Famous Teacher*. I am the one that was recommended for this job, not him! I am your teacher! I frequently attend conferences and conventions. I never see X at any conferences or conventions. And I really don't appreciate him giving advice" (As a side note, the truth of why he had the job is an unfortunate common story: a music school has an opening for an adjunct position and they just call the closest reputable program hoping a grad student might be interested in the job.) But I am serious as a heart attack. Those were the exact words that were said to me. Somehow I endured the rest of the lesson without blowing a gasket. Actually, I completely dropped out of school so that I could work full time to move away somewhere with a competent teacher. At about the same time, I miserably failed an audition for Aaron Shearer at the North Carolina School of the Arts. I didn't care. That was where I needed to be, so I moved to Winston Salem anyway. That was back in the day where we still had phone books. The first thing I did before even unpacking my car filled with everything I owned was to call Aaron Shearer at home. I asked him to help me find a teacher. Shearer told me the ONLY person he could recommend to me was Tom Poore and he gave me Tom's phone number.
Tom Poore was very young and very inexperienced. Teaching was new to him. Yet he had qualifications that, in my eleven years of past torture, no one else had. He was the first teacher to not lie to me. He was the first teacher to not "give in" (like I've been reading in this thread). Instead, he took responsibility. He told me what I needed to do, and with passion, made me understand why I had to do it. In one week, he managed to do what no other teacher could muster in the past eleven years. He helped me get a good tone and helped me begin learning how to use the right hand. For the first few weeks, we slowed down and began working on what I should have been given eleven years earlier. From there, I quickly took off. Finally! I mean, Jesus!
While it wasn't the primary focus, I was also being taught how to teach. I was also empowered to spot incompetent teachers. Some of the comments in this thread are very similar to the same things I've heard for decades. Some people are sincerely skeptical about teachers. Bad experiences in high school with math or science teachers that I can easily relate with. Teachers dismissing the weaker students and leaving them behind. With all of those bad experiences, someone's skepticism or less than polite attitude towards a a guitar teacher is legitimate and easy to understand. Some of that certainly came out in this thread until I clarified myself. And it has reared its ugly head in my studio during a consultation many times. Yeah, I'm not one of those bad guys. In fact, I am the complete opposite.
But at the exact same time, there are teachers who say to just focus on the students that care. Somehow they will figure it out. And teachers also openly admit that most students don't accomplish very much and blame them. Am I the only one that sees the irony? I have had more than my fair share of incompetent teachers. And after Tom Poore, I had a handful more. Uh, for about two lessons. And while it is merely anecdotal, they all shared remarkable similarities. They didn't really offer much direction, and seemed to quickly anger at the idea of them having to actually teach me. Fortunately for me, I would insist on them stating clearly and explicitly what they meant. It was as if I broke some kind of unwritten rule. They weren't going to give me any direction, and I was to respect them for their accomplishments. They would just keep handing me tired war horses for pieces that were too difficult and I was supposed to just figure it out. Trying to get to the heart of the matter often angered them. And outside of lessons, talking about teaching methods and approaches is this taboo subject not to be discussed among other teachers. Don't make waves. Just smile and get along with everyone.
See, many students aren't
getting it. More times than I could count, a potential student comes to me angry. They specifically and explicitly tell me what they don't want, and hope that I am not going to not waste any more of their time. Their past experiences sound remarkably similar to my own past experiences. And the same thing happens every single time: I tell them that I agree and that they should be angry. That always throws them by surprise. They choose to listen to what I have to say, and I usually make a new best friend.
So what can be taken from what I've written above? What can be learned from it? Just because you have a degree in music doesn't mean that you know anything about teaching. Just because you play advanced music and have studied guitar for years doesn't mean you know anything about teaching. Just because you took a pedagogy class and memorized archaic and obscure information from irrelevant method books doesn't mean you can teach. And for almost everyone teaching, most students ARE going to be beginners. And many of those initial consultations from intermediate players that never choose to study with you? That is because they have been there, and done that. And it wasn't working for them. And if they don't choose to study with you, it is because they don't see anything different from their prior teachers. And if you are to believe what many teachers say, it is that most of of their students won't make it. I don't accept that answer. Oh, I believe them when they say it! I just don't accept that answer for myself.
In spite of my earliest teachers' accomplishments, their fancy degrees proudly hanging on their walls, how many friends they have at conventions, how well they may or may not play, etc. they weren't able to do in eleven years what Tom Poore was able to do for me in just a few weeks. That is because he has that "something" that many people don't have. And that something isn't some natural gift. That would be an insult to his hard work and the accomplishments that he earned. He was able to break down what it is that great players do to the smallest components, and pass that information on in easily manageable and digestible tasks. He had the ability to give a student only the most relevant information that was immediately needed for a student's focus. And he was able to provide appropriate repertoire allowing the student to focus on building the new skill. Through carefully selected exercises and repertoire, he was able to show a student how to not practice mistakes and build habits of security and confidence. He was able to show a student how to work efficiently and effectively. And the other half of what he was able to do was provide leadership. He didn't concern himself with common problems of high turnover, appeasing students, and telling them what they wanted to hear. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may have been for him, he stepped in the very moment something wasn't right, made sure the student understood why, and guided them to get things right before moving on. He had a responsibility and he took it very seriously. He refused to allow a student to play with poor tone, poor technique, or to practice poorly. But the other half of that was that he always provided the student with a manageable and logical way to achieve those things. He wasn't standing on the shore telling someone to swim to him. Instead, he was out in the water helping the student to learn how easy and natural swimming is. And the student would make it to the shore because they were taught how to do it. And I repeat myself: he was a very young and inexperienced teacher at the time.
And that "something" that a young, inexperienced, Tom Poore had at the time (I can't begin to imagine how his teaching must have evolved since that time so long ago) was learned and can be learned by any one. But Tom is the one who chose to do the work. And so did Rod Stucky. And Stucky refused to give anyone a degree without his students also doing the work.
If someone thinks that my experience with Tom Poore is what happens in most music studios, then they aren't paying attention. Musicians are often the ones who made it to shore in spite of their teachers. And to state the obvious, those same musicians are often the ones that end up teaching out of necessity. And many believe that, if they could do it, then everyone else can do it too. And to back them up, they have their very best students to prove it, and to hell with everyone else. There is a common misunderstanding that it doesn't require much just to teach the basic. In many ways, teaching beginners is far more difficult than teaching advanced players or intermediate students. And teaching beginners is the majority of what most teachers will ever do.
And you know what? Of course I am biased, but teaching is the absolute most greatest experience in the world. Sure, it is great to help someone learn to play a piece of music more expressively. Sure it is great to help someone find a more effective way to play scales or arpeggios. Sure it is great to see a student push beyond what you are even capable of doing yourself.
But to me? One of the most exciting things is seeing someone that has never touched a guitar before learn how to play musically and expressively with security and confidence. One of the most exciting things is helping a new and disgruntled student from a prior teacher firmly establish fundamentals and basics that allow them to continue on to higher levels. My advice in one sentence because these will
be the majority of your students. Prepare for that.
Dr. Todd Tipton, Noda Guitar Studio
Charlotte, NC, USA (available via Skype)