Fall is almost upon us, and as I being preparing my home studio for the next wave of developing musicians, I think about all the exciting things to look forward to as a music teacher. For me at least, the most important (and the most fun) is the very first lesson where I begin the process of student-centered learning.
Getting to know new students, the results they want to see, and determining the best teaching process to help them succeed is the core of student-centered learning.
As my students will tell you, I focus a great deal on learning about my students’ interests, goals, hopes, and more so that I can provide the best experience for them. All of this starts at the first lesson.
For vocalists, we begin with a full assessment of the person’s vocal ability. Through the assessment, we (myself and the student) identify any habits or challenges that might be preventing them from getting the most out of their instrument, then developing a list of objectives and goals for that student as the progress through my studio.
For composers, I listen to or look at some of the music they’ve created and mention some techniques that could enhance what they have to make it even more impactful on listeners. We then create a lesson plan for the next few months of study which teaches the composer skills they need through mini-compositions and development of their own work.
I begin lessons in this way because I have a strong philosophy that acknowledges every student as a unique individual. While as a teacher, I do have a responsibility to ensure that proper technique and practice is learned by the student to help them succeed I also feel it is equally important to address students’ specific needs for growth. This might mean spending more time on warm ups in a voice lesson so that good habits are formed while also making connections to what certain popular singers are doing if that’s the focus of the student. It might also mean re-arranging melodies that are meaningful to the student in a piano lesson so that they are interested and excited to practice.
Teaching to the student isn’t about changing content, it’s about changing the process a little to help students engage more with the learning material. And the best way to start this process is in the first lesson by getting to know the student and learning about their goals and dreams.
See you in the fall!