by Frøydis Ree Wekre
I believe in music as a wonderful human art form with great impact for a better life. I do also believe strongly in the importance of the best possible teaching for all pupils and students. What, then, characterises good teaching, as the students experience it, and as results arise? How can each and every one of us improve our teaching skills? Maybe we could open up between our studios to a larger degree, and exchange our ideas and philosophies and tricks of the trade - not only between horn players, but also including teachers of other instruments, when relevant? While waiting for this to happen, I am happy to share some of my own thoughts on teaching here. These points were originally notes for a lecture.
Teaching, in my experience, is about sharing information, encouraging, inspiring, helping, and trusting the potential.
To me, teaching feels like a pleasant obligation, a sort of “payback” to my own teachers. In earlier years I mostly trusted my instincts, but nowadays I am more conscious about what to do - or not to do - in the various teaching situations. Experience can help, if we reflect upon it.
Most important experience/lesson learned: Everybody is different.
Some students are always in a hurry (for example in learning new repertoire); others are slow.
Some need to get (almost) all the answers from a teacher; others need to find out stuff for themselves.
Some are skeptical; others are trusting.
Some are very intellectual; others much more instinctive.
Some need a lot of pep talk; others are fine without it. (Differences boys/girls? Younger/older?)
Some can handle several issues at the time; others have plenty with one.
Some are strong in hearing, others more visual; some may have especially strong muscle memory, etc.
Some will get a lot better - much later - often to the surprise of the teacher.
Be aware of balancing well between working on – or giving attention to - Musicianship and/or Technique and/or Self-Confidence, according to the individual student’s needs.
Please, as a teacher, avoid implanting the virus of doubt! During lessons, focusing on the good elements (be specific) is important for most students’ confidence building. Then comes the necessary attention to some of what can be better - and how. Also, please, help the students to preserve the joy of being involved in music!
Be conscious about the teacher’s presence in the room: When to be close, when to create a distance? Standing/sitting? When to get involved in the music (through body language, conducting, singing etc.), and when to remain passive?
Choice of words = extremely important - also how many. Most teachers talk too much. Negative, ironic, doubtful or belittling remarks may trigger a few students to work harder, but for the majority such language will have a destructive effect on their confidence and general progress.
We do have many choices of ways to help (in addition to explaining with words and demonstrating on the instrument), such as conducting, singing, moving, dancing, making recordings, using visual and other tools, etc.
We need several methods for various problems/challenges, such as
- - finding the best possible sound quality in different dynamics
- - developing a better intonation
- - developing rhythmic consciousness and understanding
- - enhancing the quality of staccato, tone beginnings, legato
- - searching for better high/middle/low range
- - developing better confidence (group lessons? Performing frequently.)
- - finding the best posture
- - finding/developing the best technical tools (use of air, face, body etc.)
- - finding/developing strong interpretational tools + deeper music-philosophical understanding.
Small talk – getting to know the person – without losing the musical focus
Flexibility and Variation! Have a plan A for the lesson, be ready to change to plan B, or C…
Humor! Most people learn better and/or remember better when they are in a good mood. Developing visual tools?
Be demanding, in a non-threatening way.
Be a teacher who is on the students’ side.
Keep yourself updated. Find out what is new in the profession, concerning repertoire, teaching methods, the way students learn, etc.
Give positive recognition to progress - whether small or big.