I have had good teachers and bad teachers.
Without going into details about what made for a good teacher and a bad teacher, I will go straight to the most important difference.
One is authoritative, the other is suggestive.
Let me give you the easiest example.
Two history teachers.The authoritative one and the suggestive one.
The first will teach his students like this:
“ Event A happened in place B on date C. Event D happened in place E on date F. Event X happened in place Y on date Z.” You must learn it all by heart.
That teacher is completely right.
He is stating historical facts.
Event X did really happened during Z time in Y place.
No question about it.
The suggestive teacher has a different approach.
He will awaken your curiosity.
Maybe he won’t tell you everything. But he will give you the THIRST TO DISCOVER.
He might not give you the date of event X, but he will give you the urge to go home, open a book, research where event X took place, when, what came before, what was its consequences, etc.
He will implicitly push you to learn more than the subject at hand !
An “ok” teacher will teach you stuff. He will instruct you. He won’t accept much conversation.
A great teacher will transmit his passion for the subject.
He will teach you HOW to learn, WHY to learn. He will ignite your CURIOSITY.
At the same time, the student’s job is to ACCEPT suggestions.
Even if he doesn’t agree, he is willing to try.
And he will be much more willing to try if it is suggested to him than if it is imposed simply “because the teacher said so”.
After that, he is free and able to make his or her own decisions. It is his life and future, after all.
Recently, I have been learning to code.
I have never been a very brainy guy.
In fact, until recently, I knew only two things: how to play written music, and how to improvise music.
I was never into computing, maths, science, etc.
I cannot tell you how much I have learned about playing / practicing / teaching music from learning how to code.
You would think that code is really straight forward. You enter funny letters and characters, and it creates functions. Add those functions together and you get a software, and here you go.
It doesn’t work that way.
Even at the highest level, coders need to go to the process of trial and error.
You code, you test, you debug.
You code, you test, you debug.
You iterate on the code, you change the tests, and you debug some more.
You search for new ways to make a line of code work.
You try to be as efficient as possible.
Even in a simple program, you will get small bugs that you need to crush.
That is just how it works.
There is no one way to do it, and THE ONLY WAY TO LEARN IS TO TRY IT OUT.
Translate this to teaching music:
And by that I don’t mean go on good and read about how to get better at a particular technique.
I don’t mean research like going to your teacher or colleagues and asking for answers.
I mean sitting in a room with your instrument on your face, and searching.
What is the best way to breath. Vowel “A” or vowel “O”? TRY IT OUT
Should I hold my trombone slide with like this or like that? Try it out !
Which one is the most effortless?
Which technique gives you the ability to be AVAILABLE physiologically to create the most beautiful sounds?
So here is a little suggestion/example:
Next time a student asks you “why should I not puff my cheeks when I play the trumpet/trombone?”
“ Because then your sound won’t be as good, it won’t project far, and you will lose precision in your articulations”.
“ Ok let’s puff our cheeks and play a scale going down.
Now the same going up.
Now lets try to play triple tongue with puffed cheeks.
What do you think?
Now let’s do the same with firm corners.
See the difference?
FEEL the difference?
Why is that technique more efficient that this one? It’s your life, your choice and your future.
I *suggest* you do this because not only have I seen better results from teaching this way for years, but also because I heard a better sound right there.
Record yourself, try it out, and next week, come back and tell me which one you choose and WHY.”
What we need to remember is that our brains don’t retain information that is given to us well.
The more efficient way for our brains to learn a new skill, is by trying it, building up to it, and also trying alternatives. EVEN THE BAD ALTERNATIVES.
As you continue to teach, always remember that each of your students is a different individual.
Each has its own brain, mind, spirit, soul, experiences, good and bad, perceptions, deceptions, dreams, ambitions, temperament, sensitivity, etc.
Your students are passionate about music. (If not… thats another subject )
They have good hearing. (If not… that too, is another subject matter…) They are smart. They have soul.
Never ever tell your students: This is a bad way. This is the wrong way. I FORBID you to breathe in such or such way. I don’t allow you to play like this, or phrase like that.
Your job is to offer alternatives, and accept your students decisions. I know. It can be hard for the ego, but we need to suck it up.
Because at the end of the day, his/her future is at stake here.
Last thing that I feel I need to point out.
It’s all about the students.
If you are teaching for ANYTHING else but your passion about transmitting your curiosity and love for your art, then please, don’t take another student.
Teaching an instrument isn’t done because you have orchestra free Wednesdays and don’t mind the extra cash ( or authority, or prestige… ).
One of the questions is : Does your teacher recognize he isn’t the best player in the world? ”
That kind of segues us back to the original point.
As a teacher, you must have humility.
Only with humility will you have the urge to DISCOVER and SEARCH for new ways of doing things.
Only with humility will you then be able to TRANSMIT this thirst for more knowledge and that urge to search for better/more efficient techniques.
Only with humility can we Progress or help others progress.
Again. For the love of the Art !