Sunday, January 30, 2011

When to Stop?

Teaching is more art than science.

One of the things I love about my job is that I am constantly challenged to revise my craft. When I see former students, I sometimes feel the urge to apologize because I've learned so much about teaching since they were my students.

One of the fundamental questions I deal with is...

When to stop a student and when
to let them play through?

This semester, I feel as if I've made a bit of a breakthrough in the pacing of lessons. After beginning with the usual variety of 'fundamentals' things, I hand it over to the student (who has already laid out a basic plan for the semester) and ask, "OK, what do you want to play?"

Whatever they choose, I pop their SD card into my recorder and they essentially perform the piece without me stopping them.

When they're done, we both sit down at my desk with the music and listen back to the recording. Now I can stop as often as I need/want to and point out details. I often back up the recording to point out something. I also like to pause our listening and have them jump back up to play through a passage differently.

It is interesting to see their reaction when, after we've really worked on a phrase, we double back to the recording and listen again to how they played it that first time. Often, they have moved from being unaware of something to being keenly (and uncomfortably) aware of it.

Generally, this also means that I've slowed down the pace of the lesson, choosing to patiently address something that needs attention rather than feeling quite so compelled to move on to the next item.

This isn't the only thing I do or the only way I teach but, in general, I've been doing it a lot more and am liking the results.