Great Teachers Focus on Students First

Great Teachers continually focus on students first..png

This is one of my favorite quotes so far from What Great Teachers Do Differently by Todd Whitaker. We’re reading it right now in our Upbeat Book Club on Facebook. It’s a quick read, but there’s so much to think about!

What this Quote Means to Me:

Have you ever picked out the perfect piece for a student and had a hard time “selling it” to them? Or maybe you’ve had a student who hit a “practice wall” and just couldn’t get beyond a certain point because their fingers just wouldn’t cooperate or they didn’t have the patience to work it through.

(Where on earth am I going with this ramble??)

We must always remember to listen to our students as individuals.

Music is not a “one piece fits all” discipline. 

Does that mean we should let our students give up whenever they “don’t like” a piece? Not necessarily.

There are lessons to be learned about allowing a piece of music to grow on us, and to listen to it many times before passing judgement on whether we like it or not. How often did you listen to a piece in a college course the first time and think “UGH!” (Schoenberg, anyone?)

What about the first time you introduce a V7 chord to a young student? “Ew! That’s so icky sounding!” can soon turn into “This is my favorite chord to play!”

Should we always let our students give up when something is difficult? Nope! (But sometimes yes.)

Perseverance is one of the most important lessons we teach our students, and we’d be really poor teachers if we let our students give up every time they struggled with a difficult phrase of music.

… but I repeat:

Music is not a “one piece fits all” discipline. 

And sometimes as teachers, we pick the wrong piece. 

Great curriculum is really important, but it means nothing if we do not listen to and learn from our students first. You can have the most wonderful piece picked out… the perfect piece for a student (in your eyes), but if a student doesn’t connect with that piece or hits a major road block, maybe it’s not as perfect as you originally thought.

As a teacher, I constantly remind myself that my primary objective isn’t to teach every piece to perfection. It’s to teach a love of music. When students reach a point of frustration that derails their lesson, it’s okay to take a step back.

It’s okay to switch gears: That’s why I have a huuuuuge stash of music in my studio!

Speaking of stashes of music…

My blogging friend Violin Judy wrote a fantastic post this week about Seven Ways for Piano Teachers to Save $$ on Music. I thought it made a perfect addition to today’s post, especially since she’s all about finding that “perfect” piece of music. (While saving $$!)

“If you’re a piano teacher and you love to have that “perfect” piece of music for your students, you’ll have experienced how downright expensive it is to buy the latest and greatest music for your students…”

Just click on the image below to learn about how Judy saves $$ on all kinds of sheet music and books.


Interested in reading more about great teachers and education from Todd Whitaker’s book? Check it out on Amazon.

Good luck finding those “perfect” pieces!

And remember: don’t get discouraged if your idea of a perfect piece doesn’t match up with your student’s. After all, “Great teachers continually focus on students first.”

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