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A new way to look at practicing music

We all hear it from our music teachers, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” But, what does it mean for us in the long term? I think what many music educators miss is the explanation and example of what long-term practicing can do for the student. For the student the drudgery and monotony of constant practice can create a grim outlook on their daily musical activities. Music students need the following two components for practice success:

1. Fun: Practicing needs to be more like play. After all, we do call it “playing music.” Practice should be outlined and described to the student as a time for them to explore and compete with themselves. They need to perceive practice as a time to be curious and to take risk. To try new ways of doing things and to engage self-teaching mechanisms.

2. Practicability: Students of all ages need to fully understand how practicing will impact their future musician-selves. This can be achieved by showing them examples of world-class musicians, explaining to them all the daily hours that went into becoming that great; with an emphasis on the musician competing with them self for that mastery. Students need to see how what they do now will impact their future as a musician. By seeing this in actuality via professional musicians, students will be inspired to work harder and longer than ever.

Once these two elements are seen by the student the teacher can prescribe practice goals that make sense for the individual level of the student. There will be a drastic shift in both, attitude and focus when the student understands more clearly why practice is such a good idea.

According to Edward Droscher, founder of Real Music Production, there are two major keys to effective practice.

1. Goals are key. It is human nature to take pride in reaching a goal whether a promotion at work or winning a competition. If you have a set goal to reach you will be more willing to put in the work required to achieve it. Some examples of goals could be to learn the latest song you’ve fallen in love with, to be able to sight read in a certain key, to develop faster, more technical playing or to reach a certain exam grade before a certain period.

2. Little often is better than a lot occasionally. One key point to remember is that repetition is the quickest way to learn something due to your brain and muscles ability to develop and store a so called ‘muscle memory’. It will take a substantially longer time to learn and retain your new knowledge if you practice for a long period but only occasionally. See tip 3 on how to easily incorporate regular practice sessions into your daily routine.

When you are having a bad day and nothing is going right . . .When the pressures of life are crowding in on you and you need some time by yourself . . When someone, or something has made you angry . . When you are bored, or when you are feeling flat or unhappy, don’t complain, just go and do some music practice. That will lift your spirits and energise you. — Ron OttleyOttley, Ron., Now I Love Music Practice (Eileen Margaret Publishing, 2009) Pg 62-63

Practicing should be taken out of the “nose to the grindstone” light, into the “play and exploration” sunshine. Students need to see an overview of how what they are doing now will make an affect on their future selves. This is enabled when the responsibility of this eye-opening is taken on by the teacher. After all, the teacher is the guide for the student to reach full potential. Therefore, the teacher’s J.O.B. is to bring the students narrowed vision of practicing into full vision of how fun and explorative it can be. Once this is achieve, the sky is the limit for both, you and the student.

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5 Unconventional Ways to Teach

I feel as though teachers feel like they are spinning their educating wheels when it comes to their style in the classroom. Do you feel this way sometimes? Do you feel as though your way of teaching was brought about by others? Do you not feel as though you don’t have an original style of teaching? If this is true for you then this article is for you… I will outline the 5 Unconventional Ways to Teach giving you ideas for creating your own style of teaching.

  1. Audio Teaching: Teaching Through Voice / Song / Music Sometimes straight facts can be uninteresting and void of keeping the attention of students. Let’s face it, facts by themselves on a sheet of paper are a kind-of boring. With audio teaching you can use the gift of sound to bring the facts to life. By using your voice effectively or by turning the information into a song, your students will never forget the information due to your unconventional approach.
  2. Real-Life Teaching: Teaching with Real-Life Examples This can be a very fun one to implement. You can use this technique in combination with people of your community. If you are talking about fire safety, bring in a fireman and take your students out to see the fire truck in action. By showing them real-life application their view of the information with widen and become more concrete in their minds.
  3. Teaching by Teaching: The Art of Learning by Teaching Others This is one of my personal favorites because I believe it to work the best. When you get your students working together by teaching each other there is a sense of deeper learning due to having to really know what they know in order to teach it to others. Split your students up into groups, then have them teach each other something that they observed when they were learning about that subject. This will deepen their understand of both, the information at hand and of what you do as a teacher.
  4. Teaching by Strengths: Highlighting What Works Best What you will do in this style is find the strengths of each student and use them to best demonstrate a point in the lesson. This does two things; 1. You will build confidence in the students by focusing on an area they excel and 2. You will teach them that there is nothing wrong with being proud of what they can do well. For example, if a student can draw really well, have him draw a detailed image of something associated in your subject. If a student can sing really well, have them write a song about the subject you are working on. This is such a powerful style to implement. The changes you will see in classroom dynamic will astonish you.
  5. Teaching by Doing: Leaders Go First As a teacher you are a leader. Therefore, you must go first. You must take the first step, risk, and responsibility. By doing this you show your students that you are willing to vouch for them and their education. Show by example by doing the process before you ask them to do so. If something seems “reach for the stars” hard for them then, do it first – many times – and show them that even teachers make mistakes and are human. By showing your humanity within this style, you will demystify the “teacher-student” paradigm and allow for an equality to arise. This equality will enable the emotional centers of the students in a way that will allow them to come to you as a friend versus an authority figure. This is the ultimate in a student-teacher relationship.

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3 Pieces of Teaching Advice to Live By

Isn’t it amazing that we are able to positively influence our lives through teaching and, positively influence teaching through our lives? We are all individual with unique perspectives on world, so we are able to influence and be influenced through the journey of educating others. The key is to be open to these changes and allow for them to shape new ways of thinking and seeing the world. As a result we find truths that transfer from classroom to personal life. 

  1. Patience: Being a teacher requires that you have a generous amount of patience. Patience is defined as having the tolerance of enduring suffering without acting in anger. When you come to terms with a solid foundation of patience in the classroom, your emotions will stay in check. Patience takes practice and means you will need to take a moment before reacting to a situation. As educators, events are going to occur that are out of our control. These situations can cause stress and anxiety if we don’t implement patience. This deep element of patience can be transferred to our every day life simply. When the drive cuts you off on your way to the store, you can implement patience with yourself as to not get automatically mad. When the gas station clerk takes long to give you back your change, you can act in patience as to not stress you or him out by trying to rush him. Patience is very much needed in this day. Use as a muscle and see the changes in your life occur.
  2. Inspiration: Inspiration appears when we are least ready. This is because implementing inspiration is hard due to the over thinking we do. This is why we need to remain open to inspirational situations that may pop up at a moments notice. This could be from something that a student says. It could be something a parent says about how well you are teaching. No matter the situation, we must be ready and willing to invite inspiration into our lives. As a by-product, we should strive to give inspirational thoughts and ideas to others that grace us in our lives. Family, friends and, even strangers can benefit from some encouraging thoughts now and then. Let us make it a practice to have this occur more often than we currently do.
  3. Vision: We all know how important it is to hold a solid and clear vision for our students. A vision can offer a clear sense of where we are taking them and, most importantly, seeing where they might end their journey with us. Having this vision is incredibly empowering. The vision gives us a sense of control over how we impact the students under our care. It should, because it does. Just as vision establishes empowering control for our students, so can it for our lives. We must take action to see a large vision for our lives so that we too can act in accordance with a wider impact of our community. The key here is to allow for our ultimate vision to take shape regardless of what takes hold in our mind. It might seem crazy, but all large visions are. Keep your vision strong and intact. Allow no one tell you that it can’t be done or that you are stupid. You aren’t. You have a vision and, you will win!

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8 Ways Teaching Will Make You a Better Person

Wouldn’t you like to be a better person? I truly believe that all educators have an “improvement bone” that keeps them improving the way they operate. As teachers, we strive to be better communicators, role models and inspirations. Below I will reveal 8 ways teaching will make you an EVEN better person. Keep reading …

  1. Understanding: When you teach you learn that you need to be more understand of personal differences if you want to be successful. Teaching will refine and shine your rough edges to make you better at understanding the perspectives of others.
  2. Creative: Teaching children, especially, will keep your mind moving and active. What this does is require you to be creative more often than the non-teaching individual. You will constantly be needed to come up with new ideas and activities to keep your students engaged and interested.
  3. Kindness: There is element of kindness that is needed when teaching. This element is essential to effectively transfer knowledge to your students. This softness relieves some tension and stress in the education process, allowing your students to learn with ease and flexibility.
  4. Ingenuity: Sometimes you won’t always have what you need at the moment that you need it. Because of this, you will need to create what you need out of what you have. This means you will need to keep your eyes open for situations that will stimulate ingenuity as so to create tools that better demonstrate what you are teaching.
  5. Organization: In order to be a fine educator you must be as organized as humanely possible. This is a major habit of mine. I enjoy nothing more than spending a Sunday afternoon organizing lesson plans, paperwork and assignments. Organization is required if you want to run a fluid classroom.
  6. Advancement: The teaching profession will enable you situations to advance as a teacher. You will be endowed with the best of educational materials, publications and resources. Even if you don’t think that you have much at your disposal, there is always someone that is willing to aid you in your professional development. Ask questions of parents, students and peers in order to make your teaching even better. 
  7. Contribution: By being a teacher you have a unique opportunity to contribute to the community around you. Take your students into the community and get them evolved with the engagement that comes along with human connection. Allow for your students to create ideas that allow them to exchange conversation and interaction with people they’ve never met. This will give you a huge sense of accomplishment, with a feeling of gratitude that you are a teacher.
  8. Legacy: Teaching, above all, will give you a sense of how you will impact the world. You will be able to see the impact you are making, knowing that you are leaving a legacy that has positively impacted the future. This feeling will put you at ease as you contemplate the ideas you have bestowed in your students.

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3 Reasons to Think Before You Teach

 

Hiya! In this go-go world we often forget to take time for ourselves before we act in the classroom. By taking a minute(or ten)to take control of our mind, breath deeply, and focus we can have an advantage towards a successful day of teaching. The act of stopping to think before you teach is a key strategy for any successful teacher. This small amount of time can offer great clarity and understanding of the day ahead. These minutes are for you, not your students. The time spent in this moments leading up to your day of teaching can be used to have a clean and calm approach.

Below are what I believe to be the three key reasons for thinking before you teach. These are meant to be empowering strategies that you can implement during any part of your teaching day.

 

  1. Be kind to yourself: A really good reason to think before you teach is to take time to be kind to yourself. Remember, every student is different. They each learn differently and in different ways. Therefore, sometimes you won’t be able to accommodate everyone all the time. Part of being a teacher is having the “superman” complex. We want to believe that we can change every life we contact. Most of the time this is true but, not always. We must take time to understand that we’ve done the best that we couldn’t done.
  2. One thing: As we take a moment before we step into the classroom, we can also take time to focus on one thing that we absolutely need to focus on for the betterment of our students. What has been one skill or concept that has been particularly difficult for our students to grasp? In this pre-class moment we can clarify the ultimate goal for the day. Once this is recognized we can enter the room with confidence and focus. Let’s tackle the mountain!
  3. Expect the unexpected: As we know children can be a handful. This is mainly because they are spontaneous and fluid. This type of behavior is hard to control. However, as a teacher our job is not to control but rather to enlighten to new ideas and concepts. Therefore, as we take a moment before class we need to expect the unexpected from our students. Take several deep breaths, mentally preparing to become flexible to what might occur in the classroom. The worst feeling is that of chaos or lack of control. The way to get rid of this feeling is to release the need to control, releasing it through out breath. In this moment we must understand that anything can happen and we will become flexible and accommodating to it. Some things may seem crazy or out of order. Regardless, as teachers, we are here to guid and inspire our student towards a better life and, we can’t do that unless we release our need to control.

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