Even though our snowboard class consisted of eight people, I was impressed at how effectively our instructor gave us personal attention. However, while he observed and critiqued each of us individually, he also gave enough instruction to the group as a whole so that each person could keep working at his or her own pace to master the techniques.
This seems especially pertinent to group teaching, but even in the framework of private lessons I think it’s valuable to not only have a systematic approach, but also recognize that every student will learn at their own pace. As teachers, we have to have a clear concept of what mastery of skills looks like so that we can remain patient and work with each student until they reach that level. Some students will pick up on certain skills faster than other students. And a student who almost immediately grasps the concept of the staff and note identification may struggle much more to establish a sense of pulse. Conversely, a student who has a natural rhythmic flow may take much longer to understand the relationship between staff and keyboard. Any combination of strengths and weaknesses can be true of any student.
One thing that I’ve been doing differently in my teaching as a result of this observation is taking whatever time is necessary to focus on the particular skill or concept that needs attention. This week alone, I’ve had a couple lessons where over half of our time together was devoted to explaining, understanding, reinforcing, and practicing rhythmic skills. Another lesson was spent exclusively dealing with identifying notes on the staff and then placing them on the keyboard. If we are convinced of the necessity of mastering the fundamentals (Part Four in this series), the next key factor is making sure that we allow whatever time and effort and resourcefulness and creativity it takes to see that every student reaches the desired level of mastery.
Read the rest of the Teaching Tips from Snowboard School series: Introduction | Part One: Be a Pro | Part Two: Give Students a Vision of Success | Part Three: Plan a Systematic Approach | Build Confidence by Teaching Mastery of Fundamental Skills