One of the driving motivations in life is to increase my knowledge and skills and strive for excellence in all that I do. While these qualities reflect some of my core values, I realized several years ago that I was running myself into the ground because I was expecting more of myself than I could actually handle. This was true in several areas of my life, but especially in teaching. My expectations drove our time during lessons and I was more intent on reaching those expectations than really being sensitive and flexible to the needs of each student. And then, when I didn’t meet those expectations, I would emotionally beat myself up for not being a good enough teacher.
I don’t even remember exactly how I came to the realization that I was doing this, but once I did and was able to let go of it, I experienced a freedom and confidence that I had never felt before! It was okay to not know all the answers, to not have concert-level performers, to not be an expert in jazz or composition. Each of us have different talents and areas of expertise as teachers and we will be most successful in our teaching when we are able to function according to those areas. This is something I discussed more thoroughly in a workshop I presented to a music teachers association recently titled, “How to Build Your Studio Identity,” but one of the underlying principles is that each of us have to build our studios according to our own philosophies, strengths, clientele, etc.
Don’t allow yourself to become enslaved to self-imposed expectations or pressure to be like other teachers. Think through your own particular needs and the needs of your studio and then focus on implementing one change at a time to improve your teaching and/or business practices. I am a huge advocate for learning from others and using great ideas that you find, but pick one idea that you think could really benefit your studio and then focus on that for a month. See how it goes, and then move on to another idea the following month. Definitely try new things, but don’t feel like you have to make drastic changes all at once! Take it one step at a time and enjoy yourself. Then your students will as well. 🙂