The process of learning is that by the end of every lesson a student should leave enriched, even if only a little bit. Despite the lesson essentially being the teacher’s responsibility, it is always experienced by the student as ‘theirs’, and so should always have them at the focus. Like most ‘life-skills’ the process of learning is continual; one over-arching skill is acquired over a large period of time consisting of many, many, smaller skills that collectively support it. The student is here to learn to play a musical instrument, therefore they must carry out specific tasks which collectively are what we deem as music making.
A teacher who has little interest in learning will not place the student at the centre of their lesson. Instead, they will ‘teach a lesson’ regardless of who is sitting in front of them; this is called a lack of ‘discrimination’. Though the content of a lesson may be the same if not similar across a pool of students, how the information is relayed must be mindful of who is receiving it.
This can often result in frustration for all parties involved; both, the teacher and the student. A teacher who shouts at their student, berating, humiliating, belittling and undermining them, is likely teaching a lesson which the student is not conforming to and so the teacher is attempting to emotionally manipulate them into conformity using fear. Rhetorically speaking, how can any person learn under these conditions? They cannot.
Furthermore, a teacher who truly places learning at the centre of teaching is able to convey information, so the recipient can consume and understand it. To quote Albert Einstein: “If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.”, or more specifically to this context, “If a [teacher] cannot explain it to [their student], [they] don’t understand it them-self”. Much of the above-mentioned frustration can then be explained as the frustration of the teacher projected onto the student.
When approaching a new teacher, it would be worth taking at least a month’s worth of lessons to gauge how they operate. If you are a diligent student, a competent teacher will understand this and increase the pace accordingly. Obviously, sometimes they might be aware of elements, both positive and negative, with your learning style that you may not be aware of, however, as previously mentioned, a good teacher responds to what and who is in front of them adapting when needed.
Over the fifteen years I have been teaching, I have acquired many different teaching styles depending on the learner I am teaching. Some lessons require me to say very little apart from some led-questioning to remind and reinforce learning. Other lessons need me to sit on a separate stool next to the learner, vocally guiding them through actions, adjusting hands and positioning (with their permission) accordingly.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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