I wrote this while teaching at the National Music Camp of Canada.
Every year, here at NMC, teachers face a brand new group of students – students with different skills, instruments, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses. This always poses different challenges.
For example, every year there are different students with good reading skills paired with students with no reading skills. Some students only play by ear, while others only read music. Not to mention that every student learns differently. Some are visual learners, auditory learners, physical learners etc.
How do teachers reconcile these differences? How do they adapt when conducting an improv class, an ensemble or private lesson? Keeping in mind that they should be creating positive experiences regardless of a student’s skill and experience level.
It struck me how creative, observant, versatile and adaptable teachers have to be. Otherwise they won’t engage students to their fullest potential. In my experience, strict, preconceived lesson plans have never worked. They’re extremely limiting. I can never predict how my students will respond (or not respond) to my lesson plans and teaching methods.
In a sense, I approach teaching similarly to improvisation in that I’m constantly gathering and applying a vocabulary of teaching materials and methods. Always asking: What’s effective, what’s ineffective? If a student’s isn’t getting it, how can I present the information differently? How can I keep him/her engaged?
I’m realizing that if students don’t respond positively to a certain plan, system or method, then the system and the teacher are at fault, not the student. All students have the capacity to learn, but it’s the teacher’s responsibility to figure out how they learn, and how they learn best. And they all learn differently!
If preconceived plans, systems and lessons have any value in education, it’s to act as rough frameworks. Depending on students and circumstances, teachers should be able to pull from a vocabulary of methods and think creatively to fill in the blanks – maybe even throw out the framework all together!