Sarah asked during our last blogoversary,* "I would love to see a blog post on "aha" moments while teaching." At first, the question puzzled me. Aha moments? Those are few and far between, let me tell you. There is much flashcard drilling and posture reminding and scale assigning, but I hardly ever get the privilege of seeing a light bulb moment with one of my students where everything I have been teaching suddenly falls into place for them. Then I realized that the aha moment is as much about me, the teacher, as it is about my kids, the students. So, in no particular order--here are some memorable aha moments for me and my violin and piano students from the last five years of teaching.
- Getting formal training (Suzuki Teacher Training for violin and a Piano Pedagogy class for piano)! I still have lots to learn, but I sure have learned a lot!
- Practice recital. Why not have all my kids come together a few weeks before the recital to play music-related games, eat snacks, talk about performance techniques, and play their songs for each other in order? It eases their nerves, motivates them to have the songs performance-ready sooner than the day before, and gives me another chance to hang out with some of my "favoritest" people.
- Intervalic music reading. It had been years of slow plodding in the music-reading department for one of my students, and then one day, as he struggled yet again with reading a song-in-progress, I called out the interval of the next note. A whole new world opened up for him, and we have never looked back.
- Practice sheets, a practice chart, and a practice contest. Where have you been all my life, you wonderful motivators of practice, you? I implemented the practice sheets last fall, now writing all the week's assignments in a handy graph and specifying exactly how many times per day everything is to be attended to. Throughout the week, my kids mark in their days every time they practice, and now I have an easy way to keep them accountable for practicing, and they have an organized method for referring to assignments! The practice chart/contest, which started in January and continues until June, involves a poster-board sized chart and graphs every student's practice days. The accountability and multiple awards and prizes up for grabs (most days practiced, most consecutive days practiced, most practice by a beginner, and most practice over a weekend) have been a wonderful motivator for the kids as well!
- Double joints were not a pleasant aha moment, but they were one nonetheless. How to keep those pesky joints curved, firm, and strong when they want to be angular, mushy, and weak? At least now that I've identified the problem in my students, I can work on fixing it with all manner of strengthening exercises (play dough, gathering up an entire sheet of newspaper in one hand, and "OK" signs with all five fingers play prominent roles in these exercises).
- Alfred's Premiere Piano Course--my dream piano curriculum, which is very much a reality in my studio!
- Anything can be a game if your attitude is right, and my students and I love our games.
- One of my students was in for a rude awakening when she engaged me in a battle of the will--she underestimated my stubbornness, however, and her aha moment has gained me respect and obedience in every lesson since.
- Watching some of my students take off with their composition project and come back with incredible, beautiful pieces. I am inspired by my students every week.
* This is the very last unanswered question! It has been challenging and inspiring to answer everyone's questions from last year, and we hope that you have more on your mind, because--believe it or not--our blog anniversary is next week, and will be full of special guest posts, giveaways, and an opportunity for your questions.
Photograph Credit: Nathan Russell. Used by permission under the Creative Commons License.