This final installment in the Success in the Private Lesson Studio series addresses something that can easily happen to private teachers: complacency. After establishing a reputation as a teacher and building up a studio, many teachers start to look at private teaching as a somewhat lucrative but rather burdensome part-time job, something to be tolerated rather than enjoyed. Teachers can enter this state without even realizing it, slowly slipping into familiar patterns and becoming too easily satisfied with the results they are getting from students.
Many teachers, or course, never fall into this state of complacency. They continually reinvent themselves as teachers, broadening their horizons by performing as much as possible, attending concerts and conferences, reading avidly from a wide range of sources (both pertaining to their instrument and to education in general), and constantly asking themselves the following question:
What if, rather than giving students the Capuzzi Concerto, I swapped out a variety of short pieces in different ranges of the instrument? What if I taught pivoting from the beginning rather than Simandl technique? What if I introduced the bow in this new way I just read about? What if I approached intonation in a different way? What if I assigned different scale exercises?
If a teacher is teaching students headed for music school, are these students advancing toward the current professional standard for their instrument? What, exactly, is that standard right now? Is it different than when the teacher was in music school? If so, how? What is the best way to guide students toward that standard? And what if a student doesn’t seem to be responding to your methods? What can you vary? What is an alternate approach? Is there only one door leading to success, or are there many doors?
I think that as soon as a private music teacher decides that they have discovered the way to teach something, they have (usually and unwittingly) slipped into a state of complacency about that topic. To put it bluntly, the more smug and overconfident a teacher appears to be about their method of teaching, the worse they tend to be as an educator. The best teachers, on the other hand, are always broadening their musical horizons, and as a result their teaching methods are always evolving.
Continuing to grow as a teacher also means continuing to grow as a musician, and this is an easy thing to let atrophy as a private lesson teacher. It can be easy to forget that you are, above all, working with a student to help them develop a love for the art and craft of music, and guide them toward developing the skills necessary to achieve their fullest potential. A good teacher goes beyond assigning and evaluating materials and uses all their abilities to inspire and motivate students. This is, or course, true of all teachers–not just private music teachers–but it’s easy to lose sight of this during a long block of half-hour lessons with students.
This brief conclusion to Success in the Private Lesson Studio may seem like an obvious point, but I think that it bears contemplation anyway. The best teachers are curious and constantly learning themselves, flexible and adaptable. They are interested in continually broadening their horizons and expanding their “teacher toolkit,” and regularly reevaluate their approaches to the various aspects of their pedagogical approach.