5 Lesson Tips for Students & Teachers

Piano Lesson


It is officially the beginning of lesson season! As we all work to improve, and to design environments where folks can improve effectively, we're sharing 5 tips to get the most out of your lessons. 


1: Ask questions 

STUDENTS: Be proactive and prepared. That doesn't mean just preparing your music - that means come with and ask questions! Don't suffer through being confused - we don't know any teachers that don't love curiosity! Often, our inner critic says "Don't ask that" or "That's a dumb question". How to tell if it's a dumb question? If you can look it up with a quick google search, maybe don't ask it. ;) But, anything else? It's probably not a dumb question! 

TEACHERS: We love the concept of open vs. closed questions. Closed questions limit how others can respond, while open questions (ideally) expand the set of possible responses. A closed question may be: Have you thought about doing it this way? An open question getting at the same solution would be: What are some ways you can approach this problem? It's very hard sometimes as a teacher to embrace the patience required to get a student to come up with a solution on their own - or with a little bit of your help. Focusing on more open questions can really help students own their learning in new ways. For other examples, check out this post


2: Don't give disclaimers! 

STUDENTS: Don't give disclaimers before you play a scale, etude, excerpt, piece... or anything! Use your lesson as a performance opportunity. Yes, you can talk about your struggles afterwards, but don't pre-interpret what is about to happen or diminish your confidence by telling your teacher you didn't practice enough, your reed feels bad, etc. 

TEACHERS: Although we hate to admit it, we give disclaimers before we demonstrate in lessons, or before we give a presentation. For example, saying "Sorry, I haven't warmed up yet"...  What if we modeled the behavior we want to see in this arena? 


3: Be coachable 

STUDENTS: This means listening well, adapting quickly, being open and receptive to ideas. It can also mean having your own goals. Having an idea of what you want to achieve helps the teacher better help you!

TEACHERS: We don't believe students ever WANT to not be coachable. But, their inner critic may be screaming at them, they may be starving, or dealing with other life situations that are beyond distracting. How can we tune into when they aren't responding well in lessons and be sensitive to external circumstances in a productive way? How can we help foster, with empathy, the mindset that we have to learn to perform and focus in sometimes unideal situations? 


4: Keep a notebook of post-lesson thoughts and write in it ASAP

STUDENTS: Try not to schedule anything 30 minutes after a lesson if you can. Go back through the lesson, reinforce learning and highlight the takeaways, by writing them down. Yes, write. Or, type if you need. (But there's research that states writing is more effective for retention.) They'll be helpful in the coming week and you'll love having them later to reflect on! 

TEACHERS: We love keeping a notebook close in lessons and writing down ahas for ourselves to collect for ... a book later? An article? A blog post? 😃 


5: Remember that everyone wants the best outcome

STUDENTS: Even when your teacher seems harsh or overly critical don't take it personally -they want the best for you. One mindset shift we LOVE from Adam Grant is this: the point isn't to ace every lesson. It's to ace LEARNING in every lesson. It's to ace your reaction to feedback in every lesson. 

TEACHERS: Fostering the most helpful feedback is our life's work. But, we think it also may be worth helping develop a growth mindset as soon as possible with your students: they're there to learn, not to get it perfect. The more we can emphasize that early on, the better off we believe everyone will be. 


BONUS TEACHER TIP: Please check out this Seth Godin post about Useful Assumptions for Teachers


We hope these tips get you in a spirit of learning - and teaching. Wishing you an incredible first few weeks of the semester/school year! 





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