Restoring Students’ Momentum After a Break
Carrie L., Michigan
Do you have a particular thing that you do the beginning of the year to get everyone focused again?
Karen T., Illinois
There are three times a year when my studio has a break from lessons. Spring break is a week, summer break is 3 weeks, and Christmas break is 2 weeks.
For spring break I give them enough to work on that they are glad to have 2 weeks to get it done. It’s a good challenge for them and they rise to it. I also remind them that keeping their playlist marked will insure that everything gets the attention it needs and they will be able to learn the new material without worrying about losing something else. If my husband and I travel and I need a week here or there, I handle it the same way.
For summer break I don’t say anything. When they come back I ask them to do a playlist evaluation in the lessons so we can see where we are and where we need to go. It’s been a month since I saw them. It soon comes out how much they played or did not play, and I never look at the Playlist. But when they leave I remind them to get back on the Playlist and things will get in shape really fast. It’s a time for me to observe who is going to play for fun even when they don’t “have” to, who is going to use the Playlist, etc. If my students won’t play when we aren’t having lessons, I want to know, and I want to know why.
For Christmas break I tell them to take two week off from marking the Playlist and just play for fun during their time off from school. I tell them to start marking the Playlist and getting everything in shape about a week before lessons. They come back in January playing really well, relaxed, and eager to move on. Things that were lost or forgotten do not have them uptight, and we just fill in the gaps here and there.
I do all these different things so I can learn what they will do, and coach them through all the scenarios. It’s great! I learn about them, and they learn about themselves, and about music.
I would also like to mention what I do myself during these breaks. During the shorter spring break and Christmas break, I study the videos – review how to teach things that are coming up, learn new songs from the higher levels, watch the special programs videos. Study and work.
During the longer summer break I play. Play, play, play the piano. I love the piano, that’s why I’m teaching. But while I’m teaching I have very little time to play.
Now that I have worked my way through the Reading Program, I do have a chance to sit down each day during the regular teaching season and play a little bit. I love sight reading new music, and I just go through all my music, reading and playing and figuring them out. (I still learn all the SM songs without the music.) If I come across a song I just love, it will be the one I play every day until I learn it so well I’m kind of tired of hearing it. Then I move on.
But during the longer summer break, I do this for hours, not just minutes. About a week before lessons, I start planning and preparing for the students again. There’s a time to work, and a time to play, just like for my students. This keeps me from getting burnt out on teaching. It keeps me fresh, interested, and improving my skills.