Nobody’s perfect, no matter how much we might like to be! Here are three important mistakes that most music teachers make much of the time. They’re serious mistakes because they’re actually holding our students back, and preventing progress – without our being aware of it.
[Watch today’s live video, where I discuss the mistakes that we all make from time to time that can not only set us back but our students back as well, below.]
The first mistake that we make is that we lose sight of the big picture. Our priorities get out of order. And when I say “the big picture,” I’m referring to losing sight of why we became teachers – why we became musicians in the first place – and feeling disconnected from the spirit of the process.
A lot of music educators don’t foster curiosity and encourage their students to experiment, focusing more on the goal of getting everything “right”. As a music teacher, expressing that there is one single right way to do things does both yourself and your student a great disservice.
There is more than one way to do just about anything, and there are so many great examples of this. We may believe that having a goal-oriented process will push and support our plans faster, but at what expense? Our top focus as educators should be on teaching our students how to teach themselves – with a spirit of love, curiosity, and discovery of the musical process, for the pure joy of it!
The second mistake is to mistake the origin of a problem, forgetting that the origin of every problem is in the MIND, not the body. When we’re teaching, it’s all too easy to see a specific problem and assume that the source of the problem is where we see it. For example, seeing how a student’s posture is contorted and sound is distorted, and assuming that the problem lies in how the student is holding the instrument. That they should be standing differently, or using their hands or arms differently – then getting them to fix those things directly.
The truth is, the problem is NEVER in a body part – it’s always in the mind. It’s in how we think about our posture, how we think about playing our instrument, how we think we need to hold the instrument, or how we think we need to hold or move our arms and fingers.
Shoulders are tight? Don’t relax the shoulders – the problem isn’t in the shoulders!
It’s in a state of mind and being that causes the WHOLE BODY to stiffen up, trying to prop up the instrument with the shoulders instead of allowing the whole body to support the shoulders which hold the instrument.
Every problem starts in the mind. In order to begin to fix anything – a position, a note, a phrase – you have to create what you want in the mind, do some Constructive Thinking, and TRUST that the whole body knows how to organize itself in the best possible way to carry out your intention with ease.
Granted, this is easier said than done, and it may be a puzzling and completely different way of thinking about things from how you’re used to. But it truly IS the reality of how the mind and body work together for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
In short, got a problem? Solve it in the MIND, and let the body follow the mind’s direction. You can learn exactly how to do this! (Just contact me and ask me for a complimentary consultation so we can decide on the best way for you to learn.)
The third big mistake is to model tension to your students instead of ease – and usually we’re not even aware that we’re doing this!
We should be modeling a curious, wondrous, open, playful nature to our students, but all too often we find ourselves focusing on what’s wrong, and we prioritize fixing those things over everything else. We can’t expect our students to relax and get curious if we can’t relax and get curious ourselves!
How many times have you told a student to relax? Come on, fess up! We’ve all done it, right? We need to model for our students the musician we want them to become. This isn’t always what we do, even if we know we want that.
We’re all carrying around more mind-body tension than we’re aware of, and we don’t always stop to take the time and find the wonder in music for ourselves. We push ourselves and our students, completely unaware of the negative effects of our intensity on our well-being AND on our musical product. We believe that we’re expressing passion, because we love what we’re doing, but what are we actually expressing nonverbally? What are we showing our students without words?
We’re often transmitting a lot of tension! And whether we like it or not, our students pick up on all of it! We have something called mirror neurons in our brains that allow us to relate with each other, and your students pick up on everything.
As a teacher, you’ve got to be aware of what you’e thinking and how you’re living. Are you being kind and compassionate towards yourself today? Or, are you being uptight, pushy, negative, and self-critical?
All of the mistakes I’ve pointed out are common and perfectly human – we all make them. But we’re also designed to rise above them, to grow and adapt. We have the free will to choose how to think and how to act. It’s so important to understand that we have freedom to take care of ourselves and be the ideal selves that we can imagine!
I’d love to be able to help you discover how to help you improve these things and find out how you can get out of your own way. Reach out to me and let’s hop on the phone to find out what could be standing in YOUR way!
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