Tuesday, December 20, 2011


What is Best for the Students?

In a conversation with someone recently, they told me they just want to do what's best for the students. I immediately thought to myself. " What is BEST for the students? A good question to ask that takes some probing to come up with some insightful answers.

I think the first thing to clarify is, what is a student? To me, the student is a person that is interested in a learning process that has it's goal developing a skill or gaining knowledge that will be used for a productive purpose in their life or career. If it is a 'skill', it will take knowledge, experience, dedication and guidance to be achieved.The greatest driving force towards that development is the student's own passion and intensity of desire to keep going through all the various challenges they will encounter. To have all this happen, an environment of support, trust, encouragement, honesty, and friendship is very important on the personal level. The school needs to have teachers who have a high level of mastery not only with the subject matter, but with working with students

The school needs to provide an ecology which would best foster this development. But if it only has a 'manufacturing plant' mentality, then the development of the student- person, is going to be short changed and possibly suffer.

There is not a 'generic' student. What is useful for one student is not useful for others. This is where skill in teaching comes in. Not all freshman are the same, neither are all graduate students the same. Attention to the individual is important and vital in my view.

If someone is taking a class on American History, should the class be run by 5 teachers? This is a question I have about instrument classes. Do you have all the faculty contribute to the instrument class? Are tons of views good all the time? Is one view good for 6 years? It depends on certain factors. Here are a few on the private studio level.

1. Is the student and the teacher in a relationship that grows deeper on a continuing basis with noticeable quality in the students work? If so, why should the student change teachers after 2 years or 4 years if the process is really connective and continues to bear fruit?

2. If the student and teacher really cannot get along and after a period of a semester not come to any terms of agreement or mutual understanding, it seems the best thing might be for both of them to part peacefully. Private lessons are very personal and close circumstances that can become quite toxic if things get to far out of balance in a negative direction.

3. A student can be exposed to many ideas and viewpoints at school and the city they are in. If the student is really taking an active role in their own development and not just waiting for the teacher to say do this or that, they will try things, go to other workshops, concerts and master classes and naturally incorporate things into their own work.

4. I think it is important for some classes to have one teacher with guests who come in every now and then. This gives a continuity and structure to the class.

5. Private studio teachers at anytime, should feel free to give a studio class to their own students. They should not worry if the other students of the same instrument in the school are not included.

A student can learn from various teachers that are not even playing their own instrument. Learning is very dependent on the student's own curiosity, need and application of what they are given and/or observing. I notice many students going from teacher to teacher and not making lots of progress because they are not sticking to something and seeing it through. When they get bored or run into a sticky point, some like to run to a 'new' situation for the 'kick' or' high' that gives them in the beginning of doing something different. Meanwhile avoiding the very things that they probably need to work on including their attitude.

So what is BEST for the students? To be given an atmosphere and ecology that provides them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions with excellent guidance, expertise and humanity from caring teachers. A look at the word teacher is interesting for it has the word 'heart' in it and well as the word 'care.' 'The care' is a full anagram of the word teacher.

It also needs to be said that teachers are humans too who need to be treated well. Maybe our schools need to spend more time helping people become good teachers? Just because someone has great skill and/or knowledge and a high profile job, does not mean they are good with people or really even care about the well being of a person. This kind of teacher needs to have students that are very mentally tough that can withstand a certain level of rough treatment. If the student has that nature and knowledge to get what they can from such a teacher, then it possibly will be productive for them.

In the end, it is one big process that students and teachers are in that goes way beyond learning a skill. The circumstances in a school can help one to learn about oneself, others and how to deal with different kinds of situations. Sometimes rough situations can push a person into greater depth and challenge how much they really want to pursue their chosen work no matter what the odds are.

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