Do you teach to your strengths or weaknesses?

First of all, let me be clear. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Whether we know them or not, that is up to us. But this is not something to be afraid of. Rather, being aware of our strengths and weaknesses is the backbone of being a life-long learner. Every time I work to eliminate a weakness, I gain a new strength. And I will likely discover another weakness.

As teachers, we tend to teach toward our strengths. You’re good at composition, so your students will be too. You’re not good at improvisation, so you just skip that in the rotation. You love showing how music theory is related to each song the student plays. Your students will also be strong in theory. You don’t really remember much of music history, so you’ll talk about that later …. Get the point?

The problem? We have little clones! And one of my greatest fears is that my students turn out just like me. I don’t want any of them to be just like me … in fact, I desperately want them to surpass me! My goal should always be to bring my students to the place where they do not need me. Work myself out of a job? Kind of … but there will always be new kids coming around the block. I want to teach the ones I have now everything I possibly can before my time is up with them!

Your strengths will automatically be present in your teaching. So how can we teach to our weaknesses, working to make sure our students do not fall into the same traps?

Here are just a few ideas to get you started …

  1. Know your own weaknesses. Be self-aware and take the time to analyze areas where you may fall short (don’t forget, we ALL have them. You are not alone!).
  2. Be willing to learn. The one who stops learning has stopped living …
  3. Take some lessons from a seasoned teacher above you. You’d be surprised what you might discover J 
  4. Be humble. It’s okay to let a student know you’ve made a mistake. Trust me, your relationship with them will be far more authentic.
  5. Write down and accomplish steps towards making your weaknesses “less weak”.
  6. Evaluate why you teach what you teach. Evaluate why you don’t teach what is left out. If a reason is ever because you are not good at it, begin learning with your students. Incorporate activities into your lessons that take steps towards better understanding.

IN ALL HONESTY … I was terrible at sight reading. My college professor was horrified. She had no idea how I could play at my level and be so incompetent when something new was set in front of me. As we worked together, we discovered the main problem was how much I was looking at my hands while I played.

What does this mean? Well first of all, I believe I am still lagging in my sight reading abilities. BUT I am so much farther along and more competent at this than I ever have been! I also continue to work on this constantly.

Second, it means that I teach sight reading religiously to my students. I also refuse to let them learn to play while at the same time looking at their hands. It’s bad business all the way around. Sight reading has become a regular part of my practice routine, and a normal lesson activity. Check out – their innovative sight reading activities and books have revolutionized the way I accomplish this task in my studio. It is no longer a feared activity!

Teaching to my weakness? I regret to say that I didn’t always think this way. But I feel like a parent as I say “I just want to spare them from making the same mistakes I have in life.”


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