As one year fades into the distance and we shift our attention to making the year ahead somehow better, the world puts an emphasis on “reflecting”. I am not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. Likely because the true changes I’ve made in my life are not the result of anything I start on January 1st. They usually start on a pretty insignificantly random day in the middle of the year, and are the result of a chiseling process in my life that is rather unobserved by most people around me. Later I look back and realize that yes, when I decided to put whatever it may be into place, it was a true mind-shift moment and has made all the difference in my world.
So as the new year starts I work towards hard and honest reflecting. Because of course I want to be the best person I can be in 2020. But I truly want to be someone whose values stand the test of time. And as life waxes and wanes, I want to have a character that dictates the goals I choose to make – whether they are made on January 1st or August 23rd.
For this season of reflecting, I will spare you the nitty gritty details of what my life has looked like over the past year. But I do want to share the top 3 things that have changed my teaching indefinitely – and I believe for the better!
- Communication is key.
This whole piano lesson thing works best when there is a parent-student-teacher triangle. So at the beginning of 2019 I decided that this year would be the best year of communication I could possibly muster in my already busy schedule. I began with personalized emails to each student/parent about what the last year held, and what the student and I would be crunching through the next year. The good, bad, and ugly were all laid out on the table. Then I made it a point to blast out email newsletters 3-4 times a month. These emails held everything from student highlights, composer of the month, practice tips, and payment reminders. Did all my parents read them? No. But the ones that did would tell me over and over again how much they appreciated it. They were more invested in what their child was doing- simply because they better understood it themselves. Win win!
2. Duets bring life to a studio…
Now this project piggy backs on number 1. I had tried to build healthy relationships with my students and parents from the very beginning. BUT I could definitely do more. And I did … enter communication goal number 1. So fast forward to fall 2019. I had been mulling over the idea of a studio-wide duet project, and decided that Christmas was the perfect time to give it a whirl. Most students would be performing at our charity performance event, and it is a more flexible setting than a regular recital. So I dutifully paired each student with a partner, put together all of the music needed for each pair, and placed them in a “top secret” Christmas packet… just to make the whole thing seem more novel.
I honestly went into the whole project thinking it would be a bust. I assumed a few duets would happen, and the rest would end up performing with me. Not the end of the world, just not the intended goal.
BUT I had been working on communication the ENTIRE year. And to my amazement, the parents jumped on board. And I don’t mean cautiously or just dipping their toes in. They took a flying leap and made mountains move to get kids to each other’s lessons, adults changed work schedules to practice with their partners, and students who I’ve had the most difficult time getting on stage didn’t even blink about it. I sat back shocked and amazed …. And have come to the conclusion that the constant stream of communication has built a trust that 1- I know what I’m doing, and want them to know also, and 2- even if it sounds crazy, I have a purpose.
So quick recap of what happened –
- I was shocked (in a great way!)
- 28 students participated and moved mountains to do so during the busiest season of the year!
- They all discovered that playing with a peer is different than playing with me!
- They all learned to listen. Both to another person and themselves.
- Note and rhythm issues that may have lived under the surface were fully exposed. Giving a good spring board into our focus for the new year!
- Friends were made. My students now recognize each other and say hi – instead of walking around each other to get out of the store!
I will certainly do some things differently in the years ahead, but it would take a whole separate post to sort through all of it! And I don’t regret this project for a minute!
3.The teacher’s overall health directly correlates with the studio’s health.
If you missed it, I dig into this more thoroughly in the post about “Our Healthiest Selves”. But I really cannot stress this enough. I am fully on board with the idea that if I am not taking care of my mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health FIRST, although I can teach, I will not be my most effective. And I believe that what we do is too critical to be passing along the leftovers of ourselves for our entire career!
Now to wrap up what has become my longest post to date … I thought I would share what I am hoping to work through for the next year. I don’t get paid to endorse either of these, but let me tell you – they are worth your time! Let me encourage you to reflect, and then try something new in this season of new beginnings!