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#1382016 Teaching in the modern world

Posted by Aquarelle on 01 July 2020 - 11:00

Adlibitum-yes im wondering if i should consciously 'brand' myself as a specialist in technique and have that slant. At the moment i think anything i write will come across as 'because these other people are all doing it wrong'! So poss best ti wait until my head is clearer! As for unqualified, i guess its the nagging feeling of not having a teaching qualification even though i know its not needed or indeed relevant to have a pgce. I also married into a family of professional musicians so i always feel lesser!

I am going to take a slightly different approach to your problem. I don’t have a web page and during the Covid confinement I have not been able to give on line lessons. I live in France not far from the Pyrenean foothills and internet connections are too slow. My teaching qualifications are not the top. I didn’t get into music  college so went to College of Education with music as my main study and left with a Teacher’s Certificate and, although we didn’t take the exam, what was then the equivalent of LRAM as far as piano was concerned. So I don’t think you can call yourself under qualified! I have been teaching for a very long time – just over 50 years – and I am still at it. Why? Because it’s so very enjoyable. This year I had 34 pupils aged from 6 to 18, several of whom have been with me for more than 10 years. Most of my pupils ceiling at Grade 5 but some do go on to Grade 6 and I have had one Grade 7. I don’t teach adults as I have found that I am not at all good with them. That gives you a rough idea of the base I am coming from in what I would like to say.


I am a stickler for  good standards and not dumbing down. but I am for adjustiment in teaching. Like everyone, I do lose pupils but it’s rare. And like everyone I have adolescent hormones to cope with, heavy school timetables to adjust to and the  very occasional unsupportive parent. Several of my pupils come from quite large families – I have one family where I teach 6 out of 8 children. 


In  the quote above you say you are wondering whether you should brand yourself as a specialist in technique and go in that direction. I don’t want to be hard on you our unkind, but  I wouldn’t go in that direction. Neither would  I follow the “become a genius in 3 lessons” or “just play for fun” routes. I think that with children and teenagers these days  the problem goes  much deeper than that. I’ll try not to be too wordy but I could write a book on it – it’s something that interests me greatly. You see, I think being a specialist in the love of, the passion for “classical” music, is much more important than being a specialist in technique. Pupils who have caught from you your love of music will  (eventually if not immediately) cotton on to the value of technical work. They will find that they can’t explore that love of music without the tools to do so. As one 18 year old recently said to me, as she struggled with a Chopin Nocturne (the fairly easy one in G minor) “I’ m finding this very difficult – but it is Chopin!”


As you say, with beginners it is fairly easy to get their enthusiasm. I like to take beginners on at the age of 6. They are fresh and curious and there is lots of good material available. I don’t worry too much about perfect hand positions and finger movements. I do, of course, show and encourage those things but the important thing is that they play, they enjoy and they want to move forward. It has to be very child centred. As they get older we start to think about an exam if I think it appropriate. I dislike the Prep Test but have used it. Grade 1 is very difficult for many young children and I’m looking forward to the new Initial Exam as I think it might suit my little ones. They love to have a certificate and we have to make it a positive and enjoyable experience. Some get there in a couple of years but most of my 6 year old starters need a good bit longer. In any case they all play at the end of year concert. Once we get to the Grade exams I go into top gear on how wonderful all this music is, how they can make poetry out of it, how it’s beautiful, balanced, strange, imaginative – whatever. We begin to look a little more closely at the technical skills required to get this love of music expressed and I make sure that scales and arpeggios are  great things to play. There are lots of ways to do that


By the time they are in their teens (and sometimes pre-teens) I am treading on tiptoe – or a better metaphor might be the iron hand in a velvet glove. I refuse to let up on standards but  for me and for them it’s the love of music that counts above all else. I enthuse about music all the time, in different ways because, after all, I am not in the business of producing brilliant professionals, but rather of music lovers who will eventually, in their adult lives either play for pleasure, take it up again when they retire or become avid concert goers - or send their own children for lessons. I want music to be a friend for life. And I am not averse to telling a child of any age, in terms appropriate to their age, that nothing in life which is really valuable happens without hard work. But you have to get them to love the work.


Young people these days are faced with a very different situation from the (prehistoric!) time of my youth. They are faced with the push button, on / off, instant result,superficial value stuff with which we never had to cope. I believe we need to lead them beyond that. I won’t go down the path of easy music for easy fun – or “only what I like.”


I have sometimes read poetry to my language classes. When I enthuse about the beauty of the words (and don’t insist they have to learn it by heart for a test next week) I get  different reactions. Some are embarrassed because it’s emotional, some are enthralled and some snigger. But the real result comes when a child tells you the following week that they have learnt the poem by heart because they liked it. OK, the other 24 haven’t – but you never know what seeds you have sown – and it’s the same with music. I have no idea if any of this helps in your situation   - I admit I get a bit carried away sometimes over this sort of problem. So I will now get off my soap box and wish you good luck! You are probably just going through a low patch and things will pick up.

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#1340456 Thinking of packing it in

Posted by edgmusic on 01 September 2017 - 21:07

As I am on line
Apologies if you are not.
But are you trolling? It's against forum rules.
If you want to 'retire' do it. It's your decision. Go get a "low status role working for a big company". [/size]
How can we offer advice as you have the figures to make a living out of teaching or not!\[/size]
Stop wasting people's time.


A bit harsh, I feel. I saw nothing in the post to suggest trolling.

The poster is having doubts about continuing and looking for support and advice from others on the forum. That's what we are for. Many teachers on here have probably had similar feelings at some time over the years.

I found your blunt response very unhelpful and disappointing.
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#1374533 Graded Music Exams Are a Waste Of Time!

Posted by elemimele on 14 January 2020 - 17:08

Teachers are a very diverse bunch of humans, and so are their pupils. It's quite possible to hunt around and find particular combinations of teacher and pupil where the teacher isn't right for the pupil - where their methods and attitudes won't get the best out of the pupil - but I'm not sure this is a particularly useful thing to do. It's perhaps better to accept that most teachers make a personal choice on whether to use exams, and how to use them. Every teacher I've ever met makes the decision with the pupil (and their parents if the pupil is a child), based on what all parties think will work best for that individual pupil.

There are undoubtedly teachers who have written that they wouldn't enter a pupil for an exam because they consider them too young. I suspect they're often thinking of specific cases. Many teachers take the attitude that learning music is not a race. It is a journey. The message behind "I will not enter them because they are too young" is actually "I think they would benefit from time to reflect, explore aspects of music theory and practice that are off the syllabus, enlarge as humans and musicians, and they really don't need this exam at this precise moment, so let's concentrate on making them a better, more rounded musician". That's not such a bad message, surely?

Serious thought: I do rather worry about an emphasis on exceptional pupils. Very, very little good comes out of elitism in any branch of human endeavor. When you employ a plumber, you don't care if he's the best plumber in the country, able to fit a tap faster than any other. You want someone who will fit a tap to a professional standard, that's all. It's better to have lots of competent plumbers than one plumbing genius. Even in sport, with its competitive focus, the elite ones are pretty to look at, but the health benefits, both physical and mental, only happen for people who pursue the sport, and the benefits are there even if you're rubbish at it. Everyone who plays tennis gets the work-out of a good tennis game, and the mental satisfaction that comes with their sport, not just Federer. Elite sport is where the money is, but accessible sport-for-all is where the benefits happen. The value of the elite is when the rest of us get excited and try to emulate them, but even that is a double-edged sword because it's all too easy to give up because you find you're "not very good". In music, only a small number of people can win competitions and festivals. The world doesn't need many professional concert pianists. But every human who plays or sings is enriched by it, and enriches the world around them. The teacher who brings music to the lives of average pupils is, I believe, far, far more useful to the world than the teacher who miraculously fosters genius. In fact, if you get enough people doing something reasonably well, a few geniuses will pop out of the pool automatically.

So that's where exams are not a waste of time. Some people hate them (I do). But for others they are very motivating. Some people want a measuring-stick to measure their progress. The majority of those who aim to win a major competition, will, by definition, fail, no matter how talented they are, because there's only one winner. It's even worse if you want to be a world-leader; you've chosen a measuring stick that elongates in response to how good everyone else is getting, in order to doom the majority to failure. If your aim is to pass grade 8, then ABRSM really don't care how many people pass, provided they show they've reached the level. The more musicians reach that level and pass that exam, the happier the board will be! And the better the world will be, too. Although equally, it doesn't matter to the world how many people learn to play and reach that standard without taking the exam.

At their best, exams are a way in which a wide range of people can measure their achievements and feel motivated that they're getting somewhere.

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#1380479 Is everyone teaching online?

Posted by edgmusic on 23 May 2020 - 12:50


Please close this thread!

It has gone on for far too long and become totally poisonous.

I thought this was a professional forum for 'teachers helping teachers'
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