Suddenly doubting myself
Posted 17 April 2022 - 16:09
Ive been teaching 17 years but haven't put anyone in for an exam since pre COVID. For some reason I feel incredibly nervous, don't feel any of my pupils will be ready and feel like I'm doing a rubbish job. Prior to this I've had 100% exam results with mainly merits and distinctions..not sure if it's me, the pupils, covid or what but I'm terrified of them failing.
Has anyone else gone through a period like this in their teaching career?
Posted 18 April 2022 - 20:56
I'm not sure I'm the best person to reply to you, as I have been teaching under 10 years, but I do empathise. Even though I've been using exams throughout COVID (mixture of in person and performance) I also feel slightly more wobbly about it now than I did before COVID! I also had pretty much all distinctions and merits, but recently it does seem to have become harder to get a merit. I'm trying to remind myself of the bigger picture, the longer-term aim, which is to help pupils play musically and really enjoy the repertoire they learn. For those who just don't like the music on the ABRSM syllabus I'm going to try other boards, especially those who allow exams to be recorded at any time - some pupils will thrive on this. Yet others will thrive on taking ABRSM when ready.
But to address your bigger question, of doubting yourself, I think it's something all teachers do at various points. You've obviously thought about bringing it to a group of other teachers (this one) but have you considered joining something like The Curious Piano Teachers or Top Music Teaching - a group of like-minded piano teachers who share ideas, encourage one another through the sort of doubts you seem to be having at the moment? Could be useful to be part of a more regular communication, whether by Facebook or online get-togethers/ local meetings (I hear they occasionally happen in Curious PT!)
Hope you find the encouragement you need.
Posted 18 April 2022 - 20:57
PS I think The Curious Piano Teachers has a month's free trial.
Posted 18 April 2022 - 21:01
Posted 18 April 2022 - 22:05
Not exactly. But I remember the first pupil I put in for an exam and being very unsure whether or not they'd pass. They got a distinction, so I needn't have worried! It's really easy to doubt how they'll do. Ultimately, it's not in our control, because one day is just a snapshot in time, and things can go wrong...or they can have a good performance and exceed expectations! Or they can have a particularly harsh/kind examiner. We can only do our best to prepare them, and then it's out of our hands.
Posted 18 April 2022 - 22:08
I think my focus has changed to being more about enjoying the repertoire
If you can pass that on to your pupils, you'll be doing them a bigger service than helping them pass an exam
Posted 18 April 2022 - 22:34
This is such an ideal opportunity to get off the exam treadmill!
Many people I know found being 'released' from the exam system to be so pleasurable and gratifying that they haven't wanted to get back on that particular animal.
Freedom to enjoy repertoire for its own sake will be so liberating for you, I can't help feeling.
And I endorse the recommendations to join CPT. I know Sally well and Sharon too, and what they're doing is just so good.
And, when you have some pennies, look into doing some CPD - again, hugely refreshing and inspiring (I know someone who runs lovely online courses ).
Posted 19 April 2022 - 10:21
This is from a student's perspective rather than a teacher's:
My organ teacher never entered me for an exam, but I enjoyed, and enjoy to this day, what he taught me. I learnt a lot about creating a musical line on a very unexpressive instrument, and I explored a lot of repertoire that I didn't know existed (in my day, serious amateur organists knew about Bach; other amateur organists played transcriptions of the classics from the Chorister Albums; Bach was the one and only; France didn't exist, and the UK produced hymns).
Years later, I entered myself for a German exam, and that exam was the moment I stopped going to German lessons, because it robbed learning the language of all the fun I'd found in learning it. But a friend took me to see Goethe's Faust, and I accidentally learnt several bits of it by heart simply because it was too beautiful not to. I can still remember them. It is not always exams that touch us, and exams can sometimes be the dose of poison that turns the whole subject sour.
So you are doing your students a good service if you're teaching them music, whether they enter exams or not. Although there's a need for teachers who can produce the certificates for people who need certificates, there is a whole mass of people out there who want to learn to play an instrument so they can enjoy making music. They need teachers too.
Secondly, my old driving instructor: there were two driving instructors in the village, and with the other one, everyone always passed. Guaranteed 100%. But that was because he wouldn't enter them for the exam until they'd been driving for soooo long that failure was almost impossible. As my instructor pointed out, this may have avoided the stress of failure, but it's a very expensive way to get a driving licence. On the other hand, when my instructor had had a string of successes, the pressure on the next one was enormous and horrible. Failing an exam is never much fun, or letting someone else fail an exam. But maybe we shouldn't be so scared of it?
The trouble with failure-terror is that it can end up paralysing someone. I've met people in my own field who cannot do any practical work at all, because they are so, so scared that they will fail. The other way round, if you always pass exams, after a while, you can no longer believe in the possibility of failure, which makes it very hard to motivate yourself to do the work. And a driving test is about the only text that a modern, successful child is likely to fail. This really isn't healthy. So all in all, if you can produce students who are not afraid to take an exam even when they think they might make some mistakes, you're doing a good thing. And if the occasional student doesn't put the work in, and fails, it's a very useful life lesson. You might have saved them from making a complete mess of their first-year University exams...
And crisis of confidence: people who care about something, and want to do it well, spend their lives asking themselves if they're doing it as well as they possibly can. So having a crisis of confidence about your job is, unfortunately, an occupational hazard of being a competent good person in a skilled profession. Show me the person who hasn't had a panic about whether they're any good at what they do, and I shall look at them with deepest suspicion.
Posted 19 April 2022 - 22:12
I have fairly strong (OK, very strong) feelings about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation...
Posted 20 April 2022 - 07:35
Also think that some inspiring courses might help! Tell me about motivation cyrilla.????
Posted 20 April 2022 - 08:16
I do think pupils need something to aim for. Mine do themed gigs based on their needs, interests and talents - much more fun, social and varied than exams, less stressful too, and they can try out different instruments, help to arrange the music, plus games, plus buffet.
Posted 13 May 2022 - 16:42
(also bumping over spam )
If you have a location where you can put on regular pupil concerts that can serve both as a goal to aim for, and an opportunity for students to support each other in enjoying their music making. Even a small number at a time in a pupil's house could work, depending on your area and logistics.
I'm putting a student in for a trinity exam this term, I think; potentially useful in advance of secondary school applications and placing a "marker in the sand", but my intention is to only do exams where there is a convincing reason why one would be useful. I'll probably put them through grade 8 as and when I get students at that level, but hopefully only when it is "easy", in order to either help mark their attainment or provide a stepping stone to higher levels.