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June?!??? When did that happen?!

Seriously, anyone that can tell me what happened to the passage of time since my last blog entry will win my eternal gratitude! As has been the case (and is always the case) for so many Music teachers, the last few months has been filled with rehearsals, concerts, musicals, exam preparation, coursework, exams analyses, reports, parents evenings and (lest I forget) that little thing called teaching!

In all that, however, I guess I should reflect on how well I have kept the mission statement of this blog – to be a musician during my lessons; to talk to my students with the instrument in my hand rather than the words I can conjure up. By and large, I think the answer would be ‘I think so’.
From September to December this was very much the case – I made a point of having a guitar around my neck at all times. I even did my corridor duty with a guitar in hand. Students’ questions were inevitably answered with a chord progression, a melody, a riff or (if it was a stupid question that I’d answered a few moments before) a dim7 chord. I considered lessons to be effective, learning to be evidenced all around me and my students to be turning into real musicians.
So, has that changed? No, not really. I don’t have the guitar permanently in my hands anymore but questions are still answered musically. Learning is still evidenced all around me. Lessons are still effective. My students are still turning into real students (most of them at least!). The truth is that my teaching room is so crowded that it’s really difficult to keep the guitar on me at all times! Instead, I tend to get the students to come to me in an area I’ve created for one-on-one/small group sessions.
Say a kid struggles with playing the bass part to a piece and I quickly demonstrate it on my guitar in a cramped space. This might get the sound across, it may even give a good idea of where the kid should put his/her fingers but it’s just a snapshot. Now, take the same kid to a separate part of the classroom, pick up a bass each and coach him/her through the part. Job done, much more effective, much more musical, much more like what would happen in a real band. There’s the added bonus of it being really clear to the other students that I’m helping someone so they’ll get on with what they can until I’m ready to move on. The simple fact that I’ve picked up the same instrument that the kid is working on seems to be appreciated too.
Staff have picked up on the model well too. They tend to work in a similar way and really emphasise the demonstration of what they are doing. My department has become really strong at modelling what is expected of the students. They’re even willing to put on mini-performances so that the students can see what they are aiming for. Such an obvious thing to do but so many teachers that I’ve worked with refuse to perform for their students – “I’ve done my exams, I don’t need to prove that I can do it”; true but maybe your students need to be shown how.
So, clearly not as regular a reflection as I was planning but these few points really do sum up what has happened in our department this year. It’s effective and it’s very musical. That was the point.
Hopefully, I’ll update a bit sooner this time!