There is ONLY one way to know what your students are doing at home...
I spent 1 week watching my students practice, and it was one of the most profound things I have ever done in my teaching. I believe that if more teachers did this, then we would be able to help more students reach higher levels in their violin playing.
In this video (posted below) and correlating blog post I explain how I organized a week of watching my students practice and why this was such a powerful use of time.
How I organized The Practice Experiment:
The week before watching students practice I had told them to expect something very different at their coming lesson, but I did not say what it was since I wanted to observe them in their "natural practice state" as much as possible. I was hoping to avoid students preparing for this observation since it would not be an honest representation of their work and defeat the purpose.
On the following week, I brought my computer to my teaching studio and reorganized the space so I could sit at my desk. After explaining that I would be observing them practice, I was silent and typed up a personalized report for each student while they showed me how they practiced. We reviewed the report together at the next week of lessons and went over suggested modifications to their practice routine.
It was a heartfelt but shocking and humbling week.
I was touched by the loving interactions between parent and child, but I was genuinely shocked that only about 20% of my students actually followed their practice notes (I create a personalized lesson sheet for each student to help us stay organized). Also, I was humbled that after 20 years of teaching and priding myself on being highly organized that so many of my students were not clear on:
1- What was actually expected of them.
2- How to execute the specific teaching points by themselves even after covering in repetition at their lesson.
I also have always assumed that if something were not accurate, then the student would isolate the issue and create a practice spot out of it. I was WRONG on this because over and over again I heard my students plow over obvious inaccuracies in their interpretation.
((((((Deep Exhale from Me))))
So, the other part of this humbling lesson is that I had first heard about doing this years ago but delayed implementing it. I regret this because had I done this in past years my students would absolutely be having a higher success outcome with their efforts. I will know at the end of April if I am accepted into nursing school. If so then this will be my final nine weeks of violin teaching from a 20+ year career. Better late than never but hopefully by passing this along here you can carry the torch and watch your students practice to serve them best and nurture their gifts.
The following is an extreme statement but I think the sentiment will be heard:
It DOES NOT MATTER how great of a teacher you are and it DOES NOT MATTER how talented your student is.
IT MATTERS how they interpret the lesson information and practice in their own space and time.
The only way to check in on this is to actually watch them practice.
We want to hear from you and know how you help your students reach their highest potential. Please share in the comments below. Thanks!
Flip your instrument to the other side (violin on the right and bow on the left) to be a beginner again and truly understand what your students are experiencing. This is the best way I know of to assist in breaking skills down into micro progressions so that you can fully convey a concept to a student. This simple act of changing sides was a revolution to helping me improve how I taught vibrato to young children.
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!