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Finding Balance Between Easy and Hard

An important job for both a parent and teacher is to provide a student with an appropriate level of stress.  A good example of this outside of the music lesson is the first day of school.  A child has to attend school.  It's going to be unfamiliar and there's no way to totally prepare them for every little thing that might happen.  Therefore, it's stressful.  But not all stress is bad stress.

Successful people are those that deal well with failure.  This is not the same thing as setting a child up to fail.  But it does mean presenting a child with challenges.  A good teacher should not give the student all the answers.  Rather, a good teacher should teach a student how to find the answer.  All the building blocks should be in place and then it's up to the student to figure out how to piece them together.

The main difference between challenging and hard is the student is prepared for the former and not prepared for the later.  A task that is challenging will not necessarily be easy.  It might also mean that the student could fail multiple times before mastery.  Failure is not a bad thing.  It teaches us what doesn't work so we can eventually learn what does.

A task that is too hard will always be too hard.  "Too hard" means a there is a lack of foundation abilities.  Which therefore means that no matter how many times a student attempts the task, he/she will always fail.  Think of a mountain climber.  The average person cannot just climb up Mt. Everest because they lack the basic physical abilities to complete the task.  For someone that has never mountain climbed before, Mt. Everest is too hard.  By comparison, an experienced mountain climber has done years of physical training.  So attempting Mt. Everest would be a challenge.  It will be difficult but they have the basic tools to eventually succeed.

It is important for both parents and teachers to understand that balance between easy and hard.  Easy tasks are fun, hard tasks are not.  Easy tasks reinforce foundational skills but without challenge a student will become bored.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for this careful balance.  If a student is losing interest in their instrument, giving them an extremely difficult piece to work though might not be the best solution.  If the piece is challenging, it could help rekindle their interest.  If the piece is too hard, it may just accelerate their decline.

Therefore it is important to constantly monitor why a student is bored or losing interest.  Are they bored because they need to be challenged?  Or are they bored because they don't understand?


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