Skip to main content

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?


Popular posts from this blog

The Private Teaching Business Model

Over my years of teaching I've come across a wide variety of interpretations about the private teaching business model.  I feel that this is a natural result of the type of society we live in.  Many services these days are either "subscriptions" or "appointments."  For example, a gym membership is a subscription.  You pay a monthly fee to use the facility at any time during their hours of operation.  A doctor's visit or a haircut is an "appointment."  You call ahead to set up a time, you show up and then pay after the services have concluded.

With most services falling into one of these two categories, most people try to rationalize music lessons as one or the other.  However, music lessons are neither subscriptions or appointments.  They are actually a combination of both if the business entity is going to be successful.

The reasons why this hybrid business model occurs are:

1)  The service itself is centered around personal attention (appointmen…

Music as a Language: Victor Wooten at TEDxGabriolaIsland

Victor Wooten is an innovator, composer, arranger, producer, vocalist, and multiinstrumentalist. He has been called the greatest bass player in the world. He is a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician, husband and father of four, and a five-time Grammy award winner.

Performance Anxiety Part 1

My husband and I both love disc golf.  It's something that we both started together as beginners together so it became "our" thing to do as a couple.  We eventually got to the point after playing for a few years that I wanted to attempt playing in a disc golf tournament.  He was a bit more hesitant than me but I insisted, arguing that it would be a fun way to really test our skills.

I've written a few posts before about how playing disc golf taught me the value of muscle memory.  But during our first few tournaments we both quickly discovered a whole new category of unexplored skills: performing under pressure.  To be blunt, we both stunk.

As a musician, I was no stranger to performing.  I've lost count of how many solo/orchestra/chamber performances I've done.  Before that first tournament I had assumed that performance anxiety wouldn't affect me because of said experience.  I was just going out there to have fun, right?

Well, I was.  But the thing I had…