I used to see students who didn’t practice or didn’t practice enough as lazy. Not caring enough, not motivated enough. Now with more experience and a better understanding of myself and humanity, I’ve luckily found a more empathetic and understanding way of seeing those students and how my reaction to their behavior makes all the difference.
Realizing that someone who isn’t attaining their goal and not practicing sufficiently, most probably doesn’t know themself, how they best learn, or know how to put the right systems in place for their own growth and success.
The first thing I do when I begin teaching a new student is figure out how they best learn and what their current understanding is of the things that are going wrong in their playing. Depending on the age of the student, I’ll adjust the word choice, but I always convey that it is my job to make my student not need me or any adult to learn anything basic. Making them know THEY are in charge of their learning, not me. I’m just a guide.
Can we put our negative judgement aside and see our students as humans who are figuring things out? How can we help them see themselves and situations as problems to solve, that can be solved, instead of pass/fail...or seeing themselves as failures?
I have a student who will immediately stop playing when he makes a mistake and will start berating himself (loudly) or stop playing BEFORE he makes the mistake!!!! Can we make mistakes safe things to be heard? Can we create a learning environment for ourselves and students that we don’t cringe hearing a mistake but dispassionately notice it, label it, and figure out what are possible ways forward?
Most of the answers to these questions are linked to our understanding of ourselves. How closely we’ve met, seen, and accepted ourselves. Linked to how much compassion we can muster for ourselves.
A book that has been exceedingly helpful for deepening my knowledge of myself and how to talk to and teach different types of people is The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin.
Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach is such a lovely exploration of what it means to be a teacher and how the most effective teachers are ones who ultimately have a constantly deepening , broadening understanding of themselves
that is based in love, kindness, and empathy.