If you are a music teacher or intend to become one, you probably already know about the vital role early childhood musical education plays in a child’s life. Not only do music lessons help young minds grow quickly and efficiently, they also work to create more complex neural networks in the brain. That’s why kids who study music when they’re young tend to do better in all their school subjects, especially math and language arts.
In so many ways, music teachers are special. It’s a fact that all 50 U.S. states require extra coursework before certifying someone as a music teacher. Why? Because teaching young folks how to play instruments or sing calls for a higher level of expertise. It means knowing the subject matter perfectly, understanding the unique ways to transmit that understanding to kids who are “blank slates,” realizing the enormous responsibility that goes with being a music teacher, and being patient.
As a music teacher, you also know that young people who learn to play an instrument or sing aloud need not have perfect pitch or an affinity for performance. In fact, one of the key benefits of early childhood music education is that it teaches children “how to learn.”
So, what is the best way for instructors to build positive relationships with their music students? Education experts say there are five core components to a healthy, effective and productive student-teacher relationship.
It’s important for music teachers to communicate clearly with students. This is the first step on the journey of building a beneficial relationship with any young person.
But the subject of music, especially, demands that teachers do basic things right, like learning exactly how to pronounce kids’ names, speaking clearly and loudly enough for students to hear you, relaying messages to children and their parents when a lesson demands special types of practice or extra time, letting students call or email you whenever they have questions about coursework, and always including parents “in the loop” of communication when you exchange an email or phone call with a pupil.
Communication is, of course, vital in all teacher-student relationships. That’s a given. But in early childhood music education, teachers need to be extra diligent about getting ideas across clearly and succinctly.
The very idea of “music” implies proper hearing and the transmission of something from one person to another. Music teachers have a special responsibility to communicate exceptionally well with every child they teach.
What do music teachers need to do to communicate properly with their students? Here’s a short list of essential points:
- Learn every student’s name and pronounce it correctly
- Send necessary messages to students and parents
- Speak clearly and with enough volume
- Be open to questions outside of class time
- Keep parents “in the loop” whenever you text, email or phone a student
All teachers need to be empathetic, but music instructors have to place added emphasis on this skill in order to know when pupils are frustrated, not absorbing instruction, having problems at home or in other coursework, or simply feeling bombarded with new information. It takes practice to become a skilled listener and observer of what’s going on in children’s lives.
Empathy means many things, but above all it means being able to put yourself “in the student’s shoes” and see things from their perspective. Music instructors know that youngsters often endure emotional ups and downs that come with growing up.
Teachers also realize that, even though children are able to absorb a large amount of material in a short time, they sometimes need a break to let their brains process all the fresh data. Being empathetic is one of the most effective ways to construct long-term relationships with your students.
What does it take to be an empathetic teacher?
- Highly-developed listening skills
- The ability to see when kids are frustrated
- An intuitive sense that lets you know when something is troubling a child
- A willingness to see things from the student’s point of view
- A clear memory of how challenging school and lessons can be
Making Lessons Fun
One thing youngsters often mention about classes they enjoy is that a particular teacher “makes the lessons fun.” It’s essential for music instructors to incorporate a bit of fun into each session with youngsters.
When the goal is a strong student-teacher relationship, a small dose of fun goes a long way. How does a teacher make a piano, violin or guitar lesson fun?
There are lots of ways. Many of the most experienced instrument instructors say that it helps to speak casually with children and avoid creating an atmosphere that is too much like their regular school lessons.
Occasionally show a video of a humorous music lesson or an interesting fact about how a particular instrument is constructed. Short audio clips of famous musicians playing the relevant instrument gives kids a sense that they can achieve a high level of proficiency if they persevere.
Music teachers can build excellent, productive relationships with students simply by being organized. Know what you already said, taught and showed in previous classes. Pupils are quick to pick up on the fact that their instructor is an organized person.
The kids might not say so or outwardly show their appreciation for this skill, but they do value teachers who show up on time, deliver well-planned lessons, bring a certain amount of structure to the session and have clear-cut goals for pupils.
Organized instructors plan tests, assessments, question-answer sessions for parents, discussion time with students, days off, special outings to concerts or recitals, fun time to watch relevant videos, and more. Honing your organization skills is not an obvious path to a better relationship with students, but it’s a proven way to show youngsters that you care about what you do and are determined to stick with your own plan of success in the classroom.
Tailoring Lessons to Individuals
Unlike many traditional classroom subjects, music lessons must be highly individualized. Of course, math and English teachers also need to give one-on-one instruction to students at times, but music teachers need to become specialists in tailor-made lesson plans.
That’s because each young mind responds to music lessons in widely diverse ways. What works for math and science teachers won’t be effective in a music course. In order to build a strong relationship with students, music teachers must build each lesson around that child’s ability to understand.
The Bottom Line for Students and Teachers
At Prodigies Music (Prodigiesmusic.com), all of our teachers are experienced professionals who know the important role early childhood music education plays in the emotional and intellectual life of students. Each one of our staff members understands all the essential pieces of the music teaching puzzle.
If you know students or parents who want to give their children the very best music education experience possible, let them know about Prodigies Music’s award-winning programs for kids of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
It’s never too early to begin. Whether kids are two or seventeen, they can benefit from learning how to play an instrument or sing and read music notation.