One question I ask myself often is how I can practice the skills I need in lessons outside of actual lessons.
I don’t want my 100th repetition of teaching a proper bowhold to happen in my 100th lesson on bowholds with my student. The spacing of my students, irregularity in the content of lessons, and uniqueness of each child doesn’t provide the opportunity for repetition that I require in my own students’ practice for them to build skill.
Furthermore, it could be absolutely detrimental to the growth of my students for me to make the careless mistakes that are part of the learning process on my students.
In an ideal world I would be able to practice on a simulation of a private lesson, as airplane pilots practice on flight simulators. While I’m still puzzling out the technology and circumstances to take advantage of, I’ve developed a few practice strategies to improve my teaching skills outside of practicing during actual lessons.
One of them is using some of the time I spend walking to and from campus or running errands to mentally run through my sequences.
For example, I’ll think through the way I
As I walk from place to place I think about the way I want to guide my student down new paths to be build new skills.
I want my understanding of the sequences I’ve built to be so integrated into my way of thinking that I don’t hesitate over, or — even worse– skip a step in lessons. I want to be able to pull out a mental file of any skill at any moment.
I also like playing with matters of scale and context as I mentally walk through my sequence. How does this fit into the lifelong learning of my violin student? How does this fit into the entire life of my student, especially as compared to the other activities in their life. Are there metaphors or words I can use in the moment to make particular steps more comprehensible? Is there a way to break down the leap from one skill to the next? Is there an exercise I can develop to make the practicing of a step more exciting or easily measurable?
The time I spend productively meditating on my craft outside of lessons increases my capability within them. Consider devoting thinking time to aspects of your teaching. Just using five minutes a day to think of your sequences, your processes, your goals, your experiences, and your students can start to set you apart as a skilled teacher.