#47 Random Thoughts on Teaching

My classroom this semester is a large space, filled with instruments, and usually reserved for large ensembles to rehearse. Upstate New York is getting cold, and the heat hasn’t been turned on yet, so the room was empty and chill. The rainy weather made it even cooler today. After teaching two lessons, I decided to teach in the hallway. As I often tell my friends, I grew up in Hong Kong, and my body was made for subtropical climate (although I have been living in Upstate NY for 10+ years).

As I was teaching in the afternoon, I was so surprised to see one of my students, because he just had a lesson with me in the morning. He said he came back to practice! I asked him to use my classroom, since I wasn’t teaching in there, and there were amplifiers he could use.

As a first year arts student (ceramics), I thought he signed up guitar lessons for fun. He’s been making a lot of progress, and does not mind when I drill him on technique. We have been working on blues improvisation, and from his video assignments, ideas he came up with went above and beyond what I have shown him.

A dedicated student like him is a teacher’s dream. I have had colleagues who told me they only teach to the best students, and wouldn’t care about students who don’t do well. It doesn’t matter if the “bad” students were trying hard or not, beacuse if they were not performing well, they have not put enough time and effort into the materials.

I am still conflicted with that thought. I always thought “good” students wouldn’t really need a teacher and would be motivated to succeed no matter what. It’s really the “struggling” students who need a teacher. But my colleagues aren’t completely wrong. I have had students who couldn’t care less about class materials, no matter how much feedback I provided on their assignments. But is a student “under performing” due to my bad teaching?

Back to my super dedicated first year student – after I finished my teaching, I went to the classroom to collect my belongings, and he was practicing what he learned in the morning with a metronome. Since he has been doing so well, I have decided to show him something more challenging – the first chorus of Freedie King’s Hideway. We are six weeks into the semester, that’s how long he has been playing guitar, and I understand why he is improving so fast. I couldn’t help but sat at the drumset to play with him. He had a background in playing drumset and percussion, and so we switched instruments and jammed a bit on Pipeline! He later told me he is considering adding music as a second major. I couldn’t be happier.

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