For those of you that may not know, I teach music as a profession. I have taught anything from high school bands to elementary choirs. I even taught a very cool Junkyard Taiko percussion group at a middle school in Buena Park, CA. My current venture in teaching music has led me to owning my own studio where I mostly teach piano and a few band instruments like flute and trombone. Through my public school and private studio experiences, I have noticed something about today’s youth (most of them). They are missing a key ingredient that can help ensure successful learning in both their personal lives and in vocational pursuits.
I have a piano student, let’s call her Stephanie. We start out Stephanie’s lesson with a piano technique book called Dozen a Day. I ask her to play song #3 on the page and she does so but not without some trouble. So to ascertain what her problems might be, I ask her to play it again but this time only to play the first two measure where I suspect she is missing some understanding. She then commences to play the entire song. I ask her to start again but this time to play just the first measure of the 4 measure technique. She plays up to the middle of measure 3. Whhhaaaaaaaaa? Inside my imagination, I am the helpless conversational companion of Ted Striker just trying to find a way out of this horrible situation
The ability to listen, read, and understand instructions is undeniably a skill. Everyday I encounter new evidence that this skill is underdeveloped and is not being practice to any satisfying degree. Instead, we coddle the student and make sure there is no consequence for paying attention to instruction or at the very least a sequence of action. Therefore, when instruction is not given its due why are we surprised when action, follow-through, and assessments fall way short of desired results?
So in the education of my young ones, I am going to actively plan skill-based activities to work on their ability to receive, understand, and implement instruction on the fly. I imagine we will probably start out small with one step instructions and then grow in breadth and complexity as their brains grow with them. Now, this might seem counter-creative and in step with creating mindless drones but I see it differently. Once you have the skills of following, understanding, and implementing complex systems of instruction or processes, you can start creating your own systems or even perhaps deconstructing current systems and creating better ones. The main idea is to obtain a skill where you can immediately understand your requirements and begin producing excellent results without being bogged down by inattention to detail.
Needless to say, I will be working with Stephanie on following instructions. Besides the obvious benefit to her, it helps me save time in the 30 minute lesson. (Stephanie = 90% or so of my piano students)
How do you practice this skill in your personal life or in education?