Teachers, what makes a good student?

Teachers, what makes a good student?

I’m contemplating taking some lessons on my new sensuous flute, possibly with Bill Ochs here in NYC. I’ve always been self taught, in fact I hate asking for help - maybe as the oldest of 5 kids I’m just used to having to figure stuff out myself. So I was wondering what makes for a good student - from the teacher’s point of view. Give me some good advice to keep in mind if I go forward with this unusual plan.

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Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Always arrive in time, and never forget to pay.
Practice, practice, practice.
Make lesson time a civil, pleasant, music-making time.

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Every teacher will have his or her own preferences on this, but to me it sure seems easier and more fun to teach someone who has their own personal sense of what to put into the music, especially if they’re already well acquainted with the genre. So I encourage students to listen, listen, listen to other good players, and to tinker with the tunes when they play them themselves.

A "good" student also practices a lot between lessons, asks lots of relevant questions (even if they’re not sure whether they’re relevant), and is willing to spend extra time learning to nail things like timing, tone, and clarity instead of just amassing tunes.

I also encourage students to learn by ear but also to learn to sight read standard notation and abcs. So it’s nice when a person is open-minded and brings a can-do attitude to the lessons. (It’s not unusual for adults to announce at the first lesson that they have tried and will never be able to (1) read music, or (2) learn by ear. Too many people mistakenly think that the two skills are somehow mutually exclusive. This rarely happens with kids.)

By far the most frustrating thing for a teacher though is a student who comes back week after week with excuses about how busy they are and they just couldn’t find time to play. As if the weekly half-hour or hour lesson should be enough to make them masters on the instrument. Make time to play between lessons, every day if at all possible. Practice the material from the lessons. Strive to show improvement at each lesson. Most good teachers aim to teach their students to eventually teach themselves, so they don’t have to keep coming back for lessons. But this only works if the student also has that goal.

Dave, I’m a primarily self-taught fiddler but this last winter I took four lessons on flute just to get me started. It helped me bypass many hours of trial and error on embouchure, posture, and breathing. Well worth it, and then I was able to coax some tunes out of the thing. Go for it, and have fun.

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Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Everything above. Also…

Every teacher has a different ideal student, because every student needs a particular kind of teacher, one who covers the subject the way they need to learn it. Everyone learns different ways - some people learn better with lots of encouragement, some need help to find discipline, some need help to find and connect with their passion, etc.. Some students need to start from the theory, others want to jump in with both feet and fix stuff later — it’s all valid ways of learning, but you have to find the teacher who can teach you the way you need (as opposed sometimes to "want") to be taught.

Most experienced teachers know they can’t be the right teacher for every single student. So the first thing someone wanting to be a good student needs to do is to find the right teacher for them. Otherwise it’ll just be frustration all around.

Every teacher, though, loves to have a student with passion for the subject, who wants to learn, who loves whatever it is they’re learning, wants to find out everything they can about the subject. They don’t learn just from the teacher, they learn outside of their lessons and bring it back to the teacher and ask how to integrate them (or toss them, in the case of some things!).

Also, self-discipline makes for an ideal student across the board. For practising, for making and setting priorities, for communicating those priorities to the teacher so that the teacher can help the student learn the way they want to learn at the priority level they wish to learn.

Believing the teacher is also a good thing, as is knowing your current limitations. Almost every teacher I know has encountered students who don’t seem to realize that they’re with a teacher because they *don’t* know everything, and who don’t seem to believe the teacher when there’s a correction or a bit of advice that they’d benefit from.

Almost every traditional teacher I know yearns for the student who is willing to stick with the same four to twenty tunes for the first year until they know them really well and can make those tunes into whatever they want, and almost every trad teacher I know bemoans how few students will do it. Joan Hanrahan of Ennis told me that if a student will stick with her first four tunes their first year, they will be taught, within those tunes, everything they need to know about playing almost everything else in the future. (This may fall into the category of believing the teacher, I suppose.)

Teaching both kids and adults makes for a different set of "ideal" student qualities, too. For instance, for kids, the top ideal quality is that the kid wants to be there, the kid wants to learn whatever it is you’re teaching — oftentimes, they’re there simply because the *parent* wants them to learn the subject, and most teachers dread that. Thankfully, usually you don’t have that problem with adults (although you do run into it occasionally).

But Will is right — a student who comes back to lessons and hasn’t practised what they learned in the previous lessons *never* learns anything new, because it means the teacher has to practise them during lesson time, and that means less time for learning. At that point, you sort of shrug your mental shoulders and know that that student is one who is paying you to stand there and make them practise, and all you can do is take their money and be encouraging.

I see a lot of people who convince themselves that they can’t do something like learn by ear. It’s aggravating, as Will says. Not only do they often think the two skills of learning by ear and reading music are mutually exclusive, sometimes they persuade themselves into believing that they’ll never learn the to play, either, and what can a teacher do with that?

Does any of this help you? Heh. Hope so.

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

this does n’t come easy (let’s not get started on that thread again!) but if you can take in what the teacher is telling/showing you, then that’s a good way to progress.
many people think they do this but it’s surprising (or maybe not) how tempting it is to think of some other problem,interrupt,anticipate what’s going to happen in the lesson.
really listen - you’re the one paying for it after all so listen first and ask your relevant questions later.
observation is a good tool as well - you can sometimes learn more by watching.
you will,of course, have to work things out for yourself eventually but a good teacher can save you a lot of blind alley travelling,as Will said.
oh yes,and paying cash.on time.
good luck with it anyway!

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Above all, a good student has lots of "want to." With enough "want to" you can overcome a host of technical problems. Often the difference between the "gifted" and "slow" student is how much time each had the instrument in their hands since the last lesson.

Joe

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

I have taught in public schools and at home for years and years. A couple of years ago, I had the epihany experience (epiphonic???) with the concertina player who became my beloved teacher and my friend. (that posting is in "why did you choose your instrument" )Becoming a student again certainly made me a better teacher. Here’s a bit of what I have learned, slowly and with much gnashing of teeth:

Be patient with yourself. You are re-learning, or learning for the first time, and it takes time and effort. The rewards are endless. The first time you play a tune and it opens itself up to you like a flower, your heart will soar, and you will think "ahh—there it is…" Of course, the next time you play it, you may screw the whole thing up again. Learning is not a straight line, but, oh, it is so very, very wonderful. From soaring among the stars to landing flat on your butt, all within 4 measures…Your instrument can turn from a butterfly to a lump of lead…

If you are the student, be the student. Of course your teacher will say things that you are resistent to—especially if you are not a beginner. But aren’t you paying this person hundreds of dollars so you can do what they do??? Every time I disagreed with Mike, he would patiently say , "Well, you can do it that way if you want to…" Every single time, I came to the realization that he was right. *sigh* It may not "feel" right the first time, or the tenth…but if this person is really the teacher you hired them to be, they will lead you truly. If you don’t trust them this much, you have the wrong teacher.

I learned those things by being a student. From a teacher’s point of view—it’s nice to hear "thank you for teaching me."
Lesson time is lesson time. My Suzuki piano students and I begin and end each lesson with a bow. In between, I don’t answer the phone, we don’t socialize. We have fun with our lesson, but that time is separate.

If your music is a top priority for you, you will practice. If you don’t practice, then the music is not a priority with you.

I assume that the readers of this site are adults, or mature enough to direct most aspects of their lives. You are responsible for practicing. If you don’t practice, stop taking up your teacher’s time. There isn’t enough money in the world for me to teach a student of any age who doesn’t want to learn. If you don’t practice, your teacher does not enjoy your lesson. That is a very mild statement of a very strong feeling.

Oh—uh—sorry. I did rave on, didn’t I? *blushes and gets off soap box*
I did say my "bit" and then delivered a diatribe…now, want to ask me something I feel strongly about??? (This is delivered with a sheepish grin, you know…)

Stop playing on your computer and go practice…

Cassie

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

I’m turning my computer off now.. THANKS Cassie !
Bob McIvor

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Joe, your comment made me think once more about the fact that my very most rewarding students are the ones who have overcome the obstacles in their path to what they want to get to their personal best.

How could I be impatient with students who are having a hard time getting something, when I know that once they get there, they have truly made a difference in their own lives by their own hard work and determination? The only thing I’m impatient with are students who don’t try.

It’s great having gifted students — they make it all look easy, they get things on the first, second, third try, it’s fast, it’s fun. But if I had to choose between never having a gifted student again for a whole class of students who I know will get that *look* of pride and pure joy when they finally get whatever it is they’ve been striving for, no matter how long it took, I’d trade every gifted student for that.

Zina

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Well said, Zina. I’ve come to feel over the years that my best students would have gotten it anyway. If not from me, some else or maybe by themselves. My favorite students are those that maybe didnt think they had it in them and they surprized me and themselves through hard work. I hope I’m that kind of student.

Joe

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Someone who wants to improve, the does improve, then pays.

Re: Teachers, what makes a good student?

Thanks for all your thoughtful and considerate replies. What a great group this is! I’ll take your advice today, as I’m off to my first lesson with Bill Ochs this afternoon.
Your responses made me realize that sometimes I do start feeling defensive, as if I’m somehow supposed to know everything already, and it interferes with just listening and absorbing. I’ll set that nonsense aside, and arrive on time and pay in cash.
-Dave

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