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The Role of a Music Teacher

What is the role of a Music Teacher?

As music teachers, a question we must regularly ask ourselves is: "What exactly is our role?".

Many believe the answer is a simple one, 'to teach', but there are many different interpretations as to what this actually means.

Firstly, in order to successfully teach any particular skill or topic we must be fully proficient in our own understanding of it. There is of course a large difference between understanding something to a level you can use it yourself, and understanding something to a level where you can explain the concept to another person, enabling them to build their own understanding. Therefore as music teachers, we must ensure we are properly qualified and have the appropriate level of training. Without this high level of expertise and understanding it is simply not possible to justify offering our skills as a teacher. Therefore, this must be the basic starting point for a teacher in any profession, without which, students will not be given the opportunity to show their true full potential.

There are a number of key points teachers should remember:

The Student is here to 'LEARN'

To learn something and to be told how to do something is not the same thing. For a student to 'learn', they must feel as though they are working out a solution for themselves. Students must be encouraged to explain their own interpretation of a scenario with the teacher gently guiding them in the correct direction. In effect, a teacher should show the student they have the ability to teach themselves.

ALWAYS put the student first

This may appear an obvious point, but even to teachers who believe they always put students first, this isn't necessarily true. Everyday, teachers make decisions for their students based on their own thoughts and opinions - an example would be choosing pieces for an examination. How do you choose pieces? Do all students for the same level play the same 'choices'? How are these pieces chosen? It is very unikely that every student, if given a choice of 6/7 pieces and hearing them, would choose the same 3 options. Many teachers will make this choice for the student, sometimes for personal reasons, perhaps to make it easier for themselves, this is where teachers need to be careful. If a student is drawn towards a particular piece of music, it is for a reason. If a teacher feels a work is technically too difficult or not suitable, they have to try to look past this. Failure to do this is only going to stifle the energy and desire the student has. It is important not to force your own ideas onto a student, rather, let them make decisions, encourage them to make them. This way, a working relationship is built upon compromise and respect, where each other's needs and requirements are understood. Always do what is best for your student, whether you feel it is best for you or not should always be a secondary thought.

ADAPT to the Individual Student

Every student is different, with varying ages, interests, ability, potential etc. The list goes on. It is impossible to teach every student in the same way, so as teachers we must realize this and adapt our approach to each individual student. The rate of student progression is determined by a number of factors and will differ from student to student. It is the responsibility of the teacher to gauge all of these factors and formulate an approach for each individual moving forward.

INSPIRE the student

As music teachers, we are in a very privileged position. We are in a position to educate and share knowledge with our students. Through encouragement we can help them become better musicians and people in general. We get to indirectly teach them about many other areas in life. Most importantly, we are in a position to inspire our students. We have skills and knowledge they don't yet possess and we have the ability to show them what they can achieve with real dedication. When you can focus your teaching on the individual student's learning process, making it personal and enjoyable, inspiring them to achieve one goal at a time, then you are fulfilling the role of a Music Teacher.

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