The Teacher's Role
“Personally, I'm always ready to learn,
I’m scrubbing a pan with Brillo, putting coffee grounds in the sink and washing the dishes. It’s a Music House lesson. Martha is experimenting with the glockenspiel and needs time to be left alone, without anyone looking over her shoulder. I’ve told her to feel free to interrupt me if she needs me, but 5 minutes into it and she hasn’t asked for my wisdom.
When I first began to understand the value of stepping out of the traditional teacher role, it was hard for me to feel comfortable doing it. After all, I’m being paid to teach this child, not to do housework. I would have to stop myself from commenting, suggesting, or even reminding the child that it was okay to interrupt me. Now I have become more trusting of this approach and therefore, more relaxed doing it.
Some children, are so resigned to adult intervention that merely the presence of an adult is stifling, and they are unable to feel free when one is in the room. For Emma, who simply could not relax while I was there, I used to invent reasons for my leaving the room: I need to wash my hands, I need to change my shoes. I could listen, unseen, from the other room. With me out of the way, Emma would explore the keyboard with a freedom that she never had in my presence.
In the Music House setting, the teacher's role is turned virtually upside-down. The plan for the lesson is not determined ahead of time; rather the lesson emerges through a constant give and take between teacher and student. With the child initiating activities, making all the choices and deciding if, when and for how long he wants to do a particular thing, why have a teacher at all? Excellent question.
The fact that the teacher does play an important part does not mean that
her role is easy to define. The following are descriptions of what I see
as the important functions of the teacher in a Music House setting.
Boldface indicates wording I find myself using that I believe helps the
child know I'm offering rather than imposing. Certainly there is no one
way to word such offerings. Whatever phrasing the teacher chooses must
have her integrity behind it.
The Music House teacher is a ...
RESOURCE with a wealth of musical knowledge and
ability from which the child may draw to serve his musical needs
PATH CLEARER who keeps the paths to learning
cleared of obstacles such as guilt, feelings of inferiority and stigma
MUSICAL SOULMATE who has the highest regard for,
and desire to connect intimately with, the student’s unique musical
OVERSEER who is sensitive to the needs of the
child and aware of potential learning moments where she might offer help
or suggest an idea.
· “You’re playing that chord in a low register. If you want the same chord with a different sound, try putting the middle note on top and see how the sound changes.”
It is harder to teach this way than to go straight through a lesson book. Because of the give and take built into the structure, the lesson is open-ended – no one knows where it is going. Success is not measured by the achievement of a goal that was planned by the teacher. This approach requires a willingness to relinquish control, which, for many teachers, is hard to do. However, when the teacher can learn to trust the child and the learning process, the rewards for both teacher and student are immeasurable.
© Meryl Danziger 2004