How do I handle transitioning current, non-independent private students to group?


Daniel: My biggest concern right now is transitioning my non-independent current students into a group. I don’t anticipate hesitation from parents, but I’m trying to visualize my first lesson with four kids who have only had private lessons. Do you just retrain all of them at their first lesson?

So this is the situation everyone’s going to be in. I think this is a great question. What do you do that first lesson? And if you go back and look in the archives in the SGL Facebook group, you will see a lot of posts from people in the past who are now expert at this who said, “I just had my first lesson. I feel like I was run over by a semi. I was not ready for this. I felt like it was kind of clunky.” And then if you go and look a couple months later they are totally at ease.

The point. Those kids coming into the new environment, the main thing that you’re trying to get them to understand at that first lesson is that instead of you teaching some facts, and maybe going over a portion of the song, that you’re going to give them time in the lesson to get it. And honestly the best thing, the nicest thing you could do yourself in that first lesson is to have those kids spend as much time getting a piece of repertoire across the finish line, no matter how long that takes in that lesson. You’re going to see a lot of things that you wouldn’t normally see in a one-on-one lesson, not the least of which is just how needy those kids are, and just how much they expect you to do a lot of their thinking for them, and how much they expect you to do a lot of the heavy lifting. What do I do next? What do I do next? What I do next? They’re just so used to it.

Maybe you’re different. What I’ve found with 99% of the studios that I’ve worked with on this is that they say, “Wow, I did not realize just how much my students depended on me, because I’d walk away and they would have their question card up within 15 seconds because they had some other question.” That goes away over time.

So, the first lesson, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time putting out fires in the form of question cards, because students are trying to get used to this new format, and they’re trying to handle the pressure of all this new independence. And two, just giving them time to get through their songs. The the best thing you can do to help that child feel successful that first lesson is to break down the music that they’re supposed to learn into the smallest possible chunks.

So, if they’re in level 2A of Faber, and they’re learning Whirling Leaves on page 46 and 47, have them learn the left hand pattern for the first two lines. Then have them put up your card. Walk away. They put up their card. Come back. Okay, learn the right hand for the first line. Put up your card when you’re done. Walk away. Work with someone else. They put up their card and you come back. Make sure it’s correct. If it’s not correct, have them redo it. If so, have them put the hands together for the first line, only. Just break it down into these small manageable bite-sized chunks.

Over time, the students will begin to manage themselves, and they will know the process. And I have kids now in level 2A that will learn an entire song and won’t put their card up for 10 minutes, and they will do that whole thing themselves. They need their hands held for the first couple months. They are not ready for this level of independence, and that’s how you get them ready for it is to just break that down into smallest possible chunks that you can. Past that, just kind of refer to what I said a minute ago, with some of those suggestions there, and I think you’re probably going to have a very successful first lesson.

So yeah. Let’s see. Does anyone in the gallery here have a question?

Lindsay: Yeah. I think you kind of answered it, but it’s about, to me, I think the key is the walk away part. I’ve noticed in your teaching you give them the chance to do everything before you correct, because like what you were saying, what we do is a lot of immediate correction so that they depend on that and get used to it.

Is it accurate to say that basically it’s, I think you just answered it. The key is nurturing and fostering an independency that we have not been doing, because we really didn’t have time. In many cases I think that’s the key, is not really having time.

Daniel: And that’s a struggle I’ve had in communicating this, because I don’t want to get anyone here to get a sense that there’s some sort of judgment for it. It was necessary. We had to do it. If we wanted to get to measure 12 in that difficult dotted quarter rhythm, we couldn’t get hung up on measure six, so we had to get them 75% of the way there and then let them get the last 25%. The beauty of what we’re doing inside of SGL, or the beauty in the way we’re doing it inside of the group, is that over time we can be less and less helpful, which makes them more and more capable. This is how it works over time for them to just be completely self-sustaining. It makes home practice easier because they don’t need me in the lesson. They don’t need me at home.

So, the kid that would typically get stuck and spend 167-and-a-half hours of the week practicing it wrong, and a half hour a week getting it right with me, it’s now completely the opposite. The most trouble they have with them during the whole week is while they’re with me, and then the rest of the time they know how to self manage and they’ve already learned the song, and they’re not practicing it with mistakes, which over time lends itself to incredibly good sight reading.

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