Last week, we introduced Carol Dweck's concept of Fixed vs. Growth mindsets and how to encourage a growth mindset in students. But it’s not just the students who need to watch out for this - you, the teacher, can practice this too. You might be thinking in a fixed mindset and not even know it!
As a teacher, you may feel discouraged when
- your student doesn’t vibe with you
- your student isn’t improving
- you feel like you’re falling behind with your competitors/peers
and may sometimes feel like
- you’re not a natural teacher
- you’re too out of touch to relate to younger students
- you can’t do much to influence practice outside of the lesson.
Thinking like this is a fixed mindset and will get you stuck. Here are some ways to combat the most common fixed-mindset thoughts of teachers.
Fixed mindset 1: I’m just too out of touch with the new generation of students
Maybe you don’t really “get” the kids’ jokes or know any of the new movies. Maybe you’re bad with technology and barely want to take on owning a website. But you don’t have to resign yourself to being ‘an out-of-touch’ teacher.
People appreciate seeing a teacher who adapts to their students’ needs, showing flexibility and creativity in their teaching methods. It can be as simple as using an app game to practice sight reading instead of flipping through a dusty book of Bach chorales. Or it can be as integrated as using a practice app like Better Practice to upgrade the whole practice experience for your students. If you consider yourself tech-challenged and this sounds daunting, we will help you! Better Practice offers 1-on-1 support and orientations to help you learn the program and set up for free - check out our testimonials of real teachers who were ‘formerly low tech’ but are now seen as a ‘technologically advanced studio’. And to make it all easier, young students catch on to technology quick - using a these tools in their practice will come naturally to them.
Fixed mindset 2: Parents are just too busy to help their child practice
We all know having a good support system at home makes all the difference in improving, but a lot of the time, parents or guardians of younger students aren’t able to (or don’t want to) be involved in the learning process. Especially today when it’s more common for both parents to work, music practice may end up as something the child is responsible for on their own. And that’s a huge task for a young student!
You may have resigned yourself to thinking that’s just how things are, and you can’t do much to change what happens at home. While you can’t change their schedules, you can help to frame practice as a higher priority or even open up guided practice opportunities to your students who want more help.
Parents often just don’t know how to help, especially if they are not musicians themselves. Busy parents may be reluctant to help, thinking it requires a good chunk of time to be productive. In reality, it can take as little as 10 minutes a day - either to help the student start practice (which is often the hardest for one to do alone) or to review with them at the end of their practice.
Parents who don’t play music also benefit from being shown how to help - for example, if you need the student to use a metronome, show the parents your favorite metronome app and how to set the bpm, or send them the link to your favorite metronome and show them how to use yours. If you have your assignment list on Better Practice, show them where to find it and how to check how their child is doing.
You can also help to fill the gap between lesson and practice. If you have open time slots and perhaps some graduated/advanced students who want teaching experience, you can open up ‘group practice sessions’ where students can come in and practice, guided along by the advanced students. This way, students who want more help have a place to get it.
Fixed mindset 3: Music practice can’t compete with other activities like sports and leisure
Students only have so much free time in the day, and music practice is easily pushed aside for other activities. After a long day of classes and after school activities, practicing is the last thing on students’ minds. They might have a pile of homework, want to catch up with their friends on the drama that happened that day, play games to unwind, or practice some basketball. I don’t blame them for not wanting to sit in a corner, alone, and practice scales. But this traditional method of practicing doesn’t have to be the only way!
It’s the 21st century! Solutions for (almost) everything are at your fingertips - you just have to know what to look for. Think, what competes for your students’ free time? Sports? Games? And what makes these more desirable activities than practicing? It could be because they are social, or it could be the competitive element. Elements of what motivates them may be missing from music practice. This is where practice tools like music theory game apps or Better Practice come in: to motivate in ways that traditional practice severely lacks.
It’s also important to reassess students’ motivation and current interests often to keep practice interesting. People change over time - a child who is an extremely diligent practicer may grow up and become more disengaged. Their reasons for taking lessons and motivation to practice can shift dramatically year to year, and integrating these changes in your lesson plan is critical in keeping their interest. For example, a young elementary-age student may start out in lessons simply because his parents put him there, but as he grows into middle school he may be more motivated to learn songs from his interests, or things he would be proud to show off.