Whether your goal is to finally learn the didgeridoo or to simply be more organized and engaged in your music lessons, you may find that your New Year's Resolutions are tough to keep. We all start out with the best of intentions, but have you heard that 80% of all New Year's resolutions fail by February? Here at the MW Music Method, we've learned that to know what works, it's helpful to learn what doesn't work. Here, we take a look at 5 ways to fail at your music lesson goals this year. Then you can avoid these pitfalls and remain in that happy, productive 20%.
Fail #1: Don't set goals at all
While a savvy teacher capitalizes on the New Year's enthusiasm, a more passive teacher may just treat their first lesson of the year like any other. Set tangible, measurable goals: something big like performing in the end of the year recital, or a bite-sized to-do like practicing every morning for 15 minutes before catching the school bus. You'll not only energize lessons, but increase student retention. (A long term project means a long term commitment, and shorter term goals will give them frequent successes.) Click here for a free "Goals and Dreams" sheet (it's also found in the front of every MW Homework Book and Practice Tracker) to get you started with your goal-setting!
Fail #2: Say "practice more" without spelling out how to practice
Which would help you keep track of your practice sessions more?
- Coming home from your lessons with a few page numbers and titles jotted down in a notebook.
- Returning home with your assignments clearly spelled out a tidy, colorful, easy to remember way that you can look at every day throughout the week.
Really successful teachers write out student homework like a practice session. That could mean starting with a warm up (scales, finger exercise etc), progressing to lesson book and repertoire pieces, drilling skills, and completing a theory assignment. Include page numbers, minutes to practice or number of times through. Use color, and add in tips, reminders and encouragement or a fun drawing to help motivate your student. The more clearly you spell out what is expected, the more productive the practice sessions will be (and the more parents can help). Check out our MW Homework Books and Practice Trackers for a great place to get organized!
Fail #3: Don't help set up habits
In his hit book, "The Power or Habit," Charles Duhigg explains that the people who succeed at goals aren’t the ones who are more motivated – they are the ones with stronger habits. Research has shown that habits include three basic components: a cue, the routine itself, and a reward. For music students, this same approach can be applied to practicing: the cue could be as simple as finishing up dinner, the routine would be playing through the assignments spelled out by your teacher, and the reward could be wrapping up the session with your favorite MW music game, or putting a sticker on your homework journal. This cue/routine/reward system is actually a neurological process that leads to the formation of habits, but when you include music, stickers and games, it actually sounds ... fun. Without good habits, you’ll be relying on self-motivation alone, which is tough to maintain for even the most dedicated of students (and as research has shown, is less successful).
Fail #4: Don't celebrate the accomplishments of the prior year
In today’s busy world, it's easy to just keep working and working without pausing to celebrate your accomplishments. For music students, sometimes the only real celebration is an end of year recital. It's important to stop throughout the year and celebrate the small wins along the way. Do an in-lesson "concert" of greatest hits, host a family sing-along or play some extra music games as a reward for a job well done. It still keeps the learning on track (and the kids are having fun while you sneak in some music theory!). Check out Meridee Winters Note Quest for some great games that are both fun and educational.
Fail #5: Don't look out the window
The winter season can be grey and long, but there are also amazing things that only happen this time of year. The snowy weather can be a great muse for your student’s next song. Check out this MW Method student song "Visions of Snow" to help get the ideas flowing (or snowing):
The winter doldrums can provide inspiration, too. Helping students channel what's going on in their world through music is a healthy way to help them process both the good and bad in their lives. A great example of creating something beautiful out of something tough is this MW Method student's self-composed song "My Untold Misery"
Now take some time and think about all the ways you could fail in this upcoming year. (We're serious! It works!) Once you have your list, flip it around and you'll have some powerful New Year's Resolutions to propel you into a joyful, successful year.
Here’s to a year of great music and great lessons!
About Meridee Winters: Meridee Winters is a professional educator, musician, author and director/owner of a successful Philadelphia area music school. Meridee began her journey as an educator teaching elementary students in a Florida public school, where she discovered the curriculum and school system left little room for divergence and creativity. She made the bold decision to leave and attend graduate school to study Music Composition, eventually starting her own private music school. Today, that school has spent two decades introducing thousands of students to not just music, but to Meridee’s trailblazing method that encourages creativity, play and higher-level thinking with each lesson. As a composer and professional musician, Meridee has instructed at all levels – from professional recording artists working on albums to computer music classes in the recording studio, and from young beginners taking their first steps on their musical path to intermediate students writing their first songs. Meridee is a dedicated advocate of creative intelligence whose foremost passion is empowering creative and authentic self-expression in each individual. She now spends her time developing new materials and books to nurture these. She does her work as an author, as well as director of the school, from her home in Delaware County, PA.
© 2018 Meridee Winters. All Rights Reserved.
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