Why You Should Learn Flute Online From Someone Who Loves TeachingJul 13, 2015
Over the past 22 years (since 1993, when I was 16 to be exact), I've loved teaching the flute to children, young adults and older adults. I'd always noticed that where other professional musicians taught "for money on the side", I always considered it a distinct part of my profession as a flute player. In other words, I've always loved teaching the flute. It's only been in the last 12 months however that I've started really analysing what it is about me that makes me love teaching. My mum, now retired, was a school maths teacher and always found it satisfying as a profession. She seems to inspire teenagers left right and centre to be good at maths, no matter how much they had hated it previously! I always thought I'd just taken a little bit after her. That may be the case, but I've worked out a more comprehensive analysis of my innate self that points to what I call the "teaching trifecta". I feel I am so lucky to have been wired (or brought up) to inherently have the 3 power traits of loving relating to individuals, loving bringing out the best in others and in myself, and having a natural sense of positivity. On top of this, I love learning, so I get excited by sharing how to learn, understand and accomplish something new. In other words teach!
Researching a little further into these strengths of mine revealed that as someone who is good at relating to people, I "form solid, genuine, and mutually rewarding relationships". That is me to a T! As a teacher of the flute, this sense of wanting to get to know my student and how they learn best is such a benefit when giving flute lessons. It really truly propels them forward as it's clear you really understand and are interested in them as a person. When I started teaching the flute online, I found it initially to be a challenge to work out how to utilize this relating strength of mine, when I was recording video lessons for students all over the world who I may never meet. What I realized was that if I treated the videos as if I was teaching ALL of my past students rolled into 1 personality, I could address many types of learning styles and personalities. I started teaching to my "online flute student" as someone who could and wanted to know everything about playing the flute in a super clear and concise way. As I started approaching the video lessons this way, what resulted was a structured series of lessons that every beginner online flute student could relate to. That's what I had hoped for and luckily, the feedback of the first 40 students was entirely positive. I couldn't have wished for anything better! It seemed that I was able to connect with my online flute students in a way that I had thought was only possible in individual flute lessons.
As a younger adult, I certainly had traits of being a perfectionist. At times this was a good thing, at times it wasn't. Anyone who knows a perfectionist (or IS one) knows what I mean. This trait seemed to subside a little as a matured and it turned into a really great skill, or behaviour that I know I have. I appreciate and strive for excellence - excellence in own skills, and I convey this to and encourage it in my students in all that they do. There's a big difference between excellence and perfection. Perfection isn't always achievable, but excellence certainly is. It has a sense of integrity to it. Anyone who appreciates excellence will achieve more and they will value the achievements of others. That is where it has influenced my teaching. I enjoy seeing others succeed in what they set out to do. And I 100% LOVE assisting them to get there. I've learnt that I can convey this when teaching the flute online - by instilling a sense of WANTING to achieve in my students. Conveniently, this comes completely naturally to me (well, natural, in the sense that I think it's been developing over my life into a strength). For any student who actually loves learning, this expectation of excellence is a true motivator for them. The interesting thing is that excellence is relative to everyone. For one person, it could be learning to play a favorite childhood song on the flute, for someone else it could be playing in a band or an orchestra. Working towards this personal excellence is the motivator for each and every online flute student, and without even knowing what it is that each student is personally striving for, I've noticed that I can still somehow give them the skills and encouragement to get there. It's quite remarkable and surprising at how successful it has been.
My third strength that distinguishes my flute teaching (online and in person) is that of positivity. It's not the "come on, you can do it" straight-out-of-the-packet middle-of-the-road positivity, it's the "not only do I believe each of my students can achieve what they're working towards, but I actually KNOW they can". I know they can because I've seen it happen before - time and time again - with my individual flute students. Positivity is a funny one - it has to be genuine to be effective. Everyone, no matter how young they are, can tell whether the positive encouragement is genuine. It has to be accurate and absolutely must be believed by the teacher for it to have a good effect on the flute student. In other words, positively can't be faked. Even though positivity comes quite naturally to me, I like to be "realistically positive". This means always being honest. Not everything that the student does will be a good step forward, but there will always be something that is a good step forward - something that the flute student may not even have noticed. And to tell you the truth, very often, the flute teacher has not even noticed it themselves, so they can't possibly convey it to the student. The trick is, for me, to keep eyes and ears open to pick out the little (or big) advancement that the flute student has made. All little advancements add up into something amazing - that is a fact. Small, continuous, positive steps in the right direction will get you to where you want to be. Conveying this to someone learning the flute online, using video lessons, is about presenting realistic expectations about what they can expect to achieve. From teaching literally hundreds of students, I've worked out what is possible, by whom and in how long. I love having this realism to the lessons so that the student manages to get out of the flute lessons what they thought they would! Not only is this critical in keeping the "customer happy" but it's important in order to keep my integrity and keep myself happy knowing that my online flute students are succeeding!
Lastly, I love learning myself. I've been wondering - is it possible to love learning but not love teaching? I think it is. If someone is so self-absorbed that they just want to know more and more, and for their own benefit, then they may not be even interested in passing on their knowledge. However, I do believe that sooner or later, this person will realize that they love teaching as well as learning. So it seems that my love of learning is also critical to my love of teaching. How could I use my relator skills to understand the student if I didn't myself like learning? From the incredible look on my students' faces (no matter the age) when they understand a new little concept, or learn how to play a great new piece, I know that I have struck gold with why I teach. I completely know this feeling that I can see in them, and it feels amazing. Providing a course online that shows how to learn the flute well from the ground up is the most rewarding recent development in my career. It's allowed me to bring my "trifecta of teaching skills" to more and more people, all around the world. Hearing their stories of how they've achieved so much since learning with me really makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It may sound like I'm doing it all to keep myself happy and satisfied, and well, I do! Seeing my students succeed beyond their wildest dreams makes me a success - and I feel good about it :)