Music Teacher Tip #39 - Student Mistakes

Music Teacher Tip #39: (It really applies to all teachers and parents too.)

I want you to think about what you do when a student makes an error. Whether it’s playing a note or understanding a theoretical concept, I’ll bet you calmly let them know and then reteach whatever it is. After that you probably let them try again and then praise them when they do well.

Yet, what do most do when a student makes an error in judgment or flat out misbehaves? Most teachers lose their patience, get angry, and punish the child.

The problem with this is that not only does it not work, but it doesn’t teach anything. What if when it came to discipline, we actually applied the same principals as when we teach a concept?

Suppose a child calls out after you’ve clearly explained the rules more than once. What if rather than getting frustrated or angry with the child you realize that being impulsive is actually a normal developmental stage for them? What if you ask them if they understand the rule and if not, you reteach it and let them try again? Oh and then praise them when they get it right?

Of course there are times when a consequence is warranted. That’s part of teaching too. But don’t let your anger or disappointment be part of the consequence. You are their teacher. Always show your students that you believe they can improve whether it’s content or behavior. Your patience and persistence will pay off.

I once taught a first-grade class that was pretty active to begin with, but one boy in particular called out and even when he followed the rules and raised his hand, he had soooo much to say that it was distracting to everyone throughout the class. After weeks of this behavior and me using all my usual strategies with no improvement, I had an idea!

When he arrived the next week I told him that I love that he’s so excited to share during my class, but I wanted to make sure everyone else had time to share too and since I only got to see him once a week, we needed to limit how many times he could share or answer a question.

Then I gave him a piece of paper with 4 circles and 4 bingo chips. I told him that when he found his seat, he could put the paper down and place the chips inside the circles. As long as he had a chip, he could raise his hand and I would call on him. But if I let him use a chip, he had to give it to me.

He agreed to all of this, went in the class, and placed the paper and chips on the floor in front of him.

Class had barely started and his hand enthusiastically shot up in the air. I called on him and asked if he wanted to use one of his chips. He paused, shook his head “no,” and put his hand down.

I called on him four times that day. He didn’t call out once.

Remember, you’re the grown up. They need you to model self control. They need to know that you will be patient and teach them when they make mistakes... even when they make big mistakes - even the ones that make them hard to love. You can do this.

Happy teaching! ❤️🎶

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