Joe's Blog

Synchronizing with the student at the lesson

July 22, 2018

Synchronizing communication between the student and the teacher is a very important part of any lesson.

There is a tempo to the way the student and the teacher interact that varies from student to student and lesson to lesson.  One of the most important factors in their dialogue is how well-synchronized their minds are.

1. Here is an example of lack of synchronization.   Patricia is a dynamic and forceful person with an extremely active mind.  She is used to taking charge of things.  When I start expressing a thought to her about how to improve the current passage, perhaps trying to demonstrate it at the piano, before she has had a chance to understand the idea I’m conveying, she has already started playing the passage again.  If she had waited another few seconds she might have understood the gist of what I was trying to communicate, but as it was, she formed a different idea of what I meant.  My concern in this is not that I have been interrupted, but that no communication resulted.

We have working on this issue, and gradually we are learning to ‘tune’ ourselves to each other.

2. Rachael is a student who, in her professional life, in an executive.  She wants information communicated to her quickly.  Once she gets the gist of what she thinks I’m trying to say, she doesn’t care to hear the rest.  In this case, most of the adaption has to come from my side.  I have learned to sense the moment when she has gotten my idea, usually in the middle of a sentence, at which point I simply stop talking.  It has become an easy habit for me, and she appreciates it.

3. With my student Irving, there is another type of timing related factor that effects communication between us.  I usually start my feedback by referring to the place in the score about which I’m going to comment.  Even if that spot is the one just played a moment earlier, Irving needs a long time to visually locate the spot in the score.  Until he does, all that I say is vague or confusing to him.  In this case, the best thing is for the teacher to wait for a sign, usually an eye cue, that the student has found the spot, and then start talking about the passage.  The teacher cannot expect the student to speed this process up.  Often the student is reluctant to inform the teacher that he is still trying to find the place on the page and experiences that terrible feeling of not understanding something that the teacher obviously thinks is simple enough to understand.

Another option with this type of student is to, by default, always point to the place on the page that he is about to talk about.

4. A sensitive time factor in communication is how long the student waits before putting the teacher’s advice into practice.  This advice has a short “half-life” during which its effect will carry over into the student’s hands.  This time is exceeded if, for instance, the student first speaks about something else, or goes back too far in the score to start playing.

Conclusion:

Staying present with the student is a full time occupation, but one that is well worth the effort; the lesson will be more successful and the student will feel seen and heard as an individual.

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