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Patience is a Gift

In 20 years of teaching adults I heard a phrase over and over ...

“My, but you are patient with me”.

Rather than being virtuous, my patience wasn’t really patience at all, it was awe. Observing the adult learning process is a gift. Watching their breakthroughs was pure joy! We get to share an intimate part of a students life. We are blessed.

But, what if your adult students aren’t experiencing breakthroughs? What if they are often frustrated? That's our challenge! Like detectives, it's up to us to figure out why and create small steps to success :-)

1. Music too hard? Together with the student, we rewrite passages or simplify chords. I do this during the lesson in small stages. They chose the piece because they love it so we can alter it instead of shelving it.

2. Student isn't remembering a concept after being told many times? Remember the Confucius Quote? “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” I constantly ask students to show me a concept after I have demonstrated it. This has provided many quantum leaps and shown me that nodding heads doesn't necessarily mean understanding.

Simplifying a rhythm

3. Rhythm issues? I love the Rhythm Lab app and have had great success with my adult students. It's fun, addictive and students acquire great rhythm fundamentals.

A low-tech solution is to ask students to write out the current tough rhythm in small steps like this example. The problem melody is at the top. With my help they write out the next two lines and that magical "ah-ha" moment arrives. Conquering one tough rhythm gives them confidence to tackle the next one that comes along.

4. Not practicing? That's OK. They are learning things cerebrally. They are getting 45 mins - 1 hour of music a week they wouldn't be getting otherwise. Some day they will fit practicing into their busy schedule but until then, explore concepts, write out music, sing and breathe.

My 'patience' is just me wearing a detective hat. I remember how long it took me to grasp concepts (like insisting students show me) so I am happy to be patient and work with each adult student until they absorb a new concept. Then I get to experience their "ah-ha" moment!

What tips and tricks do you have to help adult students have breakthroughs?

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