student, and include a scoring rubric and specific recommendations for success for the prevention-minded student.

The Power Of A Caring Adult As A Motivator

In his numerous works, Robert Brooks

has researched and written about mindsets and student engagement. At a conference held at Columbia University, he spoke with passion about how one teacher can make the difference. In her interview for Tempo this past fall, NJ Teacher of the Year Argine Safa- ri made the same point. By taking an inter- est in each student, then modeling a growth mindset for them, caring and compassion can make all of the difference. Perhaps you too experienced the power of one or more caring adults when you were a student!

Tip 4: Take a genuine interest in

every student. Do your best to learn his or her interests, goals, areas of strength, and worries. It’s human nature to try harder for people who care. Reinforce your belief that the student can grow toward his or her goal by encouraging the student to develop a plan and to put in the work to make it happen.

Powering Through: Passion, Perseverance, And Internal Motivation

Almost every musician has struggled with finding the motivation to practice at some point. How do we inspire our stu- dents to find the internal motivation to stay on course and power through when the go- ing gets tough? Many educators are familiar with Angela Duckworth’s Grit. Duckworth talks about developing perseverance through observing and enjoying the nuances and de- tails in deliberate practice.

Tip 5: Notice and compliment the smallest of improvements, with great attention to detail--like a bow hold, consistent tone, or steady intonation. This technique is helpful with students of any age or experience level. Examples include encouraging students to find one particular area of focus for any given practice session, like creating a smooth line in a scale, then shifting focus to using rhythmic grouping to improve speed the next

MAY 2017

time. Many of us learned to focus solely on rhythm while ignoring wrong notes temporarily, then practicing at a slower tempo to correct pitches and fingering. Finding ways to help students focus on and enjoy small nuances helps develop internal resilience as well as independent practice strategies. Another powerful work on the subject

of motivation is Daniel Pink’s Drive. Pink details research on internal locus of control, versus external factors. Students spend so much time being told what to do and how to do it. Yet, psychology and neuroscience research shows that it is human nature to work harder when the individual is calling the shots. One example is the 20% time movement, or “passion project.” This is standard practice at Google; all employees spend the equivalent of one workday per week on an individual project. Some of these have turned into Google innovations, experiments, and animated games. We can heighten motivation and engagement by finding ways to let students choose and have control over goals and processes.

Tip 6: Allow student choice and

self-evaluation whenever possible. When feasible, solicit student input into repertoire, rehearsal order, and practice strategies. Encourage students to work on solo as well as ensemble music. Follow up with honest, collaborative, rubric-based evaluations of how much progress is made and how well the students performed. Ask for their insight into how things might be improved. You may even be surprised that they will suggest that more individual practice is needed in specific areas. If you keep an open and encouraging outlook, students will be able to take more responsibility for their learning and progress.

Stress And Anxiety Almost everyone has “butterflies in

the stomach”--mild excitement and nausea from the adrenaline of anticipation anxi- ety. But have you ever experienced a weird, detached feeling before or during a perfor- mance? This feeling is the result of your brain shutting down from stress. Mountains of recent neuroscience findings including functional MRI studies show what happens


when we are under stress: cortisol levels rise and blood flows to the brain’s pain center. Executive processing in the frontal lobe of the brain (the control center) shuts down. These responses are identical to what hap- pens if we are physically threatened, and can happen any time we feel belittled, shamed, or frightened. Even the anticipation of a threatening event can cause this very real physical response. At worst, these anxiety responses can lead to crippling performance anxiety. In everyday situations, lower levels of these responses can cause students to disengage, lose motivation, and stop learning. In a very real sense, stress and anxiety can make stu- dents feel ill and not want to participate.

Tip 7: Use constructive language

at all times. When mistakes happen, talk about what’s going on in the music. Keep it about what went wrong at a given moment in time, and avoid any implication that any student is a failure. Make concrete, process-based corrections for performances and improvements in creative activities. Caveat: Sometimes musical problems

really do happen because one or more indi- vidual students didn’t do their part. Try to allow students safe emotional space to ac- cept that reality, and encourage them to ex- plain how they plan to make it right. Guard against making any personal comments about students, or bringing up any history with particular students in front of others. Sian Beilock has researched, writ- ten and spoken about teacher anxiety and transference of anxiety to students. While her research has focused on math teachers, the underlying principles apply to music instruction. Any time a teacher seems un- sure about the content or reveals any gen- uine lack of confidence in himself or her- self, some students may develop their own anxiety with the subject matter. Just ask any teacher about getting students to sight- read. We have all seen this fear, and many of us picked it up by osmosis from our own teachers.

Tip 8: Set and maintain an

atmosphere for growth, where mistakes are just road signs on the way while learning and improving. As long as goals are clear and the focus is always on improvement, everyones


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