music teacher

Now you're learning!

Considering the optimum environment for effective learning.

Successful learning is something we would like all our pupils to experience. Let’s consider three factors that are central to bringing this about.

As teachers we like to be in control. We know what’s best. We know what works. We have all the answers (or most of them anyway).


But for really effective teaching and learning we also have to go with the flow. Everyone we teach is different. Recognising each individual’s needs, harmonising with their learning speed, acknowledging each response and then responding back appropriately are all key aspects of truly successful teaching and learning. So, be in control… but do also go with the flow. We can balance these two life forces, and applying this balance when you are teaching is crucial. In practice, and in general terms, we do need to know where we’re going with each pupil and have a clear idea of a lesson’s path. But we also need to be constantly adapting. We may well have an agenda, but it must be very flexible. Teach the pupil through the music and the instrument.

We also need to be patient. And so do our pupils and their parents! Appropriate patience in teaching and learning has a lot to do with expectation: learning to manage expectation and being as realistic as possible is so important. Pupils and parents are often impatient, usually because their expectations are unrealistic. If we can bring realistic targets to all teaching and learning situations we will really begin to instil happy and contented learning.

Finally, empathy. In my opinion, the most important quality of the Virtuoso Teacher is an ability to communicate. For really effective communication to take place we have to do our best to understand deeply the person or persons with whom we are communicating.

“When our pupils feel they are understood then they can begin to relax into really productive and secure learning.”

Here, we must do our best to determine their interests, their learning speed, their level of motivation, their natural energy levels and what makes them tick musically – all without them actually realising! When our pupils feel they are understood then they can begin to relax into really productive and secure learning.

So, be in control but go with the flow; set realistic and understandable targets to create a patient approach and empathise with your pupils. You will be delighted to see your pupils becoming truly happy and effective learners.

The Double O Mindset

Simultaneous Learning is rooted in a ‘can-do’ world where activities are always pro-actively set up to flow sequentially and so provide the greatest chance of success and therefore persistent progress and direction.  This continually allows both teachers and pupils to live in in an environment of positivity.  And if we explain carefully how the process is working as we are teaching it during lessons, then pupils learn to use the same process in their practice. 

This doesn’t mean that things don’t go wrong from time to time, however careful we (or our pupils) are in setting up the next thing to do.  Maybe a pupil struggles (in a lesson or practice) to get something technical to work or can’t quite figure out a musical point.  

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I’d like to suggest a way to deal with this, and I call it the Double O Mindset.

So often, musicians and others who find they can’t do things, get annoyed and frustrated: “I CAN’T do this” or maybe “Why CAN’T I do this?” they inwardly scream. This often leads to the follow-up thought: “I’m no good,” or worse, “I’m useless.” 

Of course, it’s entirely the wrong reaction; the wrong response. Rather than this aggressive, subjective, and angry riposte, teach pupils (and ourselves if we need to) to go for the Double O Mindset:


Observe and be Objective

In other words, we quietly observe what exactly is going on, and then analyse the situation in an agreeably and peacefully objective manner.

Instead of ranting “Why CAN’T I do this?”

We say, gently and thoughtfully,

Why can’t I do this?

We observe carefully what we are actually doing and we objectively search for a slightly different way that may well simply solve the problem. 

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The word carefully is important.  When we analyse what we are doing we often don’t delve nearly deep enough.  If it’s technical, try to look, for example, exactly at hand position, use of all muscles involved in the task, exactly at what is being done in relation to the intended outcome.   If it’s musical, is there something not quite understood in the sequence of thought required to be at that particular point.  If our pupil takes this view, they may well solve the problem or realise what it is they don’t get, and bring that with them to the next lesson when, together, we can solve it.


So, do consider the Double O Mindset:  Observe and be Objective. It may well save a lot of time and emotional and misdirected negative energy.