Reading is something I ensure that I do regularly. I believe it can have a huge impact on our views of the world around us, it can inspire our imaginations and it can improve our knowledge! Recently I read the book How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. I am sure many of you have heard of this book, it has become extremely famous and I find it amazing that a book written in 1937 but is still so relevant today! And it got me thinking about being a music teacher…
Why is this book relevant to music teaching?
As I was reading, I started thinking about how I approach my teaching. The book provides many different principles to live by. Some are relevant to handling people, making people like you, winning people to your way of thinking and finally some are relevant to being a leader and changing people without upsetting them.
All of these points are relevant to us as educators. Often, it is not just the child we are dealing with when teaching, we often have to get their parents on board as well. I have often found that despite being an expert in the field that I teach, I am faced with many parents who believe they know best. Now don’t get me wrong, as a parent, no one knows your children as well as you do. However, as a teacher it is our job to get to know the child and use our resources, often learnt over many years, to decide the best way to approach the child’s learning. I found this book incredibly insightful with regard to how best to run a teaching business for freelance musicians.
1. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
One of my favourite principles in the book was ‘Be Sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires’ pg 196. This is extremely important. Often as music teachers we have a very set path that we want to follow, a path that is our tried and tested method of getting results. However, this will not work for every student you have. Find out what your students interests are, what do they want to achieve out of these lessons? Some may well want to do exams and be very methodical with their learning, but others may want to spend time playing pieces that they know. Make sure you are open to both!
2. Begin in a friendly way and don’t forget to smile!
Another principle that I always ensure to use in my lessons is ‘Begin in a friendly way’ pg 162. Being friendly and approachable to both the parents and pupils is so important. The relationship between student and teacher can be a long one. I have had pupils that have been with me for ten plus years! Don’t start this relationship off on the wrong foot. Another lovely quote from this book which I just think is something to live by when you are teaching is ‘the sun then told the wind that gentleness and friendliness were always stronger than fury and force’ pg 166. Always begin in a friendly way and you will find that your pupils thrive! And further on from this, another principle in the book is ‘smile’ pg 119. This needs no more explanation…
3. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
‘Talk in terms of the other person’s interests’ pg 119. Everyone enjoys talking about themselves and talking about things they love. When teaching your pupils, allow this to happen! The pupil may even reveal something that can help you hugely in your teaching of them! Allow yourself to become genuinely interested in what your student is interested in and be sure to make them feel important.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
‘Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves’ pg 119. Need I say more? Listen to pupil’s wants and needs and tailor your teaching to this. If you don’t listen, you will struggle to have a strong relationship with your pupil.
5. Throw down a challenge
Finally, this point spoke to me as well! A challenge is always inspiring and I know from experience that when I provide a challenge or a competition, my students always improve and I see the level of enthusiasm grow. It definitely inspires the desire to excel!
Overall, I found that this book highlighted things I knew already. By having these techniques laid out in clear principles it made it very easy to see why these things help. Teaching is not easy and we all want the best out of our pupils but always make sure you are approaching this in the right way!
I have been inspired so much to keep striving to improve my teaching. There were so many more points in How to win friends and influence people I could mention but there simply isn’t enough time!
Let me know what you thought of this book, How to win friends and influence people. Which principles resonated with you the most? You can purchase ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ on Amazon.
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