5 THINGS YOUR STUDENTS NEED TO HEAR YOU SAY

Education, Music
The following article ‘ 5 THINGS YOUR STUDENTS NEED TO HEAR YOU SAY” is from Matthew Stidham Guitarist Teacher, Performer Composer from an on line discussion forum on Music..
Teacher, Performer, Composer
5 Things Your Students Need To Hear You Say
As music educators, we have a unique relationship with our students that most teachers never get.  We spend far more time with our students than their other classroom teachers through rehearsals, sectionals, concerts, contests, trips, and the like.  We also get to see the same students year after year…as one of my seniors reminded me, I’ve been teaching their class for six years now, longer than any other teacher they’ve had, and probably ever will.  We may not realize it, but because of our profession we have far more influence over the lives of our students than their other teachers, and that’s a huge responsibility!
After nearly ten years of teaching, both private lessons and public school, I find myself saying the same things to students each year…and unfortunately sometimes wishing I had said certain things along the way.  Being a dad now only amplifies them. Here’s 5 things that we should all tell our students, and our children, on a regular basis that may make them better musicians, but will definitely make them better people.
  1. Actions have consequences. – If only Washington could grasp this one…but that’s a subject for another day. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with too many major issues over the years, but there have been several moments where I have learned that students today don’t understand this main principle of life.  Some are surprised to learn that if they don’t do their homework they won’t pass their classes. Most don’t realize that their words hurt others until it’s too late. And none of them realize how fragile life is until a classmate is gone forever because their actions and bad decisions had eternal consequences. Realizing this one truth can change the way our kids approach every day.
  2. Music is far more than notes on a page. – Most of us decided to make our careers in music because of how music affected our lives.  We can sit here and discuss the likelihood of music students scoring better in school, having a better chance of going to college, etc., but what we should also be explaining to our students is how music enriches our lives.  It allows us to express and wrestle with our emotions and feelings in a way words simply can not.  In a country and world that is so widely divided today, music connects us without the slightest care of our ethnicity or political ideology.  Music empowers us to live up to our full potential and to be the quality human beings we were created to be.  As Henry David Thoreau said,  “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”
  3. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up. – Yes, high school sucked for me too.  I’m not one of those people who thinks the high school years are the best years of your life…they aren’t!  But there is a certain innocence that disappears a little more each year because kids are being pressured from every imaginable outlet to hurry up and act like adults.  And deep down don’t we adults wish we had a few more days where we could just be kids again and not have the worries of the adult world to deal with? Teach your students that their best years are ahead of them, but don’t be in too big of a hurry to get there…enjoy every unique phase because there are no repeat performances of this show we call “life.”
  4. You are valuable. – I teach in a socioeconomically disadvantaged school district (which is the fancy way of saying most of my kids have never seen an Xbox One.)  We have a program at our school called “Backpacks for Life” where generous people in the community buy food to send home with students every Friday so they can eat during the weekend.  I have students that live in shacks that aren’t as nice as the house I built for my dog.  To make matters worse, their parents are often absent and show very little concern for them, their education, or their ambitions in life. With a student coming from that type of situation it’s easy to see how they could have a very low self-esteem.  Yet in the music classroom, what they do matters!  They’re part of a team of musicians working together to achieve a common goal.  They may slack off in math class and nobody notices, but in a music class they are a valued part of the group.  At least they should be.  Do each of your students realize that their education is valuable?  That their lives are valuable?  Is your classroom a safe place where everyone belongs and everyone is valued? If they don’t learn these things from you, they may never learn it at all.  If you want a truly eye opening experience look up your student’s addresses and drive by their house after school.  It may shock you what they have to deal with on a daily basis. Make it a point to teach your students how valuable they are.
  5. Thank you. –  Most of us don’t spend enough time thanking our students for truly being the best kids around.  I was having a conversation with one of our staff members just yesterday when she stated, “You’re so blessed to get to work with all of the best students.” YES I AM!  There are some student names that bring fear and trembling when mentioned in the company of teachers on my campus.  I can happily say that I have no idea who they’re even talking about.  We are very fortunate to have awesome kids who have an equally awesome outlook on life, who love music, and who are full of energy and the willingness to spend endless hours at school with no pay just to make music and keep us employed. THANK YOUR STUDENTS!  Whenever they do anything that’s above the bare minimum, thank them!  You’re really teaching them that hard work is rewarded, and isn’t that really what it’s all about?