Goals of a Theory Teacher


4 Goals of a Theory Teacher - Sharing Goals with Students

Do you have goals for your Students? As Teachers, we all know how important it is to set goals for our students.

10 year old (almost 11) Ethan arrived at his lesson this morning worried. He had not had a chance to complete the assigned page in his Prep 1 Rudiments Theory Workbook. Although he knew that I don't "get mad", he thought that I would be disappointed in him.

I looked in his music bag - all his books were there. I looked in his dictation book - he had practiced on 5 days during the week. I looked at his attitude - he was ready to learn.

I asked him why he thought that I would ever be disappointed in him? He thought that because he hadn't practiced on all 7 days and because he hadn't finished his writing work, I would be disappointed.

Ethan wanted to know what WOULD make me be disappointed in a student. This began a discussion on what my goals are as a Teacher for each student. These goals are skills that a student can develop during music lessons that will transfer to every corner of their life.

Goal #1 - Self-Confidence

My very first goal is to build their self-confidence. I want my students to learn that there is someone who believes in them - me. As they accept that I believe in them, they will develop the confidence to believe in themselves.

As a Teacher, the realistic goals that I set for my students each week will also build their self-confidence. By learning to trust in their own abilities by achieving these goals, students will learn to believe in themselves.

Eventually they will learn that they CAN set, reach for and achieve higher goals in life. This is the foundation for self-confidence - "I can do this!".

Goal #2 - Positive Thinking

ultimate-music-theory-goals-positive-thinkingMy second goal is that I want my students to hear a positive voice in their head. As their teacher, every word out of my mouth can make or break their ability to think positively about themselves. By focusing first on the positive concepts when playing a piece of music or when completing a page of theory, a student learns to think positively first. Then we can constructively improve.

When a student hears "You did a great job transposing that melody! Now let's add the dynamics too and then we will play it to hear how awesome it will sound!", they feel positive about what they just did. That starts the positive thought cycle. (I did great; I'm going to add dynamics and it will be even greater! I'm awesome at theory!)

If they hear "You forgot the dynamics. Add them now!", they feel negative first - and that starts the negative cycle. (I didn't add the dynamics; I never add the dynamics; I suck at adding dynamics; I might as well quit because I suck at theory.)

Goal #3 - Understanding that Mistakes Happen

What happens when a student makes a mistake? Does the world come to an end? Does the book explode? Do you smack them on their hands with a ruler? No, no and NO!

ultimate-music-theory-goals-mistakes-happenWhat happens when a student makes a mistake? NOTHING - we just try again. Sometimes we stop and figure out why we made that mistake - is there a concept that we are missing or confused about? Other times we just do it again because we know that the mistake was just a "boo-boo", a "brain burp", a momentary lapse in concentration.

By understanding that mistakes happen, students learn that a mistake doesn't mean that "they" are wrong or that "they" are bad - they learn to just keep on going because, well, mistakes happen and it is not the end of the world.

Goal #4 - Being Respectful

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - Find out what it means to me. (Yup, showing my age again!)

So, what does respect mean to me? It means:

  • a child listens when I am talking (and that I do not interrupt a child who is talking).
  • that theory books are brought to the lesson each week (I can't mark what I can't see).
  • that theory books are kept in a "clean" state (I cringe when handling greasy books or having to pull garbage off pages before I can see to mark).
  • that students show up on time for their lesson (and that I am on time to teach them).

This goal is about teaching my students to value the worth of themselves, others and the world around them. It is about teaching them to be considerate, appreciative and honorable. It is about teaching students what is appropriate and what is inappropriate; about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

And Now, Back to Ethan!

ultimate-music-theory-goals-build-confidenceEthan was surprised that none of my Top 4 Goals as a Theory Teacher had anything to do with Theory. Actually, they all do!

When a student learns to have confidence in themselves, they will have confidence in their ability to do their homework with minimal supervision.

When a student hears a positive voice in their head, they will not "give up" when they get stumped.

When a student does not fear making a mistake, they will "just do it" and take pride in the fact that they did it without worrying about whether or not it is 100% perfect.

When a student understands respect, they will bring their books to their lesson and they will listen to instructions.

P.S. - Join the conversation. What Goal is important to YOU as a Theory Teacher?


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Keep on Learning... With a Smile and a Song!

Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren


2 thoughts on “Goals of a Theory Teacher”

  • Robin says:

    What a beautiful article, Shelagh! A good reminder for me today, that I’m still on the right track. 🙂 Thank you.

    • Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren says:

      Thank you Robin! That means so much to me! And when I meet a former student’s parents and they say “My son hated practicing the piano, but he LOVED his time with you”, I remind myself that I must have done something right. Yes, it would be awesome if all student’s parents would say “My son loved practicing the piano and still practices every day”. *grin* Shelagh

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