Getting Students Through the Mid-Year Slump

Getting Students Through the Mid-Year Slump

anxietynervesIt’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Actually, not really. If you’re a music teacher, you may find that this is a pretty tricky time of the year to keep students motivated.

It’s the time of the year when students who were new in August start to lose some of their initial excitement about learning a new instrument.

It’s that time of the year when parents are stressed out with all their holiday obligations and getting their kids to practice is just “one more thing” on the list.

It’s that time of the year when students’ after-school schedules are picking up — sporting seasons have begun in earnest, girl scouts is underway and school holiday performances are on the calendar.

So where does that leave us as teachers? Do we just hold our breath through the winter, and keep our fingers crossed that with the spring will come renewed zeal for practicing? Do we come down hard and sternly on students and parents in an effort to light a fire beneath them?

I think it’s time to get creative and think outside of the box. When we find new ways to motivate our students through this mid-year slump, we maintain their love, appreciation and commitment for what they are doing, allowing them to become more confident and capable musicians and decreasing our turn-over come January!

Here are a few ideas:

  • Plan an event for January/February. This gives something for students to work toward — whether it’s a winter recital, a masterclass or a school talent show.
  • Put together a short-term incentive. Last year I made pizzas out of colored paper and hung them in my studio. When students practiced enough times during the week, they earned a pepperoni for the pizza. When the pizza had 16 pepperonis, we had a pizza party during our first day of lessons in the New Year.
  • Find music that students enjoy playing. Yes, students need to learn scales, arpeggios, theory — and all the other VIP pieces and exercises that make them accomplished and well-rounded. But a little “Jingle Bells” or “Dradle, Dradle, Dradle” during the month of December is fun and invigorating.
  • Lighten expectations. I realize this may be controversial, but the mid-year slump might be a time to pull back on the homework load a little bit for students who are feeling overburdened and stressed. I, personally, would rather have my students learn fewer pieces and feel successful than come to lessons week after week, feeling down about themselves because they were overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin.

What do you do at your studio to help with the Mid-Year Slumps?

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