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Don't Apologize (Humor Me)

To say my student was hostile was an understatement. He looked at me with one eyebrow raised and an irritated look in his eye. I had just informed this 67 year old gentleman that he needed to do flash cards.

Yup, flashcards.

This good man thought I was crazy. Asking a grown man to do flashcards? The nerve! Flashcards are for kids learning their multiplication facts. What was I thinking?

I was thinking that flashcards are a fundamental component of my approach to learning piano and I wasn't about to apologize for the temerity I showed asking someone old enough to be my father to do flashcards. Because I'm right and I know what I'm doing.

But, he deserved respect, of course -- all of my students do -- and so this needed to be treated carefully. Respectfully. With a dose of humility, but also with some bravery thrown in. So, I looked at him and said ...

"Humor me . . . please?"

And he did. When I asked his permission, but with the implication that he still had to do it, he did it. Every week I assigned him five more cards to memorize and add to his review pile. Each week he did it, and grumbled from time to time.

And then, about a year into his lessons, one day I forgot to check. Forgot to check if he had learned that week's five cards. And boy did I hear about it!

This practice of flashcards had become important to him too and he was proud of the work he had done -- as he should have been. And my weekly asking and checking had become important to him.

Here's the cool thing: I was right. I knew what I was doing. But I was brave enough and respectful enough to just ask him to humor me, and work with flashcards.

So, whatever your "thing" is -- that thing you feel is crucial for your students -- insist on it, but be respectful. Throw in a dose of humility, and ask your students to humor you. Because they like you (and they do trust you as their teacher - after all, they picked you!), they will do it. And you will have made a convert to your methodology while at the same time showing appreciation and respect to your student.

Come on, just try it . . . humor me, please?

#teachingadults #methodology