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Don't Apologize (Humor Me)

April 18, 2018

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? 

 

 

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