ASSESSING AND ACQUIRING THE BEST 'TEACHING' TRAITS:
Do you have what it takes to become a great teacher?
Can you acquire those traits?
Before embarking on any new career, including a career as a drum instructor, it might be most wise to do a critical self assessment of your own inner qualities, natural tendencies, and God given talents toward the job at hand.
Get ready to jump these first 'EASY' hurdles . . .
- A. Are you a working professional? Have you played in several bands for money? To be totally honest, It will be hard to gain credibility as a teacher, if you are short on experience yourself.
BUT, DON'T LET THAT DISCOURAGE YOU! You can begin teaching anyway! You will just need to contain your teaching activities to total beginners for awhile. With time, you will hopefully gain the needed onstage experience.
- B. Do you enjoy helping and working with adolescents between the ages of 8 and 14?
You will quickly discover that the bulk of your students will be in this age group, and most are easy and fun to teach. If you are one who can not tolerate younger, different, tastes in music, it could pose problems.
As teachers, we must often do the bending and the flexing, into the students frame of mind. It's best to accept whatever music styles they like, and teach them what they want to learn. We really shouldn't ever try to impose too many of our own musical tastes onto our students.
Remember! We're teaching an ART form. Art and beauty are both often individually opinionated assessments that occur within the eye (or ear) of the beholder.
Most art forms, artists, and creative minds are filled with a certain amount of artistic rebellion and defiance. The most 'creative' minds are often the most difficult to teach and/or tolerate. Most true artists will have a natural tendency to argue with tradition, imagine freely, innovate freely, and re-invent the wheel from their own perspective.
We, as teachers, if we are wise . . . should always allow our students that creative freedom with as few restraints as possible. It goes with the teaching territory. We teachers need to gain the ability to recognize raw talent, innovative imagination, and the other traits our students may possess. We need to HELP AND ENCOURAGE our students grow in all their own natural directions they are inherently inclined. Our job isn't to shape them into clones of ourselves. Our job is to help and guide them in the directions they are most inclined to follow. We should avoid dictating our tastes and biased opinions onto the student. We should encourage our students to follow their own paths, as much as our own rationalities will allow.
In the mind of a youngster, if we try to saddle them with too many of our tastes and opinions, it will only brand us as old. The student will probably be gone in a flash, and we will have lost our opportunity to help them grow in their own directions. It can be like walking a tightwire at times, but it's wise to often err in favor of the students opinion. This is especially true if we are observing the embryo of great talent within the student.
Sometimes it's hard for an older person to accept the thrashing, grinding, explosive noises that kids may call 'their own' music, but if we're wise, we adapt, and we help them learn to play what they love. The objective is to keep them coming back for more . . . every week! Hopefully, after some time and coaxing, and with a little luck, we may even entice them to broaden their musical horizons a little more towards our own.
- C. Do you possess the communicating skills necessary, to teach others? We teachers all tend to be especially talkative and expressive. I think it is one of the more important qualities of a good teacher. The 'silent types' aren't normally 'great teacher' material. If you are a 'silent type' . . . get out of that shell and learn to communicate . . . teaching may be just the vehicle you need to accomplish that end.
Teaching music isn't as difficult as you might think at first. Most students don't give a hoot about dry, boring, and complex theories. They simply want to be shown how to play like YOU play, and they want to be shown in the shortest possible time, how to play 'THEIR OWN' music. Give them what they want in large doses, and they will usually follow you to the end of the earth. Save the dry, boring (ie; Note-Value and Rudiment ) stuff for later. Once you have turned the student into a budding pro, it'll be easy to take them into the dry, boring stuff. A lot of the (would be) dry, boring material in my course has already been sugar-coated, anyway.
FOR EXAMPLE: Studying Note-Values as they appear in lesson #4 isn't at all necessary. They'll learn all that material in a much more 'fun' way as they study the Note-value FILLS. It's the same knowledge, taught from a much more palatable and painless perspective.
- D. ATTITUDES ABOUT DISCIPLINE: I personally don't believe in strict discipline! I feel it is the instructors job to keep the student fired-up! If the students discover the true thrills of playing, strict-discipline is rarely ever necessary. Leave all that garbage for the Marines! Be on a best-friend basis with all your students, and they'll stay with you forever.
I never scold or discipline a student unless they are completely out of line, and testing my authority. I find, when dealing with young students one on one . . . discipline is only rarely necessary. Even then, about all that is ever needed might be a 'stern look' and the threat that they may be dropped from the already over-loaded schedule.
*** FOCUS ON FUN ***
I feel the focus should ALWAYS be on fun! We must help a student discover the thrill of jamming with music early on. If we do that much as instructors, everything else will, (or should), occur naturally within the student. That is, 'IF' the student is destined to ever become a drummer.
Still, there are times when we must 'roll with' the hyper-activity of some frantic 10 year olds. It goes with the gig.
IT IS EASY TO TEACH FUN!
Think about it! What was the thing that made us stick with drums? It was the music wasn't it?. Am I right or wrong? We played because it was FUN. Maybe we didn't know what we were doing at the time, but it was just plain fun. So, we continued to do it until one day we became really good at it, and gradually it all began to make sense.
Really, we teachers are no more than glorified tour guides. Our job is to keep pointing the student towards FUN, new directions. Their own finesse and (disciplined) polish will occur in a totally natural way without force or threat by keeping this in mind.
If we don't succeed in making them love to play . . . no amount of discipline will cause ANY measurable improvement anyway.
PATIENCE: Some students will try your patience to the limit. This also goes with the gig. There are those who can't clap both hands together without hurting themselves, breaking furniture, and slapping you in the face at the same time. If this is the case . . . then we must patiently and calmly teach them to clap before we do anything else (from a safe distance, haha.) If the student eventually shows some improvement then we move to the next step very slowly, (and cautiously.)
A SPECIAL NOTE ON HYPER-ACTIVITY AND A.D.D.:
Many kids (and adults) suffer from these conditions. I've found that music (and drumming in particular) can often offer tremendous help. I say this after teaching literally hundreds of children (and adults) who were suffering with those difficult afflictions.
There's something about 'focusing deeply' (as we must do when drumming), that helps people LEARN to focus. With drumming, they're having fun as they focus, and the more they focus, the better they become at focusing. Very often, the hyper-activity and the A.D.D. problems may tend to clear-up, as the students gradually gain mastery of their instrument.
TEACHING IS THE BEST TEACHER!
So, after assessing all your own traits, it comes down to a simple shocking fact! You don't have to be a GREAT drummer to become a GREAT teacher. It HELPS if you are a great drummer, but that isn't a prerequisite. On the other side of the coin, TEACHING will help you become that GREAT drummer YOU want to be. That may be the BEST part of all this. TEACHING IS THE BEST TEACHER.
It isn't even necessary that you be a great reader or writer of musical notation when you begin teaching. Most students just want to learn to do what you do. Show them the quickest, simplest, most thorough, most fun, way to do that, and those students will stay with you always.
Reading and writing notation is secondary to the whole process too. Your own skills will improve dramatically as you get paid to do it every day. I have special lessons that will help here. See TD lessons #13 and #14 in the TD Archives, (ie; Lesson Menu #4.)
TADA! THE HOMESTUDY COURSE TO THE RESCUE . . .
Also, this is where my course enters the picture. It has been developed over a lifetime of trial & error. I'm convinced it offers the absolute quickest, simplest, most fun, route towards producing a working, jamming, creative drummer of professional ability. The hard part has been pre-designed for you already. Simply print and teach my lessons one-at-a-time to your own students.
The real question is . . . can you patiently go to SQUARE ONE and STAY THERE however long it may be necessary to teach the student? Can you assess the students learning speed then progress at a pace that will be both comfortable and productive for each individual student? Some students may need 6-weeks on just one lesson, while others may swallow 6-lessons whole, within the first 15-minutes. We teachers must gauge the students learning speed and then search for ways to keep them feeling productive, and confident. Confidence is half the game, no matter what we do. Learn to instill it, and then continuously instill it, into every student. That's really what the job is all about!
If you feel you can do all these things, then my guess is you will become a great teacher and you will learn all the other finer details as you go.
REWARDS & PITFALLS:
A career as a drum instructor is filled with many rewards and benefits. There are also a few pitfalls you may not be expecting.
*** REWARDS ***
Besides the most obvious reward of helping someone else into a career that you have both loved and enjoyed, there are other very nice benefits built into this profession.
- A. Money: This profession pays very well here in America . Though the rates vary from one geographic location to another, the current average is between $25 to $50+ per hour. You can make a nice amount of money just seeing 15 or 20 students per week. The lessons are usually 30 minutes each, but this still equates to being a nice part-time job . . . And, it is fun! Teachers in foreign countries will find the pay scale different, but I'm betting that in most areas on earth, teaching will pay relatively well . . . in any currency. Call around your locality and see what others are charging. If you do not find a drum teacher in your area, that's the best news of all. It means you can probably charge as much as you want to charge.
- B. Sleep til noon! I love this part! We can play our gigs until 2:00 am, sleep-in and still have time to teach 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon. You will discover that most of the students attend school until 2 or 4 pm. They like their drum lessons after school, between 2:30 and 7:30 pm. This is a 'dream schedule' and may have been one of the main attractions for me in the beginning. It is the perfect job for night owls and nocturnal types.
- C. Get paid to learn: This is unquestionably the very best part. There is something about going over the basics with student after student. We often learn more than the students. Questions often arise that force us to crack the books and bring the truth back to the students. Again, we benefit from this AS MUCH, OR MORE than they do, while getting paid to do it.
*** PITFALLS ***
- A. NO-SHOW STUDENTS: It goes with the gig! You will hear every excuse in the book, from: "Johnny came home from school with the flu" . . . to . . . "Freddy fell and broke his arm this morning". Most often there is no excuse at all. Sometimes they just don't show up!!!!
This can be very distressing if you don't handle it correctly. I make it known from the beginning, the lessons are paid in advance, and the full lesson amount will be forfeited if I do not receive 24 hour notice of cancellation. It works! If they don't show . . . I Take a break, and get paid anyway. They won't do it more than once or twice. Even if they do . . . WHO CARES? It is fine with me! I don't mind being paid to sip coffee, and flirt with the waitress in the restaurant across the street. How about you?
NO-SHOWS can become a blessing when handled correctly.
- B. NO BENEFITS: You will be self employed. This means no paid vacations, no sick leave, no bonuses, no retirement benefits, or any of the usual 'real job' amenities.
We musicians don't receive those benefits from our night gigs either! It can be a real problem for some folks, but I love the freedom I have, being totally self-employed.
TEACHING AND 'BABY STEPS':
HOW TO 'THINK LIKE A TEACHER': To teach means that we must originally assume the student knows nothing.
To get a real idea, imagine the following scenario . . .
Assume you are faced with the task of teaching someone how to put on their shirt, and they have never seen a shirt before.
- Where do you start?
- What do you say?
- Do you simply tell them to stick their arm through the sleeve?
First, you must show them WHERE the sleeve is and WHAT it is, then you explain everything else in detailed baby steps, one simple fact at a time.
That's what teaching is all about. Learn to do it with every lesson and you'll do just fine.
Try to keep this simple principle (above) in mind as you teach every drum lesson. This perspective alone, is the secret to becoming a good teacher.
Now, we'll learn a little something about planting the seed from which all drummers grow. This is square-one and it should become your number #1 priority with EVERY beginning student. (You might also discover that some students who 'think' they are advanced may need it too.)