There is nothing better than stepping back and seeing a successful program that you have built. However, developing bond with your students is an important condition to building a strong music program.
To me building relationships with my orchestra students is what keeps me teaching in the schools. It is something that cannot be compared with any other type of job. Without having a strong relationship with your students, you will also not be able to build a strong program. So read on!
Note: The tips can be done in ANY classroom. As I teach music I draw parallels from my discipline but the post is diffracted to teachers of all subjects!
5 Steps to Building Positive Relationships with Students in Your Program
Teaching music provides a wonderful opportunity for students to bond as a community and to also bond with their teacher. Community is best developed through activities. These can be very powerful. The extra concerts and activities are what separates teaching music classes from other core subjects. We, music teachers have a powerful tool we can use in building communities.
Scheduling activities and events for your students to do. If you schedule your school year so that the students have a performance (small or big) every two to three months, they will bond as a community. They will never want to leave your program. Keep in mind that you can organize smaller events or fun activities in addition to the bigger concerts at the end of the semester. Scheduling a concert requires time so that students learn the material. However, smaller fun events can also be incorporated. I talk about some of these in my post about extra activities to recruit more students.
I just finished the most amazing fundraising week. The students practiced really hard to prepare for a recruiting session. Even though I don’t know the results of the recruiting quite yet, I experienced the purest joy of being a music teacher. The performance went great. All students were excited, they bonded with me and among each other. They wanted to stay in my room for the rest of the day and could not stop talking about their performance. It was wonderful!
Show Encouragement And Be Fair
Feeling a sense of encouragement and support will help students bond with you as as teacher. The activities and events discussed before have to always be paired with positive encouragement. It needs to be always fair and authentic.
Students are very intuitive. They recognize a teacher who truly cares. They also can “spot” a teacher who is doing things by the book as opposed to having an authentic presence in the classroom.
Focus on looking for the best in your students and letting them know when you see their good qualities. Make sure that encouragement and positive feedback are distributed evenly among the students. Be mindful of picking favorites or pointing out only the positives of the best students in class. The kids who are struggling would need your encouragement the most.
Let’s do an experiment. In addition to your daily classroom routines, see if you can recognize a different student every day for the next month. This will not only help build positive relationships with students. It will develop a wonderful classroom management plan.
The recognition needs to be consistent with the number of students you recognize and how you schedule it within the class time. For example, every day right before the students pack their instruments, you would mention a student who had good behavior. Or every time as they move from one musical piece to the next, you would recognize a student or a group of students who did well on the pieces. It is very important to recognize different students every day. However small, find something to acknowledge each individual students in the classroom. The students should never “expect” recognition to come their way. Try to see different things in students playing, attitude and character.
The best opportunity to add positive reinforcement of good behavior is to catch something good happen in your classroom and recognize it- a students helping another one, a students sharing materials with another one, students making sure that other stay on track with the class. Be on the look out!
At the beginning of the next class, start with something positive addressing the whole class and then continue with your lesson. An example may be I loved the way we all listened yesterday! Let’s see if we can do the same today focusing on measure 10 of the piece. Or something like: Yesterday as you were packing up, I noticed that two students congratulated another one on their quiz. How wonderful!
This way you are structuring your lesson to have two opportunities for positive feedback- one addressing the whole class and one addressing individual students. If you stay consistent and fair, this approach will do miracle in your classroom dynamics!
If you want to see how to change the classroom environment through positive messages, I have written a step by step post with ideas you can also read here: Building a Positive Classroom
The key to building relationships with students is showing enthusiasm. Successful teaching is dependent on the enthusiasm of the music teacher. Students pick up on the way a teacher feels about them and about their program. Once they feel enthusiasm, they respond with the same. Show enthusiasm for what you do and enthusiasm about their progress. This will be a great way to develop bond with your students!
Teaching music is simply fun! It is the one profession that lets you get lose and simply have runaround kids. Most musicians love being able to make music with younger people. Sometimes when overwhelmed with school policies, we forget about the most important part of teaching music-having kids learn in a fun way. Simply having a good time with your students will build better bond. Don’t miss that opportunity!
Give It Time
Teaching music is rewarding experience for the bond that can happen between the students and their teacher! However when in new teaching situation it simply takes time for bonds to happen between a teacher and their students. If you are going into a new teaching position, allow some time to pass before making judgments about the students and their respect for you. The students will test you. Often the ones who have given you the most trouble at the beginning of the year will bond with you the most at the end. Know that you need to have patience in the process.
I recently gave a lecture at a local university where the college students came to observe my teaching as part of the lecture. One of them ask “How do you get so much respect with a middle school classroom of 30 students”. Besides doing all of the above my answer was I have been in this classroom for 10 years. Time and patience does matter when building a music program.
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