Mindful Reflection, Before and After the Music Lesson

It’s easy amidst the hustle and bustle of the online world, to feel that as teachers, we’re not keeping up.

There’s an almost limitless number of things we could teach and cover in our lessons. There’s also a limitless number of ‘experts’ out there to tell us which we should teach and the ‘right’ way to teach them.

Sometimes, amidst all this, it’s easy to lose sight of the music itself.

There’s a place for frameworks, curricula, lesson planning, templates, programmes and syllabuses, but music itself should remain at the heart of the teaching and learning. It’s why we started teaching in the first place. But as Paul Harris reminds us:

‘Lessons really do come in all shapes and sizes. They may take the form of a voyage of musical discovery and encounter, as pupil and teacher make one connection after another through seamless and varied activities in a boundless creative world.’

Harris, P. (2012). The Virtuoso Teacher. Harlow: Faber Music. p. 37.

Music invokes feelings. We can all think of particular pieces and the emotions they stir in us.

I’d like to suggest that as well as thinking about the nitty gritty of what we’ll teach, we can also think about the feelings experienced. We can also think about what music means, both to us and to our students. Another excellent quote from Paul Harris says:

‘we can continually aspire to give better and better lessons so that each one leaves both pupil(s) and teacher inspired, invigorated and mentally energised.’

Harris, P. (2012). The Virtuoso Teacher. Harlow: Faber Music. p. 37.

Note the emphasis on both teacher and student here.

In this blog post, I want to share some prompts to help you reflect mindfully on your teaching. I have divided them into two categories: reflections before the lesson, and reflections after the lesson.

Neither list is exhaustive, and the intention isn’t that you answer every question before and after every lesson, but rather, dip in and out. The prompts are designed to encourage you to think about a few of the, maybe less obvious, but vital aspects of learning an instrument.

Before the lesson

  • How am I feeling?
  • How might my student be feeling?
  • What else is going on in the world today?
  • How might that impact upon the lesson?
  • How would I like to feel at the end of the lesson?
  • How would I like my student to feel at the end of the lesson?
  • What do I want this lesson to mean to them today?
  • What do I want to cover in the lesson?
  • What might my student want to cover?
  • What previous work is this lesson building on?
  • Will I introduce anything new?
  • What do I want the student to learn?
  • What would I like my student to experience?

After the lesson

  • How do I feel?
  • How might the student be feeling?
  • What went well?
  • What did I enjoy?
  • What did the student enjoy?
  • What would I like to do more of?
  • What surprised me?
  • What challenged me?
  • What would I like to do less of?
  • What might I do differently?

When you’ve reflected on some of these prompts, think about how your responses after the lesson match or challenge those before.

I’ve been teaching and working in music education for nearly 20 years. I’ve seen big changes in that time, not least the huge number of possibilities offered by the internet.

But the internet and all that it offers can be overwhelming, and sometimes, downright judgemental. The online world will continue to develop at a pace with which none of us can keep up.

I believe there’s a growing desire for connection and community; for spaces where we can meet, support and build friendships with like-minded individuals.

With this in mind, I recently launched a brand new Facebook Group, Teaching Music Mindfully. It aims:

  • To offer a safe and supportive environment for music teachers of all instruments (and voice)
  • To provide a platform for structured discussion and reflection, collaboration and creativity
  • To create a community where people can grow as teachers, musicians and individuals
  • To be a thoughtful and mindful place where teachers can meet others without pressure or overwhelm

To find out more and to join, click below:

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Mindful Reflection, Before and After the Music Lesson. Pinterest graphic.