“This must be what my students are going through!”
L.R. 2nd Grade Classroom Teacher, NY

A few years ago Linda, a second grade teacher, attended my professional development workshop on the topic of motivating students.  After the workshop ended she asked if I would teach her to play the piano, since I was a music educator. She was eager and ready for the challenge.

After a few lessons, I could tell she was struggling with feelings of frustration and doubt. She stopped suddenly, turned to me and said, “This must be what my students go through!”  The experience of playing the piano was challenging and enlightening to her as well. She saw the connection of her experience on the piano with her students who struggled to learn to read.

One of the key activities I include in my PD workshop “Students Make Learning Their Mission”, is to ask the participants to play a simple familiar tune on a wood xylophone. Putting teachers in the place of students with a challenge such as this works very well to help teachers be mindful of what students experience.

For a moment pretend someone has convinced you that playing the piano is something that you can accomplish and will add joy to your life! You decide to give it a try.

From the outset you are thinking that taking piano lessons will be an interesting experience, but you have some concerns as to whether you will succeed. You are focused on the outcome; will you really be able to play enjoyable music on a piano?  You are probably not thinking about how learning to play will require persisting beyond many, many mistakes and failed attempts. You are not aware that there is a strong possibility for frustration, anxiety and avoidance as you are expected to play and demonstrate your progress.

As educators we can recall the most recent personal challenge we undertook to remind ourselves what our students are going through. Reflect on what obstacles we experienced,  how we responded and how we were taught. Doing so can help us connect with our students and consider what we might do differently at our next lesson.

Have you have tried this?

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