I am a pretty demanding teacher. I do like it when the students and I can have a few laughs during a lesson, but I also require a good amount of work and attention to detail.
Sometimes, though, I am reminded of the stress of their lives.
When students come in to the studio I nearly always ask a few questions: “How are you?” “How’s the oboe?” “How’s school?”
Recently not all answers have been terrifically positive. School has been stressful for a number of “my” kids. (It’s that time of year: college applications, SAT and PSAT tests midterms for some ….) I try to keep an eye on them and, if I think it’s necessary, we do something a little different during the lesson.
Sometimes it’s “backwards day”, and after a short warm up we begin with the duet and work backwards. Normally our duet is “dessert” because nearly all of them love them so much. Sometimes it’s a “choose what you want to do today” lesson. Sometimes it’s a pure sight-reading day of fun music. And sometimes it’s a whole lot of talking and not much playing.
I think that the high resistance that we get when playing oboe can also be a “stress additive”. If we need to spend more time talking about music, school and life, rather than adding to the stress a student is feeling, I think that’s an okay thing to do. I hope the students’ parents agree.
I am so concerned with students these days. I’ve had some who slack off, but very few. The majority take music lessons, a sport, a foreign language, too many AP courses, do volunteer work, and many add even more to their schedules.
I didn’t have this sort of life when I was in high school and still it wasn’t a great time of life for me. Did I stress about school? Naw. Did I do sports? Nope. But did I lose sleep? You bet. Tons of it. Worrying over … can you guess? … REEDS. So far I’ve not had one student who stresses over those beasts. I’m so glad about that!