For the most part teaching brings me great joy. I love working with students, including those with less ability. It’s a bit of a challenge, really, to find out what will get them to work harder, catch on to something they struggle with (rhythm, articulation, intonation … the list is long!), and I do find that energizing much of the time. Working with the more advanced, ability-filled students is wonderful too, although even that comes with challenges.
But sometimes I fail. Sometimes I fail miserably, and sometimes it’s just that I know I never managed to get a student to work at his or her full potential.
A few years back I had a student who played well, but I just felt something wasn’t quite all there. The playing was pretty accurate, although there were a few surprising simple mistakes. After a number of lessons I pulled out some sight reading for the student.
The sight reading was played just as well as the assigned lesson!
Ah-hah! That student had managed to get by merely by sight reading lessons. A good sight reader can often do that. There were a few rare occasions after that where I could tell something had actually received attention but, for the most part, I do believe lessons continue in sight reading mode. I am going to bet that student, now in college, no longer plays oboe OR has finally learned that one can’t sight read through life. I’m hoping it’s the latter, because I think she found oboe to be an enjoyable thing to do.
I highly recommend that teachers out there occasionally check in with a student and hand over a little sight reading that is at the same level as the students’ assignments. You might be surprised and learn that your students, too, are just getting by on their innate talent.
Other students who don’t have the sight reading skill (at least not yet) try to get through lessons while barely looking at the music during the week. How to motivate those students is a challenge. I’m up to it with most of them: there can be ways to encourage a student to practice. There can even be ways to cajole them into it. It takes a lot of effort sometimes, but I know that every student can improve if we can find the right “key” to get them motivated!
Music is hard work. Oboe is a difficult instrument. It takes time, diligence, desire, and a whole lot of stubbornness! It also takes good practice habits and, in my opinion, a good teacher.