Getting out of a Teaching Rut

Weekly Teaching Tip – March 31, 2014
by Aimee Geddes
As much as we would never want to admit it, we all can get into a rut at times when we teach.  Some students are just more fun to teach than others. We all have those who light up the room when they walk into our studio because they are so excited to learn you can’t wait to share something new with them.
Then there are those who just don’t seem to get anything you say. They may or may not have very much talent to begin with, but more importantly, their passion for learning to become better just isn’t there. So, therefore, you as the teacher give up on them in one way or another. We check out of their lessons mentally and start giving them only the most general in guidance because we don’t think they will do any more than that.
My suggestions today are to help us as teachers overcome our own struggles with these kinds of students and in turn help our students develop a passion for studying voice and striving to become better.
1. Go back to the “3 Ws” of teaching. 
What am I hearing?
Why is it doing that?
What do I do to fix it?
Often times I find that if I stop asking questions, I stop finding answers. If you become truly concerned about helping a student get better, you won’t be spacing off during exercises and you will really be looking for ways to help them improve. You will dig deeper and find real treasures.
2. Play new scales. 
Check out Sandy Cressman’s presentation from the 2012 IVTOM conference.
Sandy Cressman: Alternate Vocal Exercises for Ear Training and Connection
This link can be found under Training Videos on the IVTOM member page of
Sometimes our ear just needs a new flavor and our students will perk up at this as well.  Remember, it is the range of the scale that is most important. So if you are playing a regular 1-3-5-8 scale, change it up and make it a 7th chord and get some ear training in there as well. You will have to think a little more and so will your students. This will wake you both up.
3. Connect with other teachers. 
Attend a workshop and learn more about the voice and connect with other teachers. You will get new ideas and be inspired and have new things to share or try with all your students.
4. Don’t assume your students have “arrived.”
Ask yourself what your mentor teacher, or another teacher you respect, would have them do once they have reached a certain level. If they are sounding well balanced and their technique is great, work on stage presence or song interpretation. Assess their goals again and see if they are there yet. If so, set another goal that is higher and do what it takes to help them get there.
5. Quiet Time
One more thing that I find helpful is to think about each student before your teaching day begins. If you are religious, a prayer is a good way to enlist additional help. Meditation for just a few minutes before you start your teaching day can be a great way to relax and focus on the task ahead. I find that I need 15 minutes by myself before I start teaching to have a great lesson day. Still, not every lesson always goes perfectly, but I find that if I miss this time, I have a Very Rough day ahead of me that lacks focus, so I try to organize myself so I can be sure to have this time.
I hope these suggestions help you have a better teaching week. If you are in a rut, try some of these suggestions to help you find your passion for teaching those who just need to be ignited so they can really shine.
Happy Teaching!

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