Be the calming influence you wish your students to feel

Weekly Teaching Tip – July 7, 2014
by Aimee Geddes

Several years ago I noticed that some of my students were quite hyper. Sometimes a student will come into my studio completely flustered. Maybe they are having a stressful day, running to and fro, trying to get everything done and singing is just another stop on their list. Maybe they had a fight at home, at work or with friends just before coming or maybe they are simply a high stress or hyper personality. Whatever the case may be, your attitude will reflect greatly on your student in the lesson.

It took me way too long to realize that when my students were flustered, so was I. I couldn’t think straight when they came in like that and sometimes lessons didn’t go very well. I found it difficult to pick the right exercises or songs.

After having children and realizing the calming influence a mother can have by simply asking her child to take a deep breath when upset, I thought about doing the same thing with my students.

I realized that instead of feeding off their anxiety, I would be the antidote. I decided that the minute I felt high stress and distraction coming into the room, I would be the calm I wanted them to feel.

Here a couple of ways that I have discovered this can be done that have worked for me.

1. Take a deep breath and encourage your student to join you. Deep breathing is a natural tranquilizer. Just taking a moment to stop and put everything outside the door and leave it there. Sometimes they need to explain about their day for a minute at the beginning of their lesson. If so, try to keep it from taking too much time. Then encourage them to put it behind them and take a deep breath. Repeat several times if necessary. This has worked wonders for my high stressers!

2. Have them do a few stretching exercises. I had a teacher who would always make me stretch my arms over my head and bend over like a rag doll at the beginning of lessons. It was so refreshing and calming to simply stretch my body for a minute. Again, this doesn’t have to take long.

3. Speak calmly and at about half of the volume they are using. High stress people can be very loud and fast talkers. If I notice this going on, I will slow my speech and speak very calmly and quietly. Sometimes I will even play the beginning exercises a little more calmly and quietly to help them relax.

I have noticed that by doing these simple things, calmness and peace can be brought into the room. I don’t like to feel flustered when I teach, and I don’t think my students like to feel flustered when they sing. It makes it much harder to make progress with the voice. Clearly, not all students fit this category and we don’t want to be falling asleep at the piano, but for bringing the stress level down, I have found these suggestions to be quite helpful. If we invite a feeling of peace and organization into our studios, it makes it much easier to advance a student.

Happy teaching!

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