After all these years of teaching, I had the biggest breakthrough as a teacher this month.
If students practice regularly, with joy, pride, and diligence, progress is outstanding.
My students on the 26 day challenge have all dramatically improved in several ways: better position, more accuracy with notes, more individual pieces learned, and better attitude about practice.
However, some students told me they just “couldn’t do” the challenge. That every day was just impossible because of commitments, etc. Some said: “I don’t want to” or “that would be too hard.”
So I went to another way to help students improve that I have often used with myself and others.
A weekly contract.
I explain it to the children this way. When you are a grownup, you will be signing many contracts. A contract is a promise. When you sign your name, you mean it. And that means you have made a promise to do what you say you will do.
So I ask them: how much can you practice? Then we create a contract:
I promise I will practice ____ (example) 5 or more times this week.
I give them specific things to practice.
They are so proud of themselves when they return the next week and tell me that they have honored their contract!
And I am proud of them too and rejoice with them as they show me what they have done for the week.
I found through the challenges and contracts, I was not asking my students to repeat things enough in a home practice. Enough quality repetitions are needed to become a habit. In every case, all of the children were more than happy to repeat measures or notes if it was a small amount, and something they thought they could do. In fact, all repeated things happily.
And that happy- can –do- patient repetition has a name.
And contracts, challenges, and promises all help remind us to recommit to regular practice.
And when we do, results can be maybe not perfect in all cases.
But certainly outstanding.