This blog will be the first in a series that speaks to how I organize my immediate workspace from the chair in which I teach. Within an arms reach I have 99.9% of everything I need to teach my lessons in the way I’ve found effective for my unique teaching style. My goal in this series is to stimulate teachers to do the same for their unique teaching style.
This photograph is the view of my teaching desktop from the view of that famous “fly on the ceiling”.
THE CLOCK — Of course, this is important to keep track of the lesson so one ends on time. I teach in a very creative, non-systematic way so for me the clock is also very critical for me to evaluate if I have the time to go into a lengthy explanation of a technical matter. I’ve been teaching since a teenager in the 1960’s and in that time have developed numerous “mini-lectures” to cover topics as the first use of legato pedaling, the overtone series, or even simple topics as the step or the skip. If these topics come at the end of the lesson and I don’t have the time to cover this point as thoroughly as I wish, I will find other material to use to complete the lessons. Some items are so foundational to my teaching that I cannot shortchange them with an incomplete explanation; e.g. the step and the skip. So, even someone that doesn’t teach “by the clock” finds the clock a very necessary item for planning.
THE METRONOME — In my early days of teaching I read that Chopin always had a metronome handy. If it was good enough for Chopin I figured it would find benefit for me too. Someone who does not teach “by the clock” certainly wouldn’t be one to teach “by the metronome” either but it has proven to be a very handy teaching tool. One of the first lessons I teach students about the metronome is that it is a tool to use and not something magical. I will play one of their selections at MM 80 and then at MM 84 and they will note very little difference. The lesson is that there is no “magic number” for any musical composition; again, the metronome is an aid for practice.
The reason this is my first lesson on the metronome is that students seem to be very confused about using their metronome. They invariably ask, “What number do I set the metronome on?” My demonstration helps the student see that the metronome setting isn’t all that important.
LIP BALM — Actually, this picture was taken during the winter season when my lips often get dry and I need the lip balm to keep my lips from becoming chapped and dry. For the purpose of this blog, you may have entirely different needs. Keep it close by. My wife has taught me that you don’t need to have a lot, just enough to avert a crisis. She will keep a tiny bottle of alcohol in her purse – just enough for an emergency, not a large liter bottle that you get on sale at your local pharmacy. Women teachers probably don’t need this encouragement but for my male compatriots this may be a revelation.
I wanted to keep these blogs to about 500 words so I’ll cover the other items on my desktop in Part 2 of Your Desktop Studio. Happy Teaching!!