Teacher Talk: How to express standards


As a teacher, you can have high standards and be particular, honest, and clear with students, and still be kind and fair.

Whether you want to be nice or not, you will get better results by stating what is needed rather than delivering a judgement about a future you can’t know.

Instead of:
“You are not up to professional standards, and I can’t picture you ever being there”
“You will never have a career.”
“You will never be as good as ___.”

Even if you are totally fed up with this student – even if they are lazy, or irresponsible, or just don’t seem to care, giving them a list of things to do is ultimately more productive for both of you than the judgement by itself. Example:

    “If you want to sing professionally you need to work on these things:

  1. Improve your intonation.
  2. Give evidence of a dramatic intent in your song or aria.
  3. Rid yourself of interfering tensions that are messing with your intelligibility and endurance.
  4. Get some basic experience before considering auditioning for management.
  5. Have your repertoire much better memorized earlier in the process.”

If a student fails to make progress on the issues you have identified, then you can calmly discuss whether you can fix these things together or whether they should try another studio. Always think about what this student (and therefore YOU) needs to succeed. Sometimes it’s simple and basic and obvious, and other times we feel a general “yuck” before we figure out how to articulate what the gaps are. Dig deep and keep a list of goals going, and share them with the student often.

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