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How To Teach Talented, But Difficult Students

Teaching a gifted student is a rewarding task. Seeing your instruction applied and helping a talented musician discover their own abilities makes the effort involved seem trifling for music educators. However, it can be difficult when a student who shows so much promise resists your exertions. In that case, teaching a talented pupil becomes a chore.

You don’t have to give up though. While this can be more challenging than teaching some of your more docile students, music educators can employ specific techniques to help reach unruly or difficult pupils. Many of these same methods are utilized for effective instruction, but the difference emerges by tailoring your lessons and curriculum to meet the needs of a particular student.

When budding musicians act out, it’s typically related to some internal struggle or want. They aren’t necessarily doing it just to make your life more stressful. The following tips can help you build a relationship with your talented student that will benefit you both.

Identify the Difficulties

Every student is unique. Each has their own ideas, feelings, likes, and dislikes. To effectively teach a disobedient student, music educators must first understand the reasons behind the behavior. For example, does the student feel bored by their instrument or sincerely doesn’t want to play? Are they hitting their teen years, looking for other pursuits?

Sometimes, the only issue making them act out is wanting a natural break from their practice regimen. If that’s the case, you can work with the student to discover a solution that keeps them playing, but with less frequency and more free time.

If you realize that your difficult student is lashing out because of issues at home, there are resources available that can help you make inroads into their learning. Basically, you need to demonstrate that your time together is safe. The only thing they need to concentrate on is their music.

Identify the Learning Particulars

Before you can effectively instruct a talented student, you need to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Consider the age and instructional level of the pupil before building a lesson plan. Also, try to identify their learning style. This type of information can help you arrange educational pursuits that will engage and inspire them.

Other ability considerations include:

  • Ability to focus—full commitments to tasks, listens carefully
  • Perseverance—improvement rates, takes time to comprehend the lesson
  • Creativity—response, involvement, and is able to communicate their feelings
  • Improvisation—surprising statements, wants to try their own compositions, experiments with making new sounds on their instrument
  • Memorization—can easily remember notation, repeat rhythms and melodic phrases after hearing them once

By recognizing the student’s aptitude in these areas, you’ll be able to offer engaging instruction that will reduce constant disruptions and the need for disciplinary action.

Structure Your Lessons

Music educators who respond to the unique abilities and needs of their talented students lay the foundation for a productive environment. Essentially, you make your lesson plans so compelling that your young musician doesn’t want or care to interrupt the learning process.

Talented students have a higher degree of aptitude, and you’ll need to develop teaching strategies that enthrall them to retain their attention. Choose music that appeals to their personality and offers a high-degree of difficulty. Don’t just have them do the same thing faster. For example, if you give a talented reader books that are below their level, they’ll be bored and not continue.

Also, establish a clear progress chart. Many talented students need to understand what their work will accomplish. Although it’s not true, if they feel like their music education is just an endless stream of practice and scales, they will most likely become difficult to teach. Establish clear measures of accomplishment. It will deliver an unconscious, yet persuasive incentive to achieve.

Offer Alternative Learning Strategies

Many difficult, but talented students just need to discover the right outlet for their energies. There are a number of ides that music educators can try for inspiration. Perhaps you can incorporate some popular music exercises. Or, maybe you can arrange to get parents involved in the learning process. Whatever you decide on, just remember that if one strategy doesn’t work, there are tons of others to explore.

Teaching a talented, but difficult student, is a challenge. But for music educators who stay the course, the rewards make the effort totally worth it.

Violin being played