While coaching in class and at home with my own children, I have been working on emphasizing effort. It takes courage to try something new in front of a teacher and in front of peers and classmates. And, it takes courage to try something that is likely to fail on the first try. However, we all do it when we are learning and we all will do it again and again to achieve mastery. Along the way, inspiration comes in part from experiencing success. For most young children, success will often get recognition and praise but parents will instill a love for the process by praising the process.
Lately, I’ve been very deliberate about emphasizing and praising hard work and effort in class and at home. And, in an age of instant everything, praising the effort is fundamentally necessary for students to experience the well deserved pride that comes form hard work. When I offer comments in class I always try to offer honest, positive, and specific feedback. Here are some examples I notice myself repeating throughout the day to students, “I’m so glad you stuck with it because after the xth time these notes finally sounded clear.” Or, after playing a passage and breaking it down into smaller parts and slowing the passage down, “After you slowed it down, your rhythm improved. Did you notice that?” Or, after seeing a look of disillusion after the first failed try, “Nobody gets it on the first try. Let’s try it a few more times to see if it improves.” I often will talk about how when the child was around one that they kept trying to walk until they finally could. And how they will get on up at the end of class and walk right out the door without thinking about walking because they learned how to do that really, really well. Or, I will ask the student or a lesson partner to describe what improved after trying a passage in different ways, many times so that students start the process of noticing and acknowledging change after repetitions.
Try to adopt comments like these and avoid pointing out what is wrong (most children probably know what is wrong already). Keeping children on track with tiny successes on tiny parts of the song/s they are trying to improve provides fuel for the next class and a desire to repeat the process at home. And, of course, praise the effort when all the little pieces come together into a beautiful piece of music!