One student recently told me that one reason he was enjoying his lessons so much was that I was prepared when he came for his lesson. I didn't understand what he meant at first, then he explained that with other guitar teachers the experience went something like this: he would show up for his lesson each week, sit down and the teacher would say, "So, what do want to play today?" The entire experience was random at best and he felt like he was accomplishing very little.
Well, maybe it's my family and the musical environment I grew up in, maybe it's the fact that I've been married to a former elementary school teacher for 36 years who did lesson plans every night, or maybe I'm just to chicken to "wing it" but I don't feel comfortable at all if I'm unprepared for a student when they show up for their lesson.
My entire family on my dad's side were (and are) musicians, going back many generations. And my dad, uncle and grandfather were Old School all the way when it came to giving and going to lessons: You must suffer to create! It's not supposed to be easy! Or fun! Satisfying, perhaps....but not fun!!! This was directly tied to the use of established courses on the instruments they taught and played, i.e., we'll start with Book One. When you can play everything in there to MY satisfaction, we'll go on to Book Two. And so on.
I can't think of a better way to turn off a student than making him play something he doesn't want to play in a book that he comes to despise. However, there must be structure and the student must be able to understand why he is expected to practice something. Knowledge must be both cumulative AND progressive.
In order for this to work there must be a level of trust on the student's part. He must be willing to accept what the teacher says even if it doesn't seem to be an attainable goal or directly bookends with what he wants to learn. That's a big, big part of my job - convincing him that what I'm giving him to practice has value related to the big picture, or the style of music he wants to play.
Interestingly, sometimes it is the experienced player who has the most trouble with granting that level of trust. He wants to get better. He started lessons because he wasn't progressing, possibly for quite a long time. But if what I offer doesn't seem to agree with what he already knows there is sometimes major resistance. And here is another important part of my job: I have to decide whether letting him keep that bad habit will be a major detriment to his progressing to a more advanced level. If it's not a big deal I have to say, OK, you can do it that way, even though my dad's ghost is sitting on my shoulder shouting into my ear - No! No! That is NOT the right way!!! Obviously, this is my issue, not the student's!
On the other hand, if what the student is doing is definitely going to impede his progress I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't try to eliminate the problem. It can be something quite simple like the way the guitar is being held and as long as the student hasn't locked into it as a habit, solutions and success follow.
See what I mean about balance? This is what I do when I teach. I have to plan lessons, yes, but I also have to be willing to either move on if I decide an issue doesn't warrant a big hassle or focus on solving a problem even if it means having to slow down the progress that both the student and I would like to see. Sometimes though I have to abandon a planned lesson entirely, even be willing to change course.
In some cases I'm really not teaching a person to play the guitar at all! What I'm doing is helping them to teach themselves how to play. Steering the ship, so to speak. If the ship responds to the rudder, we'll make it into port just fine. When that happens I don't know who is happier, the student or me!
Peace & good music,