Positive Teaching: Strategies for Optimal Learning with ADHD and Hyperactive Students

Article excerpt

Piano teachers have been perfecting their art for more than two centuries, and the history of piano pedagogy places current teachers in a proud lineage with such notable ancestors as C.EE. Bach and Franz Liszt. Yet, the job description of the piano teacher has continually evolved, especially during the 20th century, when the focus expanded from standard expectations for note reading and technique to a larger-scale acceptance of people who learn in many different ways and have unique reasons and motivations for piano study.

Current psychologists have the ability to diagnose children with a diverse array of learning disabilities, which helps teachers provide materials and means of instruction that will assist students in meeting their highest potential. Although lists of characteristics may be used to help teachers understand difficulties in learning, it is important to remember that no two children--even the ones deemed "normal" learners--learn in the same way and at the same speed. When this idea is explored, it means we need to modify our behaviors and strategies with every student, because no two children can be taught in exactly the same way. The good news is, the more students you teach and the more strategies you have under your belt, the more likely you will be to succeed. The key is maintaining an attentive and opportunistic attitude and always taking part in "positive teaching." Instead of having an idealized version of what goals every student should achieve, a positive teacher is flexible and arranges the pace and sequence of learning based on the particular student's needs and ability. This does not necessarily mean we do not have high expectations; rather, positive teaching is expecting the best from every student on an individual basis.

A Holistic Perspective

If you take time to consider your teaching philosophy, you may encounter such lofty goals as teaching students to love and appreciate music, giving them the tools to become life-long musicians and helping them to use music for personal expression. Yet, this perspective often does not come across in the way we teach. Instead, we often spend the most time perfecting small details such as notes and rhythms rather than the "big picture." Taking on a broad perspective may illuminate the true joy of making music with students who otherwise might feel like failures.

Value The Learning Moments

Teaching piano to children requires that you constantly try new strategies, build on what works as much as possible and value the learning moments when they do occur in the lesson. When students see teachers excited about their achievements, it leads to confidence and self-efficacy, which sets in motion the motivation to practice.

As teachers, we have a continuous opportunity to try new things, see what works and add to our repertoire of teaching strategies. Furthermore, we have the pleasure of knowing a population of students who are each as individual and unique as snowflakes. Personality and learning style are characteristics that are tangential to ability; although they can be tested separately, they may have an effect on the student's maturity level and degree of motivation. Therefore, you will not get the full picture at an initial meeting if you are only watching for a student's musical and intellectual readiness and not paying attention to the distinguishing characteristics of their personality.

The opportunities that arise from teaching such a wide variety of students also come with their own set of challenges. It can be frustrating when you do not understand the underlying cause for a student's difficulties. The key is not necessarily to begin with the solution, but to start with the right mindset. Showing you "CARE" can strengthen students' motivation for study while giving you the breathing room to make mistakes and be flexible in your teaching.

C.A.R.E.: An Acronym For "Positive Teaching"

Concern: Students need to know you are concerned with their wellbeing as a person and not just as a student. …