Why Didn't I Get My Degree in Psychology?

By Wright, Emily | Strings, August 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Why Didn't I Get My Degree in Psychology?


Wright, Emily, Strings


It's exciting to bear witness to a student's transition from casual participant to invested instrumentalist. Something clicks, and suddenly the qualitative side of learning begins to catch up to the quantitative.

The practice becomes deeper, an instrument becomes a vehicle for self expression, and achievement becomes intertwined with self-worth.

For the instructor charged with mentoring these students, the inevitable psychological aspects of learning-like vulnerability and self acceptance-are important to foster, but can be tricky to touch upon.

Educators Elizabeth Morrow, Corky Watkins, and Anne Witt offer the following advice about the subtleties of individual instruction and mentoring:

THE PROXIMITY EFFECT

The first step is acknowledging the rich emotional landscape of a music lesson. Private teachers deal with a very personal side of the creative process, and it is not uncommon for a student to import aspects of his or her relationships with parents and other formative figures into the lesson environment. The intensity of one-on-one instruction and inherent expectations can bring out unexpectedly strong feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, or pent-up resentment.

A lesson is a moment of truth for both student and teacher: there is no hiding from the sound; there is little disguise if practice has not been done. Teachers ask students to self-assess, but it can be hard to differentiate between productive analysis and destructive internal critique, especially when moving through challenging repertoire, which has a way of exposing frailties in technique and musicality.

There is no way around this processonly through it. Offer an ear if the student seems to need it, and be very clear that your expectations are only of progress, not instantaneous perfection. Demonstrate a kind of cheerful relentlessness that will imbue the lessons with a different kind of intensity than any negative previous experiences they may have had.

A COLLEGE CONUNDRUM

Students freshly on their own are in a phase of change and adjustment to the freedoms of adulthood and the expectations that come with them.

Suddenly there are a wide variety of influences - new people, a new environment, the new and very real sense of financial vulnerability-in stark contrast to the constancy of adolescence.

Students can feel disconnected from selfexpression outside of their family. Part of growing up is cultivating a vision of oneself that is not context dependent, and developing self-identity is a process steeped in personal discomfort and a generous helping of getting it wrong.

Some of this comes from the general lack of mentoring that is common early on in a student's college career. Many students do not arrive with the maturity required to succeed, which manifests in any number of ways: organizational problems, spotty work ethic, time-management issues, undisciplined study habits. Take advantage of the one-on-one time you share with these students to speak directly about these things.

Make the lesson experience an example for the rest of the learning process. Encourage students to participate in group and professional settings like extracurricular ensembles and American String Teachers Association events. …

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