The Biggest Teaching Mistake

Hi everybody. Welcome to a multi tips I’ve been so lucky to have some really great teachers ever since I was young. I’ve also seen some at camps and festivals and on the internet as well that it kind of turned me off. And I’ll tell you why I don’t claim to be a great teacher by any means. I haven’t even spent very much of my life teaching.

Most of the time I’m practicing and writing and performing. But I know one thing and I learned it early on from my own teachers, and it’s don’t show off for your students. I was thinking about a time in high school where the band director was actually a drummer.

That was his main instrument and and our drummer was always in jazz band always trying to get the director to show off he was always saying, I know you’re really good, why don’t you just show me what you mean and and he would never do it or he would say


You take a solo, show me Show me how I should solo and the teacher would never ever do it. Like, I didn’t never hear him fully Go for it. I mean, he’d sit down once in a while and show a thing or two, but, but I never heard what he could really do. I just started kind of thinking about it. And it hit me. The reason that my high school teacher never showed what he could do


was to make the kid feel like they were the ones that mattered, not him as soon as he would have sat down and just, you know, gotten all Buddy Rich up in our faces.


That’s the second that all of a sudden it becomes about him. And the last thing I would ever want to do to an eager, exciting, willing student is to make them feel less than or like, I’m never going to be as good as that. I had a student recently who wanted me to know that her teacher was

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The greatest improviser she had ever heard. And she just kind of went on and on about how amazing of an improviser her teacher, was the first thing that came across my mind. Of course, I didn’t say it to her, but was why did he ever show you that? She didn’t tell me what a great teacher he was. She just told me what a great player he was. That was troubling to me. I also know that when you show somebody how it’s done, let me show you how

they don’t get the hands on experience that they need in order to be able to do it themselves. I was asking my family at the dinner table last night if they’ve ever had a teacher who doesn’t explain but rather shows and my daughter said that her calculus teachers like this, she said that sometimes she’ll ask a question and he’ll go to the board and say, Oh, that’s easy. And then he’ll just start writing and and he’ll do you know what


equations really super fast. And this is the fundamental theory of calculus. I have no idea what that means. But she’s left feeling more confused than she was before she even asked the question. I also got an answer from my youngest son Louie, who’s in the seventh grade Louie said that his teacher will often go to the board, explain a concept, really fast turnaround, tell the class how easy that was, and then say everybody gets it right. First of all, why would a teacher ever say, Oh, that’s easy. Are you trying to make the kid feel dumb? You succeeded? Second of all, as soon as the teacher says, Does everybody get it? And all of the smart kids nod their head? No kid wants to raise his hand and say, No, I don’t.

Could you please go back and waste all of these other smart people’s time and slow it way down for me because I didn’t understand a thing because that kid feels like if they do that, the teacher is probably just going to say sounds like you need to see.

me after class make you feel like an idiot sandwich? I’ve seen a kid ask his teacher before, how can I, how can I put more chromaticism into my solo and I’ve seen the teacher say oh well you just need to use enclosures. You do it like this. And then what happens is that the teacher goes into some kind of crazy jamming trance where they can’t even remember that they were teaching anything and they just get so into what they’re doing that they go on for like a minute.


What happens in that moment is that the student says to themselves I’m never going to be that good and they’re too afraid to say that the teacher could you actually slow that down for me and like backup so maybe the first five seconds of what you did students never going to do that they just feel dumb for not having learned from the minute long demonstration. Recently, my 85 year old neighbor got an iPad and asked me to come over.

And help her to learn how to work it. She said the main things you wanted to do was to play Solitaire. I thought that was awesome. So I put the iPad in her hands, and I never touched it. I just said, Okay, this button on the top, turns it on. Okay, now this is called the home button. What you’re going to do is press it, you get it. Anyway, I walked her through only how to play Solitaire.

That was the thing she wanted to do. And I never touched the iPad because I know what it’s like to have somebody be the one touching the thing that you’re confused about. Like when I went to BestBuy to buy my MacBook Pro and I’ve been using PC’s my whole life. The lady was like, Oh look, you can toggle between screens and she’s using three fingers and she’s using two fingers that she’s using her hand like this and then like this, and then she’s using the touch bar up on the top and she’s showing me all the neat things that the computer can do, but really in my mind.

I’m going oh my gosh. slowdown lady, you’re not going to make a sale.

Luckily, I had the courage to just say, All right, I’m gonna be able to learn this at home later. And I did. But for that second, I mean, she just full on intimidated me it wasn’t helpful at all she should have put my hand on that little trackpad and told me what to do. Like, then I could have been like, wow, I can do this. Now, sometimes a demonstration is needed. And I totally get that sometimes it’s necessary and appropriate to show whatever concept it is that you’re teaching. But in most cases, it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of seconds.

And even if the question that you’re addressing is, you know, how do I develop a solo? Why not just put on a recording of some master you know, to show how they did it instead of showing what you would do and I often do this in my lessons.

I can’t Do it when I’m teaching on YouTube because of you know, the copyrights that will happen to me if I play a full Miles Davis solo six or seven seconds is all I’m ever allowed to show on YouTube. But I wish that I could show full solos and we could talk about them in depth. In fact, my classical piano teacher did that.

When I was a kid, any new piece that I learned he would give me a tape of someone famous playing it and tell me I had to listen to it all week and then copy them. My main point here today is that you shouldn’t aim to be the teacher that your student is in all of you should aim to be the teacher that makes the student in awe of what they just learned from, you know, if your student wants to come to your concert or your gig and see what you do, like when you’re in your element

that’s absolutely appropriate. But when it’s lesson time, it’s all about that student.

That person that just wants to learn to make music who is paying you for the next 45 minutes to make it all about them. Thanks so much for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and I’ll see you next time on aiming at Tips.


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