Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What can Motivate?

I've been reading a book called How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen.  It's a book on how to find happiness in your life, your career and your relationships.  It's a "guidebook for your future" as the back cover states.  I've only read two chapters, but so far I'm finding it very interesting and I can't help but apply it to playing an instrument and practicing.

So often we hear from kids that they don't like practicing or playing the violin or whatever.  (Recently in a lesson my student just said flat out, "I hate the violin.")  However, as adults we can see, not only the tremendous benefit of playing an instrument, but also the rewards it brings to the player and also the world around them.  That's why we're doing this - right?

This book first talks about how to find happiness and fulfillment in a career.  It states that money is not a key factor in someone enjoying their job.  To compare that to practicing - paying a child, or bribing a child may get them to practice, but it won't necessarily get them to enjoy their playing.

What really motivates a person to do well at their job and find it fulfilling are motivating factors including challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.

I think that this can apply directly to practicing and playing an instrument.  Without writing a dissertation on each topic - here are some of my brief thoughts.

Challenging work - a child is motivated by new and challenging material.  That's what makes them improve at their instrument.  Twinkle is an extremely hard piece for a young beginner, but it's the challenge of it that makes accomplishing it so rewarding.  When your child finished Twinkle did they get a huge celebration?  I hope so - it's the hardest piece to learn - many taking 1 to 2 years to master!

Recognition - when a child is recognized for all of their hard work it motivates them to practice.  I think the best form of recognition is performing.  I didn't like practicing as a kid, but my mom never let me quit because she could tell that when I performed I was proud of my playing and I enjoyed it.  I'm sure you can see that in your own children and students.  Also recognizing and  rewarding them for their practicing - particularly consecutive daily practice - is a great motivator to get that practicing done.

Responsibility - even the youngest children can be responsible for their practicing.  After all - it's their instrument, their music they are playing!  My 3 year old often guides our practicing (with my help) and makes decisions what to practice, how much to practice, and even when she's done practicing.

Personal Growth - learning new things as an adult is what makes our jobs more interesting.  As a child this is second nature.  Their whole lives are based around learning new things.  Each piece is a new adventure and often has a new technique to be learned.  A child will quickly lose motivation if they are stuck on a song and can't move on.  My oldest daughter has been learning the same group of pieces for months and finally got a new piece this last week - practicing has never been better.  She loves learning her new piece!

With all of that said - I'm excited about a new recognition program I'm going to implement in my studio and I hope other teachers will join me.  Boy Scouts have been earning merit badges for a long time and it's a great way to show their learning and progress.  I have found these Spirit Sticks which are a super hot motivator in schools and I want to introduce them to my students.  They are a small embroidered patch that a student can display on a key chain, lanyard, backpack or even a violin case (or other instrument, of course.)   They have a recital coming up this weekend and I plan to give each of my students a "I {heart} Making Music" Spirit Stick.  I also plan to recognize certain students for their accomplishments throughout the year such as 100 days of practicing, going to institute, perfect attendance (to group and lessons), etc.  Right now I don't have a huge variety of these Spirit Sticks because I have to buy them in such bulk quantity.  However, if this is something that other teachers want to do as well I want to be able to custom make other Spirit Sticks to give out as recognition to students in my studio.  Some ideas I have are Spirit Sticks for a Twinkle graduate, Federation, first recital, Book 1, Book 2, etc.  Climb on board and check these out!  I'll report back to let you know how my students like them!

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