As I enter my seventh teaching year I have begun reflecting on all of my past students. Though it's hard for me to believe, I have had well over 200 students throughout my relatively short teaching career. I have had different strategies and methods over the years that have helped me develop into the teacher that I am today. I plan to keep learning, growing, and developing as I continue teaching music lessons in the future. All of this reflecting got me thinking about the different types of students that I have had. Though there are always quirky exceptions (you know who you are!) it seems that I normally have a few distinct types of students. What I have learned through the years is that a good teacher will learn how to treat these students differently. There was a time when my expectations and procedures were the same for every student. Now I see that a teacher must adapt and change lesson plans and expectations based upon the learning style, goals, and ability of the student. 

Basic Beginner Student
A large quantity of students begin here. Typically these students are between the ages of 7-10 and have no musical experience prior to lessons. Regardless of the instrument this student will work on the fundamentals of music. He is taking music lessons because it's fun or because his parents have coerced them.  He generally doesn't have a lot invested in studying the instrument yet, but this will grow as he progresses on the instrument. Playing an instrument is generally something he does, not something he loves. My goal here is to build a solid musical foundation to build upon later. 

The In-Between Student
This student is normally 9-12 years old and has already learned the foundations of music. He has been taking lessons for a couple of years and has the basics down. His only problem is he hasn't quite reached the age where he has 'owned' the instrument. So, we find ourselves in limbo. He has a fair amount of knowledge and ability, has grown bored with the lesson book and basic theory, but doesn't know what he wants to learn or do next. This student is a challenge and if he can make it out of this limbo stage and into his teen years he will normally become a good musician. At this stage I have begun incorporating supplemental material of a general nature. For most students, this is the Classic Rock stage. We continue working in the lesson book and gaining crucial theory and technique but I begin to show them a world outside of the lesson book. The hope is that through this newfound freedom the student will begin to develop his own musical taste and decide where to go from there. 

The Rote Student
This student has a particular genre or artist that they want to work on. Generally he is between the age of 11-15 and have worked through the fundamentals of music and have specific bands or songs in mind that he wants to work on..and only that! This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's great that he has found specific goals (songs and bands) to work on.  With this student I will spend a lot of time teaching them particular songs/artists. He knows what he wants to work on, but doesn't know how to work on it on his own so we learn by rote (monkey see, monkey do) He is motivated to work on particular songs/artists under my direction, but not motivated enough to take initiative and learn on his own. 

Internet Capable Student
This student has discovered the bottomless amount of information available on the internet and is using it to further his guitar education. That's a really roundabout way of saying that they have found guitar tablature online (probably Ultimate Guitar) and the joys of Youtube. I LOVE it when students get to this level because it means that they have taken ownership of the instrument. They are in the driver's seat and are taking charge of when and how they learn. This student normally plays for at least a couple of hours every day. However, this student can pose a challenge. Since he has found other avenues for learning guitar it is harder to get him to work on assigned material. The issue here is instant gratification vs. long term reward. Suddenly he can learn any song that he chooses with the click of a mouse. But he probably isn't understanding what or why he is playing. Important techniques begin to fall through the cracks as he utilizes these techniques, but doesn't fully understand them. This student can go two ways. He can continue learning songs on his own and use lessons as a way to build a bigger vocabulary of musical ideas and techniques OR He will grow tired of working on 'boring technique'  (long term pay off) when he could be working on his favorite songs (instant gratification) and discontinue lessons. 

Dedicated Student
This student will do EVERYTHING that you ask them to...and nothing more. So, there's good and bad there. Honestly, it's rare to find a student that will do everything you ask him to. And it poses a challenge. If you don't specifically spell it out for him, he won't work on it. Initially this is a problem for the teacher and it will challenge you to be thorough in your assignments. Ultimately, you will want the student to begin taking initiative and filling in the gaps between what you assign. 

Prodigy Student
These are the ones that make you be glad to be a teacher. I seem to get roughly one or two of these students each year. He immediately grasps the material and works hard to perfect it. It is hard to find a combination of natural ability, motivation, and dedication but this student possesses it. The challenge for the teacher will be staying ahead of this student and thinking of new and creative ways to challenge his ability. 

The "Why is this student here?" Student
This student rarely practices and seems moderately interested (at best) in lessons, music, and any words that come out of your mouth. In many cases this student will have a fair amount of ability on the instrument and could become a great student/instrumentalist if he would spend time on the instrument...but he doesn't. Or the student will practice (begrudgingly) and seem miserable through the entire lesson. I have tried different techniques, different genres, and different approaches with these students but you can't make a student be something that he doesn't want to be. For some reason, this student continues to return year after year even though very little progress is made. Sometimes a light will click on and these students will become great students. Other times they will eventually lose interest or pick up another hobby and discontinue lessons. They may enjoy lessons, but don't enjoy playing their instrument outside of weekly lessons. 

The Adult Student
This student decides to take on an instrument sometime after the age of 16. Normally he has no musical experience and is looking to pick up a new hobby. I have had mixed success with adult students. Some take for one semester and realize that it is going to take more effort and time than he is capable of or will choose to put in. He often grasps initial concepts quickly, but as the material progresses he begins to get frustrated with his ability and the material. Those that make it past this initial hump tend to do well. He knows what he is looking for out of the instrument and often have realistic, achievable goals. 

The Special Needs Student
This student can come in many forms, but lessons will need to be adapted to meet his needs. Sometimes the lesson will only need to be slightly adapted. Other times the entire lesson plan needs to be scrapped and a new plan needs to be made for this student. Students in this category include students with ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, Asperger's, Down Syndrome, Physical Impairments (permanent or short term-like a broken arm), and preschool students. It is important to open up communication with the parents about what this child needs and how you can meet his needs. Though it definitely requires more work, these often turn out to be the students and lessons that I look forward to each week. 


So, that's my list. Know that these aren't intended to target any particular students. These are just observations made from years of teaching and are generalizations. Fellow Teachers..any comments or students to add to the list?
*** PREFACE*** 
As I maintain this website and blog, I have thought long and hard about what it should represent. I am a Christian (though an admittedly struggling one) and the purpose of my life is to bring glory to God. But this is a website devoted to guitar and drums. My goal (in an effort to be professional) was to check my Christianity at the door and let this website be about what it is about: music lessons. 

I have not shunned away from Jesus and do not deny Him (on this website or in life), but have tried to separate that from what I do here. But I cannot do it anymore. I'm not here to force anyone to believe anything, to become preachy, or anything like that. On a practical level for this website, it just means that I will be sharing my thoughts about life, the church, and God more frequently. This will probably take the form of blogs and discussions in the forums.  I cannot divorce what I do and what I teach from who I am, so you will begin to see more of me around stickandstrum in addition to general information and tips. 

If you have any questions about Christianity, theology, the church, or life or want to discuss anything please feel free to post in the forums or contact me. 

It is Easter Morning. I woke up around 4am and could not go back to sleep. I tossed and turned and got something to drink, but ultimately I found myself sitting on this futon in our home office at 5am with a copy of Francis Chan's Crazy Love. While reading a book isn't incredibly unusual for me, anyone that knows me well knows that I only see 5am once or twice a year...and rarely on purpose. You see, I have been running from God for a while now. Life looks great superficially, but it is easy to find yourself going through the motions with nothing to show for it inside. 

I read the first half of the book and went back to bed for a few hours before waking up again to finish it. I don't want to write a review the book (though I highly recommend reading it), but instead look at what reading, thinking, and praying can do to draw you closer to God. I have not been actively running from God, but passively letting my life pass by me. To borrow an illustration, life is much like a flowing river. There is no standing still. You either have to  swim upstream or lie back and be taken wherever the river flows. The funny thing is that the river moves so slowly that you don't even realize that you've drifted from where you've started until you are miles downstream. It's like going to the beach and playing in the ocean only to realize after a few minutes that you are a hundred yards away from where you began. You didn't try to move. You just passively go along with the flow. 

This is no way to live life. Life must be intentional. That is, you must choose to live it on purpose. You must decide to swim upstream to something better. As I read through the gospels I cannot help but see that Jesus was extremely intentional. Everything He did was on purpose. He didn't just happen to find Himself in situations and decide to perform a miracle or deliver a quick sermon while He was there. There always seems to be a particular person or purpose in his meetings. I will likely write more on this later but, for now, suffice it to say that Jesus lived his life on purpose and that I aspire to do the same. 

I have been overweight my entire life. At 5'10'' I ballooned to 275 pounds. Over the last few months I have managed to lose 50 pounds and I am in the best shape of my life. How did I weigh so much in the first place? By passively living my life and packing on pound after pound without realizing it. How did I lose weight? I did it. Everyone always sits around waiting for the best methodologies, whether it be for weight loss, business, or living the Christian life. The truth is, that everyone is different and every situation is different. What makes one successful? Perseverance. I have managed to lose weight because I have been eating better and I'm in the gym or running 4-5 days each week. There is no secret to it. Find something that works for you and do it. Do it relentlessly until you achieve your goals. I have long believed that theology and philosophy may be overcomplicating the basics of life. Nike sums it up pretty well: Just Do It. 

So, I have been waiting to feel like following God or getting into shape. Though there may be some decisive moments in your life, chances are you will never continually feel like making the change. But it only takes one stroke. You merely have to stand in the river, realize that you have been drifting and start swimming. 

I remember hearing someone say that if you feel like you've lost God, you should check the last place you left Him. A little cheesy, I admit, but after studying my life it becomes apparent where the problem lies. At some point I stopped pursuing God entirely. I stopped reading, praying, talking...everything. 

With me it starts simply. Sitting on an old futon in a dark office in the wee hours of the morning. Reading forgotten truths about God and His handiwork. Talking openly to a God that I thought had forgotten me. Feeling like for the first time in a while that my life has purpose and meaning again. Turns out that God had not forgotten me. I had drifted away, moment by moment, without even realizing what was happening until I was miles downstream. But it is never too late. Get up and take that first stroke.