Dysfunctional Teaching Ploys

Valid teaching techniques can devolve into dysfunctional ploys when they’re used in ways which don’t serve a constructive purpose.

Two of the most common complaints about music teachers is they either spend too much lesson time lecturing, or they spend too much lesson time performing for their students. Some teachers turn  every lesson into a lecture or performance, which is supposed to inspire the student to want to practice more. This is usually a sign that the teacher doesn’t really know how to teach. Students feel they’re left out of the lesson because their teachers don’t give them anything they can act on. Over time, this turns out to be a waste of time for students.

Another dysfunctional teaching ploy is dealing with technical problems as musical problems. Some teachers like to answer every mistake with, “You played it wrong, that’s not what the music says.” When you’re having a problem with technique, and you’re just trying to get your fingers into the  correct shape, “that’s not what the music says,” is not a helpful response. You’re trying to work out your technique while the teacher keeps pointing back at the music stand.

Compulsively interrupting the student each time they make a mistake, so that they don’t “practice their mistakes” can be a dysfunctional ploy. Some teachers equate problems like memorizing in place of reading, or not following the music because of problems with technique, with weakness of  character or just plain willfulness on the part of the student. Many teachers have inherited the classical school’s reflexively parochial, judgmental mindset. (That’s my polite way of saying something I won’t say here.)

Lastly, too many teachers rationalize their outdated, ineffective methods with, “I teach that way because that’s how I was taught.”

See Also:

Assessing Your Music Teachers – Part 1

Assessing Your Music Teachers – Part 2


© 2019, 2020 Greg Varhaug