Are You Making These Mistakes?
I often work with voice teachers to help them make better decisions when working with students. Today I want to look at some of the bigger career mistakes teachers can make.
Not Furthering Your Own Studies
It can be daunting when dealing with a full teaching schedule to continue to study and grow as a teacher. The desire to work on your own voice and knowledge can diminish over time.
I have found there is no better way to keep your passion for teaching burning than to constantly be seeking to improve your own skill level.
Taking voice lessons, going to master classes and seminars, reading the latest books – all of these are critical to your personal growth as a voice expert. Don’t shortchange your vocal knowledge.
Following Too Many Schools of Voice
There are a number of different methods of singing – many are effective and some are problematic. If you try and follow all of these different methods you can end up with a confusing and contradictory mess.
The mainstream is mainstream for a reason – it tends to get results for a great number of people. Start your search there before you investigate more esoteric techniques. Learn the basics of vocal science to weed out the nonsense.
Following Only One School of Voice
In recent years there have been schools of voice built around a particular method or teacher. Belonging to one of these groups definitely has some advantages – camaraderie, access to better teachers within the group and the ability to tune out often conflicting information. All of these can be helpful to the developing voice teacher.
The problem occurs when these methods take on a “guru” philosophy, where the founding teacher and his or her main followers become infallible.
In this scenario all other teachers and schools of thought are rejected – even science is disregarded if it does not fall in line with the guru’s beliefs.
The guru and followers will often claim to have answers that no one outside of their method has.
I can tell you after years of teaching that NO ONE has exclusive secrets to the singing voice. If there is some concept that no one else has discovered it is very likely wrong and will not stand up to the scrutiny of scientific and peer review.
Don’t let any organization turn you into a shortsighted teacher.
Ask anyone for a recommendation of a mechanic or hairdresser. They will almost always tell you that theirs is the best.
We all want to believe we are not wasting money and that everything we invest in is the best we can find – voice teachers are no exception.
Your students will tell you that you are the greatest voice teacher they have ever studied with and that all their other teachers were clueless. I guarantee you they told those other teachers the same thing.
It is a wonderful feeling to be praised for your work – but realize it for what it is and keep improving. I have watched teachers take this praise and end up believing they must indeed be the best voice teacher around.
The teacher – now a slave to their own hype – stops improving and questioning.
Trust me, none of us is the best voice teacher ever, there’s no such thing. We all need to keep working on getting better.
Validated by Celebrity
An even more insidious version of the previous problem. Celebrity or successful students are great to have – but they do not make you a great teacher. I’ve seen more than one teacher use this to validate their “genius” and to create their own insulated vocal kingdom.
Not Being a Musician
I am often surprised by voice teachers who have little knowledge of how music works. At most they have learned a handful of vocal exercise scales, but that’s it.
No idea of keys, transposition, chords, the ability to pick out a melody – nothing.
These teachers are only being able to work with karaoke tracks, or a cappella, which eats up valuable lesson time and limits the material a student can work on.
Take the time to learn the medium in which you make a living. Your students deserve it.
Relying On Intuition
A chess grandmaster can be shown a position in a game and remember it months later. However, if the pieces are arranged in a way that could never occur within the rules of the game, the grandmaster can’t remember it much better than you or me.
The grandmaster’s skill comes from pattern recognition.
Intuition should ideally be the brain rapidly recognizing previously seen patterns and coming up with an answer based upon those patterns. When it works instantly it creates an experience of almost magical intuition.
The problem is some teachers use intuition as an excuse to simply guess during a lesson.
Here’s a good way to test yourself: When giving a student an exercise, you should be able to explain the exact reasons and function of the exercise, right down to the influence on cords, breathing and resonance. Any hesitation means you are in “guessing” mode rather than true pattern-based intuition.
Let’s all go out and be the best teachers we can be!