What Makes a Great Instructor?

Look back at your childhood, and your favorite subjects in school.   If you think about, most of the time you loved a subject because there was a teacher that brought the subject to life.  So it’s not always the subject, but often the person  that can create a lifelong love for a subject.  Here at Angeles Academy of Music, we have a checklist that we use to make sure every instructor will help to create that lifelong love of music.   Below is the list of traits we look for, and why.   

Outstanding Personality

Positive energy:  Having a positive, fun and strong personality is essential.    remember that boring math teacher?  That tired, slow, monotone, voice?Maybe what the teaching is saying is actually really cool, but it won’t come across that way, especially if the student is a child.    The combination of a personal interest in the students life and success, along with a exuberant energy to present the next steps is the key.   

Humor:  Being funny and imaginative goes a long way.  Providing comic relief, as well as unique descriptions and analogies can go a long way to keep the lessons interesting.

Strength:  A great instructor has to know when to push the student a little past their comfort zone.  Even though the instructor is definitely kind, they need to take leadership to make the student feel certain about the direction the lessons are going.    This must be done without being strict, and this balance in the personality of the instructor can take years to develop.

Sensitivity and Awareness

Students give off signals when they are bored or overwhelmed.  Sometimes it’s subtle, and student will often try to hide it.   Many instructors don’t take note of this and continue the lesson without making adjustments.    A great instructor, can feel when to shift the approach or subject.    This flexibility is very important because not only does every student have a different learning style, but even week to week the students moods and energy levels change.

The Skill of Creating Challenge.

Lets face it, learning to speak Chinese, do calculus, or learn an instrument is a challenge.  If you want to consider all the things you will have to understand to learn to play and instrument, it gets overwhelming.   However, what really makes the journey fun and exciting or overwhelming is not the complexity of the subject, but the way it is presented and in what pieces, this is the job of the instructor.   The instructor must be able to adjust constantly his or her plans for the student, based on how they are actually doing.   The goal is to keep the level of challenge exciting.    If the instructor gives the student a piece that is too challenging, then the student may tire and ultimately want to quit.  If on the other hand, the level of challenge is not enough, the student may become bored.    Video games are very successful in creating a balance between winning and losing to keep it addicting.  A great teacher is always considering this when creating the roadmap for the students journey.

Making Sure the Music is Something YOU Love

There is quite a difference in excitement between playing your favorite song, vs. learning a generic exercise.    While exercises and formulaic theory books are important and valuable,  learning a song you love can give you the drive to get through many technical obstacles.   A great teacher can help you determine what your favorite music is, then arranging or find arrangements of these melodies that are not too challenging.  This takes more thought and time for the teacher, and they must really consider what capacity the student has.   Experience plays a huge role in this skill.

Education from a Top Music School

A teacher that is also an outstanding performer is huge inspiration especially to the new music student.   Instructors who are capable players have been through all the challenges that a student must face, and can immediately demonstrate how to play, rather than describe what to do.

Since learning often happens faster through example rather than talking, watching a great performer can help students just “get” the technical idea.