Understanding our students' needs
Having just returned from the Texas Music Teachers Association (TMTA) Convention this past weekend, it was hard to decide on a blog topic since I had so many great ideas from all of the presentations I attended! Having a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you can guess that I am always drawn to presentations involving relationships, particularly how students and teachers connect, why some connections are stronger than others, and how to teach effectively according to each student’s needs.
Now as you know there are many different personalities in the world; 16 different combinations to be exact if you are familiar with the Meyers-Briggs test (find out your personality type here). You can also assume that it’s impossible for one teacher to be the perfect teacher for all of his/her students. However; if the teacher understands each student’s needs and learning style, we can get as close as we can!
Julia Sansone, an independent piano teacher who lives in Virginia, gave one of my favorite presentations at convention. She stated that all humans have 6 fundamental needs and that each person prioritizes 1 or 2 of these needs- this is what drives us. So what are the 6 needs?
1) Certainty- feeling secure and comfortable in their abilities
2) Uncertainty/variety- preferring a challenge, surprise, or likes change
3) Significance- needing to feel special, important, worthy, wanted
4) Love and Connection- connecting with others, giving and receiving love
5) Growth- craving development and always wanting to expand
6) Contribution- giving beyond one’s self
My wheels immediately started turning in my brain: analyzing myself, my loved ones, and of course, my students. Half of my students were very obvious while the other half were more difficult to place. Some of these combinations seemed like an oxymoron; how could someone prioritize both certainty and uncertainty/variety? A student who needs to feel capable of practicing on their own but doesn’t like to spend a long time on one piece would be one of those students. I thought about those students who are harder for me to connect with- am I meeting their needs during their lesson? Then I thought of my own experience as a piano student. Some of you may know that I took a break from piano for a few years in middle school, and then I tried picking it up again on my own in high school. I had an epiphany that perhaps my piano teacher wasn’t able to fulfill my top 2 needs as a student, which is why I didn’t continue lessons.
So, our goal over the summer to prepare for the next school year is to really think about each and every student in our studio- write down what we think are their top needs, and discuss with their parents to make sure we are accurate. Then, we as teachers need to reflect upon and modify our approaches if necessary to make sure that each student feels accomplished and happy. I think that being aware of the 6 human needs is not only helpful for teaching, but also for understanding interactions with others in any setting. It is essential for us as teachers to always be modifying our approach with our students, much like parents do with their own children.
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