Updated: May 31
Learning to play an instrument is a challenging yet rewarding experience. However, it's not uncommon for some students to experience shame or embarrassment when they make mistakes, struggles with certain pieces or lack the dexterity to play specific notes or chords. This blog post will explore why shaming students is harmful and how teachers and parents can create a positive and supportive learning environment for their young musicians.
Shaming students can occur in various ways, such as scolding them for making mistakes, belittling them in front of others, or comparing them to other students. These actions can harm a student's self-esteem and motivation to continue learning. (Side note - we’ve heard time and time again from parents who won’t play or learn music because of “art scars” they have from past teachers) It’s important to remember that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, and it's through these mistakes that students can learn and grow.
Shaming music (and art students) can also lead to a fear of failure and a reluctance to take risks. When students feel ashamed or embarrassed about their mistakes, they may avoid playing in front of others or trying new pieces, which can hinder their progress and enjoyment of playing the piano.
So how can teachers and parents create a positive and supportive learning environment for their young musicians? Here are some tips:
Stop Perfectionism: Learning to play the piano/instrument requires consistent practice, and it's important to communicate this to students. Encouraging students to practice regularly and offer positive feedback when they do so. However, "Practice makes perfect" is not an effective message to encourage kids. Practice is a journey and needs a state of flux. Perfectionism inhibits this and can create anxiety. This leads to fears of performing and critical self-talk.
Normalize mistakes: Let students know that making mistakes is normal and expected. Use mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a reason for shame or embarrassment.
Praise effort, not just results: It's essential to acknowledge and praise students' effort in their playing rather than just focusing on the end result. This can help students feel more motivated and confident in their abilities.
Provide constructive feedback: When offering feedback, focus on specific areas that the student can improve on rather than just criticizing their mistakes. Offer suggestions for how to improve and encourage them to keep trying.
Create a supportive community: Encourage students to play for each other and offer positive feedback and support. This can create a sense of community and belonging, which can help students feel more comfortable and motivated to continue learning.
It's a fact - shaming music students is harmful and can have long-term effects on their self-esteem and motivation to continue learning. It can also negatively affect their creativity as an adult. By creating a positive and supportive learning environment, teachers and parents can help students feel more confident and motivated in their instrument playing and, ultimately, help them reach their full potential.