Authority & Approachability

Fall semester is coming to an end, and for the most part I’m excited. I have taught a lot of concepts to all of my music theory students, and I’d say that a good 90% of them are going to pass to the next class. For the ones who aren’t going to pass, it’s mostly because they haven’t been coming to class, or were a little too young for that class’s subject material to begin with.

For my other students though… One of my worst fears as a teacher, at least right now, is failing a student. And I mean from my own neglect, like “Son, I have failed you…” One of my theory classes—I’m tempted to call it my favorite group of kids—is such a joy to teach. They all ask tons of questions, they seem to genuinely care when I’ve been sick or tired, and they also seem to like each other as well (nothing more adorable than children lending each other pencils and erasers out of the kindness of their hearts, without even me asking T^T).

But this is also the class that I’ve gone too far with sometimes about video games. Yes, I do my best to keep the conversation about the music in the games, but especially with Undertale, I’ve sometimes talked a bit too much about other aspects (it’s just such a good game omg…!!).

This has me torn in a few different ways. Part of me feels really dumb, because I almost feel like I shouldn’t have told these kids that I like playing video games too. Another part of me feels incompetent, because I should’ve known not to talk too much about the games—we have important theory concepts to cover! But yet another part feels that, because I’ve opened up to them about who I truly am—which is a nerdy gamer—they feel more connected to me as a teacher, and as a human being.

Luckily, the next level up from the class I’m concerned about has a ton of review at the beginning of the course, so even if they don’t have the first 9 key signatures completely memorized by the end of January, they should be fine… I suppose it’s good that I’m starting to internally freak out while I still have some time to review and do my best to solidify concepts that I may not have done so well with teaching.

I want to be able to strike a perfect balance between authority/command, and approachability/relatability. I want my students to listen to me and respect me, but I also want them to know that I’m a nerdy person that likes the same things that they do, and feel comfortable asking me questions and relating to me on more personal level.

I suppose finding that balance will just take time, as most things do. I must say that while teaching, I’ve done just as much if not more learning than I did when I was a student!

Have you ever had a student (or group of students) whom you’ve gotten along with, maybe too much sometimes? How did you deal with that?

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