The Main Point is the Main Point

I think the single most important pedagogical idea for teachers and parents is having a main point for the lesson and/or practice session. When you observe master teachers you quickly see that they have a very strong idea of the point that they are teaching and they weave it into the entire lesson. Edmond Sprunger calls it "Shooting One Arrow" in his book Helping Parents Practice, Ideas for Making it Easier. Jeanne Luedke, one of my favorite parent educators, names it in her top five sticking points.

When you hear your student or your child playing a piece, you may have a lot of things to say. You may notice a dozen issues that need to be addressed. Throwing the book at the kid will only cause discouragement. Discouragement leads to resistance. Who wants to be told a millions ways in which they need to be fixed? Having one main point reduces resistance because it allows the child success. Contrary to popular opinion, none of us can truly multitask. When we address one element of playing, we can succeed. This makes us confident to tackle the next task. Don't we all love checking things off our to-do lists? Success leads to success. 

Sticking to the main point may be more difficult for musical parents than for nonmusical parents. Parents with a musical background will notice more things to fix in their child's everyday performing. They will have to make a conscious effort to focus only on the idea that the teacher singles out. I try to confirm the main point with my students and their parents before they leave the lesson. I write it on the lesson plans I make for their next lesson. It is my goal to follow through on the main point at next week's lesson. 

An example of a main point might be to listen for balance between melody and accompaniment for piano players. It is enough to listen just for balance. Ironically, I often find that once the student is completely focused on their point, many other small issues solve themselves. 

Pope John XXIII had a motto: See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little. 

We are on this long journey, a good teacher will prioritize and important issues will not be overlooked forever. Please have faith in this process. 

Picking a main point allows the student, parent and teacher to focus their efforts, improve one element and feel successful. Write it down. Remember it. Follow through with it. That is the main point of the main point. 

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