As a string teacher in the 21st Century, one can draw upon the vast array of published methods currently available in print to use in a teaching practice. Many prefer the term ‘approach’ as they encompass a philosophy of teaching rather than a strict methodology.
The main objective of any of these should be to provide a pool of ideas that an enquiring teacher can use as a primary resource, through which they can develop their own style of teaching according to a student’s specific technical and emotional needs. Each presents its own ideas on string pedagogy in its own way, and teachers making use of any one of them may not necessarily agree with the little idiosyncrasies found within. Essentially this is not a problem, as the philosophy of most approaches is for the individual teacher to develop the areas they are happiest using and that fit in with their own teaching style.
There is no one specific way of teaching bowed string instruments, although many of the approaches currently in vogue do get very good results when used in isolation by teachers that are comfortable with their whole philosophy, Colourstrings and the Suzuki approach being prime examples.
The danger comes when a teacher uses a published method in an unimaginative way, like an instruction manual. The problem with using resources in this way is that it does not allow for an individual’s problems in developing as a string player technically. Teaching has to be a thinking activity, not something that is done on automatic pilot, and this is where the danger of exclusively using a method can lie.
Another danger of the string method is that any player can use it to teach, regardless of any formal training they may or may not have received. Methods do not take in to account good teaching practice on the part of the individual user – rather they assume a certain level of knowledge and integrity on the part of the user. This can lead to the dangers of anybody setting up as a string teacher, resulting in many bad practices and badly taught string players. Many of the published approaches recognise this problem and have provided accreditation in their specific approach to go some way towards solving the issue. Sadly, there still exist many ‘fake’ practitioners of these approaches.
One has to question whether anyone can use a method successfully apart from the author. Each has evolved from an individual’s teaching style and ideas. No two people will ever agree on the finer matters of technique and teaching philosophy, therefore no two practitioners can use the same method as effectively as its originator. This may be true if one uses the method exclusively, but if it is used more as a resource pack then the same aims and objectives can form a common ground between many different teachers. Even so, one has to ask the question, has anyone published method really captured the essence of the truly great teacher behind it? The charisma of the individual cannot be expressed through print alone, and whilst direct input from their creators can enthuse a teacher to work in a similar way, opportunities of such direct contact are very rare.
Many of the qualities of a great teacher are the culmination of years of experience within their field, although personality also has a great role to play. The ability to communicate at all levels and break down the most complex tasks into their simplest forms are essential skills for the great teachers to have nurtured in themselves. These skills can only come through real teaching situations and a culmination of pedagogical experiences. Therefore, the role of the printed method can only be supportive. The teacher can hope to gain from the experiences of the author, but it is down to them to use this information in the most effective way.
A good teacher is not the result of any one method of string teaching, but one that uses many ideas currently in vogue, and has an enquiring nature with regards to new trends and materials in string pedagogy.
If this has sparked an interest in you to improve your own teaching, why not see what opportunities are available for you to receive input through a string teaching a specific course?
Visit www.estaeducation.co.uk for more details.