I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at taking constructive criticism. OK… That’s a lie. I’m horrible at it. Let me start again, “I’d like to be pretty good at taking constructive criticism”. My skin is thin, what can I say.
But sometimes a good dose of honesty can be the one thing that launches someone from “okay” to “amazing”… and so I am going to tell you about a little experiment that I did. If you too have thin skin (or even if you have thick skin and the attitude of “bring it on!”) then you might want to give it a try too.
Does This Piano Bench Make Me Look… Confusing?
I’ve recorded myself teaching before in an effort to check in on what I look and sound like to my students, and it was a valuable exercise. However, I know that it’s not always easy to be 100% honest with yourself when you’re listening to a recording or watching a video. You either think “Wow… I’m an ace!” or you go the opposite direction and pick apart anything and everything.
So the good dose of honesty needs to come from someone who is not you. And that someone is about to have a freebie piano lesson with you in exchange for brutal, unedited, unabashed, let-‘er-loose feedback (both good and bad).
We recently purchased a digital piano for Trevor’s mom (I can’t bring myself to call her my mother-in-law as that comes with such horrible connotations… and she’s a wonderful person). She hasn’t done anything musical at all. Ever. But what seemed like a shot-in-the-dark gift quickly turned into a sparked interest for her. She’s a practicing fiend. But in my little episodes of teaching her, I gained the brutal honesty I was needing.
What Do YOU need to hear?
No matter how small, her feedback was valuable, and I was able to make changes right away in my very next scheduled lesson with my other students. Here’s the “brutal honesty” points I discovered…
1) I talk too fast. I knew this from recording myself, but to hear someone say it was a good reminder.
2) My writing is often too messy to figure out (seems insignificant… but it’s actually a really good thing to know!)
3) I need to avoid adding too many challenges at one time (I was getting excited by her progress and adding more and more extensions to what she was learning). This was a great reminder of the importance of allowing my students to enjoy reaching a goal before moving it on them.
4) I say “Excellent!” even when my student knows it wasn’t really that excellent. I’m a positive person and this is a hard habit to break… but I do know that praise that is not genuine quickly becomes insignificant… and then “Excellent!” is just an annoyingly overused word.
I was not completely surprised by her feedback… but it was a really good check-in and I find myself mentally addressing these four points in every lesson now. It’s made me a better teacher.
And so I challenge you to grab your best friend, your sister, your cousin, or your co-worker, give them a beginning piano lesson and ask for their honest feedback. But avoid teaching your spouse… we don’t want to be causing any marital strife on the TPT blog 😉