Grades. Mastery of praising.
If we create an abstract ideal image of a student, whatever a real person plays will never be good enough.
The tradition of pointing out mistakes and criticizing literally everyone, including the “Best of the Best,” has lasted for centuries. If you attend any forum or community that is dedicated to classical music, you will find out that Horovitz didn’t have proper hand position, Richter’s performance was “too dry,” Matzuev banged on the piano keys and so on. As the saying goes, "No one’s perfect." So, unfortunately, many teachers of every subject spend too much time telling their students just how imperfect they are.
It is common practice that we shower a child with our negative remarks after his recital: he didn’t play fast or slow enough, made rhythmical errors, didn’t have “proper” piano technique or articulation. There is an endless list of claims that music educators have passed down from generation to generation. This happens because the priority of musical education is to compare a performance to an internal, perfectly played piano piece and each generation of students comes across the same challenges over and over again. History repeats itself.
There is also another extreme in our modern days: some teachers who are afraid of losing students praise a child in general, just in case. This type of praising that is unspecific and insincere doesn’t offer any benefits to a child. The teacher might call him/her a super talent, almost a genius, and suggest that more practice will create better results. Nevertheless, empty praise won’t help keep the child’s motivation going for very long.
In the Hiner Method, we pay a great deal of attention to the mastery of praising students properly. In fact, we consider these skills crucial for our teachers because proper evaluation involves assessing the level of the child’s personal motivation to study music.
A student must perform concrete actions to learn concrete pieces of music. He needs a concrete assessment of his results. Our goal is to help him to understand if he is on the right track. We also have to give him motivation to keep improving his results and enjoying his success.
Working with the Soft Mozart system is an easy way to learn how to compare the success of each individual student with his own previous successes and to give his performance a more specific, objective and realistic assessment. Moreover, each beginner can learn how to evaluate himself easily by analyzing and comparing his scores from one performance to the next.
If your assessment is going to gain the students’ and parents’ trust and enthusiasm, it should have the following qualities:
- It must be concrete
- It must be tied to specific, individual achievements
- It must be impartial and independent of the mood of the appraiser
- It must be focused on personal features of the student and not on an abstract ideal.
For example, if you tell a student over and over again, “John, you are very talented” – this will be a vague assessment that has no connection with the student’s achievements. It is not an impartial, impersonal and motivational assessment. Over time, from the endless repetition, it also loses any value to the student.
But if you say, “John, today you made 2 fewer mistakes, and your lag time was 5 seconds shorter. Let's try to play it again and see how it will improve”--this will be quite an effective and motivating assessment. The Hiner Method requires completely rethinking the personal evaluation of each student and of music in general. If each child is a priority, we should build our opinion on the original features of his/her progress and the peculiarity of his/her efforts. In the real world, for some children the ability to press a key with a different finger can already be a real and concrete achievement!
The ability to praise requires practice and care. During our recitals–Butterfly Ball or Graduation –teachers and parents praise hundreds of students without resorting to standard clichés. The ability to see the specific achievements of a child, to understand and assess the dynamics of a student’s development—this is the most important skill of a Soft Mozart teacher.
For the development of this skill, our teachers are required to spend some time on the forum, see the largest possible number of videos, read the evaluations of other professionals and write a few responses. This practice helps our teachers understand how best to evaluate and praise their own students so the young players can achieve the best possible learning outcomes.