The Teacher Mindset


Being a guitar teacher is, as Guthrie Govan says, as close to having a real job as you can get as a musician. It’s still fun as hell but you’re actually being viewed as a responsible citizen.

I’ve had a few teachers myself and, being the handsome, delusional, narcissistic megalomaniac I am, I think my teaching skills FAR exceed those of theirs. Now, of course you don’t personally know the teachers I am referring to here but you just gotta take my word for it. There are a lot of bad teachers out there and if you are thinking of giving lessons to others this post might — if not change you mind — show you the way a little bit.

Here is my mindset for being a teacher:

  1. Use any (legal) means necessary to improve your student as a guitarist. This means that you find out what holds your student back. Playing guitar is only a part of getting good at playing guitar. If they don’t seem motivated, figure a way to motivate them. If they seem distracted, find a way to get them focus. If they hold on to a belief system that prevents them from advancing, find a way to transcend that belief system. Remember, forcing them to do something might not be the most efficient way. Instead try to find a the kind of method the student finds easy to accept.
  2. Figure out what the student needs to learn the most. Listening to them is a good start but what I’m talking about here is using empathy. Walk a mile in their shoes. Feel their weak points and the focus on forging them titanium hard. Ask yourself: “What does this student need the most at this moment?”
  3. Try to make yourself useless. If you find yourself holding information back or teaching unimportant stuff from lesson to lesson then you might have insecurity issues. That, or you’re just lazy or don’t know any better. Concentrate on the big picture. Don’t pick a random song as an assignment just because you know the song already. Pick a song that helps the student to improve in one, two, or all the key areas. Your mission as a teacher should be to make the student so skillful and competent that they don’t need you anymore.
  4. The work doesn’t stop when the class is over. Make your students understand that if they ever wish to be guitarists they need to work on it. They need to practice. No one can develop the required playing skills by just attending the classes. Now, if they want to be GREAT guitarists (like I do) they really need to practice and also do their research. Your job as a teacher is NOT to be a guitar databank. That’s what we call the Internet or the library. Your job is to REFINE. Deepen their knowledge, explain things they didn’t quite understand and if they got something even just a little bit wrong in the stuff they read, correct them. Usually if the student’s got the passion they already do all the practice and research they should. You just need take care of the unreasonable expectations of those who don’t.
  5. The work doesn’t stop when the class is over. This goes for you too. Find the lessons, songs, exercises, articles and tools to help your students. Be sure to have your skills and knowledge at the level where you can actually be of an assistance to your students. If you can’t get yourself to do your job how can you expect them to be able to do theirs?
  6. The student doesn’t know about your day and doesn’t need to. What I mean by this is that as a teacher I’m not always at my sharpest either. When I’ve got 12 students lined up for the day it’s easy to slip into a conveyor belt mindset. The thing is that the student that comes in expects you to teach him/her. It doesn’t matter that this is your last student and that you’ve already sat there the last 6 hours. You can’t just lay back and wait for the finish line. You gotta try to be at your sharpest! Every time. No matter what.

This might sound a bit excessive or even overwhelming but in my opinion if the only thing the teacher does is shove a score in front of your nose and tell you when the class is over then he is useless. I’ve been useless many times but I always try to improve. Teaching requires a passion, too, and I love every minute of it.

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About Ianuarius

A Finnish guitarist, composer and guitar teacher. View all posts by Ianuarius

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