I want to start teaching

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Andelin on #190683

    I want it start teaching harp. I’ve wanted to for a long time. I’m not sure where to start. I fear people may not want a “brand new” teacher, yet how is one to gain teaching experience without students? Everyone has to start somewhere, right? How is this overcome? I need to be honest about my lack of experience, but at the same time, I don’t want to come across as “doesn’t know anything about teaching.”

    Are there any good pedagogy resources? I have looked around a little, I couldn’t find anything at the local university, and online resources I’m a little wary of (unless it came recommended by someone familiar with the program).

    I have some other questions but I will save them for another day. 🙂


    Angela Biggs on #190688

    Hi Andelin,

    Teaching is the other side of learning. If you know how to learn, at some level you know something about teaching. That’s not to say you can’t get better at teaching (you’ll get much better as you do it); rather, if you’ve learned your instrument, you have a place to start.

    The best way to learn how to teach is to find someone who wants to learn. You’ll be most comfortable if it’s an older person who clearly won’t be making a career of the instrument; that way you’re not messing anyone up for life. You can use this person to start establishing your rhythms: how much of each lesson will you spend on theory? Exercises? Songs? How will you teach pulse? Rhythm? Harmony? In what order? What is the most important area to start with? What can wait? You might even start with small-group lessons or workshops. I’ve been doing those for a while and can share details if you’d like them.

    Regarding your experience, simply be up-front and you’ll be fine; just keep in mind that it can take a lot of time to build a studio. (I’m five years in, in a small region, teaching two instruments, and I currently have 13 students with two more in the wings.) I do have professional training in voice, but there are teachers a couple of towns over who are at a much higher level, and I encourage people to go there if they can afford it. I still have plenty of students. In harp I only claim to help people understand the building-blocks. And again, I still have as many students as I want. You’ll probably charge less in the beginning to reflect your experience. If you keep going, you’ll reach a point where it’s no longer worth it to you to teach at that rate, and then you’ll increase your prices. No big deal. The thing about your studio is that it’s your studio. Once you launch it, you’re officially an entrepreneur! You make the rules.

    You’ll also want to start thinking about your goals in teaching, because they will determine how you establish and run your studio. My primary personal goal is to spread music in my region. Because of this, I’ve set my studio limit at 20 (voice and harp students combined) so that I can continue to relate to each of my students on an individual basis – that’s how I believe I can be most effective, and it’s also what makes teaching fun for me. However, within this relational approach to teaching I’m very strict about the professional aspect. Even this is part of my goal to spread music: I’m teaching people to take it seriously, which is not a small thing where I live.

    In the beginning you should find that you’re spending a lot of time prepping for each lesson. As you establish your patterns, it will become easier and faster. Each of my students has a file of Word documents in my computer. When I’m prepping for lessons, I open last week’s document, save-as the current week’s date, make any necessary changes, print two copies, and hole-punch it. In the lesson I sandwich a piece of carbon paper between the lesson sheets, take notes, and at the end the student gets the original and I put the carbon copy in my binder. When I’m prepping the next lesson, I refer to my carbon copy so that I know where I need to make changes or update something.

    Some of the resources I use:
    Beginner method books (Vols. 1&2)

    Clearly I can really go on about this topic, though I did go back and cut out a lot. If you want to talk more, you can find my contact info at my website.

    Good luck!

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #190711

    It’s laudable to have the desire to teach, but are you qualified? I don’t know anything about you, but if you don’t already have pedagogic resources, I suspect you are not prepared, and the last thing we generally need in the harp world is an unqualified teacher. Beginners deserve to have the best possible instruction. Too many harpists are damaged by having unqualified teachers. If there is no one in your region teaching, then you would be providing a service, but I doubt that is the case.
    What you might do is host a group, like a harp circle, and that would give you some experience and insight that will help you develop. Otherwise, I would recommend studying with a major teacher so you are well prepared for teaching.

    Tacye on #190717

    One good way to start is by word of mouth – if other teachers and harpists in the area are happy to pass students to you that is a reassuring vote of confidence for both you and the student.

    This reading list may give you some ideas – teaching starts on page 21 but the general lists may be useful too http://us.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/diplomas/readingList2009.pdf but don’t confine yourself to harp books, or even music books. Other pedagogy publications and practices will have relevant and pinchable ideas. I have found some very interesting cross-overs with sports and academic teaching.

    Sylvia on #190720

    Andelin, when I started taking lessons, I would have been happy to have a teacher who wanted to teach. (My teacher was a man.) As for qualifications, if he could play, he could show me how. Fine with me. (If he could skate, he could show me how, etc.)

    I would probably be doing the same playing I’m doing now, no matter who taught me … it just depends on where life leads us. I wouldn’t belong on a recital stage no matter what, but I’ve played orchestra, band, and opera, and I’ve played weddings and events forever.

    I do not play the technique I was taught. Just because you are taught by a certain type of person in a certain way doesn’t mean you are locked into that for life. There is a point where you become your own harp self.

    I don’t think anyone will be damaged by your inexperienced teaching, Andelin. Go for it.

    Allison Stevick on #190722

    I also think you should go for it! I’ve done some of what Sylvia described before (sharing what I know to get them started), with a few different instruments (harp included). It has been good for me and for those whom I teach.
    I think Angela and Tacye had excellent suggestions. I don’t actually run a studio because all the people I’ve taught (all 7 of them… not that many, and not all at once) have come to me asking me to teach them, and we’re pretty informal. So obviously the others have more constructive tips about starting a studio. 🙂 I just want to encourage you. Have fun!

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