The stereotype, in my case, is true: I’m enough of a guy to hate asking for directions. (That’s the genius of GPS, by the way, some woman figured out if you create a shiny gadget men will enthusiastically ask for directions: and then argue with it.) Self teaching only goes so far, I’ve become an enthusiastic student on this journey through Middle Aged Crazy.When it comes to selecting a teacher to learn more about your creative outlet, I have some tips, some things I’ve learned the hard way.
Whether you are learning a new musical instrument, a new craft or any hobby, learning as an adult is different (for one thing, your parents aren’t forcing you to take lessons!) Deciding which teacher will aid and abet the escape of your creative beast is a crucial decision. I’ve talked to several people who gave up on the process, not because they “weren’t talented” but because someone who was a “teacher” said something to crush their confidence. Before you sign up for a class or hire an instructor, you need to ask these questions, signing up for any instruction without the right answers is done at the peril of losing your Beast.
1. “Do you teach adults AND do you like teaching beginners?” I took guitar lessons from a guy who taught kids, my lesson time at the music store was between a 9 year old and a 10 year old. I really wasn’t interested in learning Mary Had a Little Lamb (And this guy never heard of Fire and Rain!) so we were a bad fit, I wasn’t trying out for the school band and he thought the Beatles were a fad. Does your teacher know how to work with grown ups, people who will ask questions? Adults will take control of a lesson and not learn anything if the teacher doesn’t know the different techniques required to teach adults. Also, does the teacher really love to teach or is he just some starving artist who decided teaching would be a good way to pick up a few bucks? You must find a teacher who loves to watch you progress. How do you find this out?
2. “Can I Ask Lots of Questions”, not just in the lessons, but before? Your instructor: Who has he taught, what does he teach, how does he feel about E Mail questions? You are an adult and YOU, not your parents, are paying for the lessons, make sure you are on the way to learning what you want to learn. It’s up to you to set learning goals, before the class is chosen, before each class and for your homework between. Teachers can teach better if you have learning goals. I’m not suggesting you take over the class or make demands that are not within the course boundaries, but make sure that you are going to learn what you came to learn. Keep in mind, you might only be building the base to learn what you want to learn.
3. “Is it a nurturing environment?” Look, at this stage, you probably aren’t going to make the Russian Ballet, so you don’t need to hire a teacher who makes the learning process anything less than fun. Drill instructors, football coaches and Miss Arriggi (my 5th grade English teacher) might get certain results by bullying people: don’t hire them. (Lets remember that mindset: you ARE hiring them, you are the boss). You want someone who will allow you to ask questions, who understands that we might not have a lot of talent. In my case, I am slow to learn new guitar techniques. It takes me a few weeks to learn a song that some people can get in a few minutes. I’ll get it eventually, it will simply take a while longer. If my teacher so much as made one disparaging remark, I’d be crushed. He doesn’t; he gets it. Does your teacher expect you to get it at once or is he patient with you? Opt for patience. It only takes one ill timed remark to pound the Beast in the forehead.
4. What is Your Best Learning Environment? Are you better in a group? Can you learn from DVD’s or do you need the individual feedback that comes with private lessons? Some people need a combination, like a group I know that buys a DVD and learns from it together. You may have to sample a few different methods to find your best way to learn, keep in mind, everyone is a little different. What works for others might not work for you and that’s ok, the important thing is that you don’t give up because of a bad fit.
5. Is Your Teacher Enthusiastic? Your teacher should love the subject as least as much, if not more, than you. A lack of talent can be eclipsed by an abundance of zeal. In my case, I have Improv teachers and a guitar instructor who are so turned on by their craft that it is infectious. In Improv, their enthusiasm has saved me several times from feeling overwhelmed and giving up. With guitar, my experience with bad teachers was only overcome by my passion for the instrument I love so much. Dave, my current teacher, loves guitar with every fiber of his being and it shows. Look your teacher in the eye and gauge his passion for the subject, if it isn’t there, run!
When you reach the point where your Creative Beast needs a little help, be careful about who you select. The wrong instructor might make you feel inadequate and hopeless and the right one will help you become the artist you know you truly are!