The following is an excerpt from Rob’s Totally Awesome Guitar Teaching Handbook.
When was the last time you were terrified trying something new? I’m not talking about the fear of sharks at your first surfing lesson. I mean trying something you really want to do, but you’re worried that Jah had other intentions when he doled out your aptitude. Perhaps it was dancing lessons, auditioning for a band, deciding to write a novel, or going on your first date after a bad breakup.
Many beginning guitar students will have the same kind of fear. They’re often courageous adults who were told in elementary school that they have no rhythm, or are tone deaf. They’re coming to you because they’re still searching for a way to make music despite discouragement, and they’re hoping you can point the way. Empathizing with them—feeling what they feel —will help you teach them.
One way to empathize is to recall a comparable time in your life. You may have to dig deep. Kids risk failure all the time, but as people mature, they tend to find their path and then cruise it—seat back, one hand on the wheel. Even if you’re a dedicated life-long learner, it might be hard to remember the last time you were scared of being bad at something.
I got reacquainted with the fear of failure when I started singing lessons a couple years ago. I spent my first lesson mortified at all the unpredictable sounds I made. Afterwards, I remember recovering in my parked car soaked in sweat, staring at the dashboard, feeling like a vulnerable kid.
I recall that moment when I start lessons with a new student, reminding myself that while it’s just another day of work for me, it might be one of the scariest things they’ve done.
What do you think: How necessary is it for a teacher to empathize with their student? I’d love to hear some stories.
You can learn more about Rob’s Totally Awesome Guitar Teaching Handbook here.