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I - INTRODUCTORY

It is very debatable whether it is possible to teach people how to teach. The student may be shown the best method of presenting facts, how to explain and demonstrate various points of technique, &c., but teaching in its widest sense is much more than this. If it were not, anybody with a good knowledge of his subject would almost automatically be a first-rate teacher. But it is a well- known fact that the most brilliant and erudite persons are often comparative failures at imparting their knowledge to others.

A friend of the writer's, who studied for a while with one of the greatest pianists of his time, avers that his lessons taught him practically nothing. When he asked his teacher how to get a certain effect, the reply was usually " Do it any way you like." And the writer himself, as a student, had experience of a harmony professor who could point out errors and correct them, but would never explain why he corrected them in the way he did, or how to avoid such mistakes in the future. Each of these eminent men had a cyclopaedic knowledge of his subject, but lacked the essential faculty of being able to pass that knowledge on to others in a simple and intelligible manner.

In fact, it may almost be-said that the good teacher is born, not made. This is not to imply that the person who is not a born teacher will never succeed ; hard work, perseverance, and rigid self-criticism will always bring their reward, and even the most naturally gifted teacher has to learn by experience. All young teachers make mistakes, however much they may have studied the theoretical aspect of teaching. It is the practical experience which counts, and while there are certain maxims and methods which can be stated for the guidance of the beginner, everyone has to work out his own application of them.

It is not the aim of this book to deal with the teaching of a particular branch of music -there are already many books which fulfil this end, and to add to them is unnecessary. But some years of experience in coaching students for various teachers' examinations have impressed on the writer the need for a book dealing briefly with some of the fundamentals of teaching from a practical point of view. One hears much of the " psychology of teaching " ; the writer prefers to call it the "commonsense of teaching." Admittedly, some knowledge of psychology is essential, but commonsense is even more necessary-the ability to " weigh up " a pupil, and thence to decide on the proper method of treatment. Some pupils do their best work with a minimum of praise, others need to be more frequently " patted on the back." Some have considerable powers of concentration, others are weak in this direction. Such differences in mentality demand differences in treatment, and it is here that common sense is so essential.

To be continued

 

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