More than one tip, but six for improving our skills!
- "Use the first few seconds to communicate on an emotional level - Effective teaching is built on trust . . . . There are lots of tools for making this connection—eye contact, body language, empathy, and humor being some of the most effective—but whatever you use, make sure you prioritize that connection above all else. Before you can teach, you have to show that you care." I won't add anything to that—we can all see the connection to what we do as conductors.
- "Avoid giving long speeches—instead, deliver vivid chunks of information." Coyle talks about the inspiring speeches we see in movies . . . but which rarely work. He says, "When you're coaching [teaching, leading a rehearsal], picture the person's brain lighting up . . . reaching to make new connections. The question is not what big important message you can deliver. The question is, what vivid, concise message can you deliver right now that will guide her [them] towards the right reach?"
- "Be allergic to mushy language." We all can be guilty of this. Our instructions need to be clear and concrete. Specific, not general.
- "Make a scorecard for learning." Make sure that the "scorecard," however you are measuring the performance of your choir, is measuring the things you want. Think of process (means), not ends. Think about how many of them are physically, visually involved in the rehearsal, how many are using the posture you've modeled for when singing, etc. It's the processes that will lead towards great performances—and your goals (and praise) should be for meeting those means towards better performance.
- "Maximise 'reachfulness'. Reachfulness is the essence of learning. It happens when the learner is leaning foward, stretching, struggling, and improving." Make sure your singers are actively involved, singing, trying, thinking, helping each other with feedback. As Coyle asks, "How can you replace moments of passivity with moments of active learning."
- "Aim to create independent learners." Work to teach skills, both of technique and of listening, so they can eventually make lots of corrections themselves, can begin to phrase musically themselves. Someday they'll be the ones preparing and performing without you, and perhaps teaching themselves. What have you given them to set them free to make music when you're no longer there?