Why is your new student there? Why did they choose you as a teacher – convenience reputation, style of playing?
Something students don’t realize until they start one day teaching themselves, is that the fantastic nervous energy they feel when they first start lessons with a new teacher, is also felt (sometimes in a different way) by the teacher at that first lesson. “Will this guy enjoy taking lessons from me and come back?”, “Is this lesson going well?”, “I hope I am able to help them improve”, “I would love to give value for money so that this student tells and refers all his friends to me” and so on.
The raw energy of meeting someone for the first time often leads to THE BIGGEST MISTAKE in teaching – launching in to everything all at once (that you can show them with your awesome skill set!) before even finding out why the student has come for lessons in the first place. I remember a timid young girl in her early 20’s once coming in to talk to me about her lessons. She was a beginner player who was four weeks into study with a guitar teacher who had set her about modes, and technical speed development exercises focusing on her lead technique (his speciality) since the first day. Problem was, as she explained to me while nearly in tears, that the only reason she had signed up for lessons was that she wanted to play a favourite Beatles song (strummed with chords G, C & D) at her aunty’s wedding in two months, and she was already a month gone and hadn’t learnt her first chord!
This teachers mistake gets replicated all over the world, thinking that as the teacher you ‘know’ what the student needs, and immediately taking the path that will be ‘best’ for them.
This style of teaching is called transference, and is similar to an inexperienced nurse walking into a fever ward at a hospital exclaiming “Oh my gosh, its so warm in this room!” before flinging all the windows open to get the patients some fresh air while they sit there shivering.
Take advantage of all that good nervous energy in the first lesson to Plan, Plan, Plan. Find out what the student listens to, what are their goals, and do they have any reasons for wanting to learn. Maybe they want to bring their kid along to the next lesson and bond through playing together (they won’t have the confidence to ask if thats okay if you don’t check), or stand on stage next to their hero and a Rock n Roll Fantasy camp they are planning in 6 months without looking like a dick. Maybe they want to sit a music exam, maybe they hate music exams, FIND OUT!
Whatever it is, by starting with the end in mind you will be able to build a great plan of action for your student with clear outcomes and goals that you can track and measure from week to week. Chances are you will also keep them a lot longer as a customer (yes, your students are your living so start treating them as gold customers i.e. what can I help you with / solve for you the most?)