Living through lockdown and being unable to teach due to government restrictions and current guidelines on social distancing, has led me to reflect on the different aspects of my teaching practice.
I have been teaching one to one instrumental lessons in schools for around ten years. Teaching can be both incredibly challenging and extremely rewarding. Music is a significant part of many peoples’ lives and because I am continually inspired by it, it helps me to motivate students when they are learning. I enjoy watching students learn from the very beginning, watching them grow in knowledge and develop a new skill which they can take forward throughout their life.
Trained to become a driving instructor
However, around four years ago I decided that I wanted to bring some more variety to my career, so I trained to become a driving instructor, which enabled me to deliver driving lessons in and around Essex, alongside my music teaching.
Teaching someone to drive is just like being in a school, there are lesson plans, a clear structure, targets, a syllabus, and at the end an exam, in this case – the driving test. Being a driving instructor is enormously worthwhile, ultimately you take a learner through the required material using different teaching approaches and techniques with the goal of passing their driving test and gaining their licence. The learner could be a complete beginner, an intermediate driver who has had lessons before, or even someone who just needs a few more lessons before their test.
Just as a passion for music helps to inspire students in a classroom, a passion for driving helps to inspire a student in the car. There are a great number of similarities between the two teaching roles as you encounter different students of all ages and abilities, and it is up to you to empower them to fulfil their potential.
Learning to drive
Learning to drive is an exceedingly difficult skill which takes time and patience, just like learning a musical instrument. Everyone learns differently: some can concentrate for longer than others, most find one aspect easy, but other parts hard, some people have more confidence and ability than others, but the final goal is the same. For teachers, or instructors, therefore, the objective is also similar: to teach to the highest standard and bring out the best in your students, one important thing to remember is that sometimes things will seem difficult regardless of what you’re learning.
The key is to persevere and be the best you can be. Another similarity is the test or exam at the end. Students in school have exams which can decide where they go on to study, which job or apprenticeship they may embark upon. Whereas driving students have a test which determines whether they get their licence or not. A sound grasp of theoretical knowledge and understanding is vital to master the practical side of learning for both a musical instrument and learning how to drive, hence the theory tests.
Controlling your nerves
Ultimately, success or otherwise is dependent on hard work, confidence in your own ability and controlling your nerves. What ties these two distinct learning experiences together is preparation and familiarity and the ability to not give up when it seems challenging – in the car, this refers to hours spent on the road, experiencing different driving scenarios, the skill of observation, awareness and knowing how to react in certain circumstances. Instead of reading music – you are reading the road. For musicians this means hours spent preparing and honing skills, endless practising and developing a sound understanding of your instrument, reading music and being creative. Equally, they both involve listening to your teacher, coordination, control, and multi-tasking.
Both of these teaching roles are very similar but also very different, whether you’re learning a musical instrument or learning to drive – the ability to retain information, put it into practise and continue to learn is what is important. Finally, on reflection, the key to success in both fields is preparation, concentration, and the desire to learn. The end result is a skill for life.