I remember having a conversation with my sister-in-law who is a middle school history teacher. She has thirty eighth graders in one class, some of which are in the gifted and talented group, some are in the special needs group, and others are learning English as a second language. They are all thrown in the same class even though it’s obvious they need some degree of more individualized attention. Somehow she is supposed to make a different curriculum for each group of students even though they are in the same class time! It is a very difficult situation to teach in, and there is a fear that a child will be left behind with such a chaotic learning environment. It’s too bad that this isn’t an unusual situation in the classroom.

The typical education system solely functions in groups and this dynamic is very different from one-on-one instruction. The teacher has to deal with crowd control, making sure that the students are quiet and listening, that no student is taking up all the speaking time so that the more shy students have their chance to speak, and most importantly, the teacher is not being talked over. We’ve all been there and know what it’s like. Having to worry about “getting in trouble” because of our desire (or fear) to communicate our opinions and ask questions can sometimes make the process of learning in group settings quite a drag.

Even in my own experience, I’ve noticed a stark contrast between the looks on student’s faces the first day of a group lesson as compared to the first day of a one-on-one lesson. Groups will often have a blank, uninterested stare while the individual tends to look excited or nervous, but definitely engaged. Fortunately, there are opportunities outside of school to get in touch with a more personalized, one-on-one type of learning that has been replaced with assembly line education.

Think about a time when you learned something, but didn’t realize you were learning. You just felt like you were satisfying an intellectual curiosity and engaging in a dialogue between you and another person. Imagine an experience that left you not just better at the given task you were learning, but more confident, excited to be able to do something new, and ready to learn even more. I’ve had many experiences like this with voice lessons (hence my vocation), but also in other areas such as plants. Two people in my life have shown me how cool plants are and the effects of that interest in my adult life are still present today. I value the environment more, I’ve grown my own food before, I keep track of the problems affecting American farmers, and I’m keeping my eye out for ways I can help. I can almost guarantee you that if I had just taken a generic class on plants I probably would not have had an interest that would have created a deep and positive effect in my life and in the lives of those around me. It is those deep, one-on-one learning experiences that often affect us in such positive, lasting ways.

Can a group class create an experience like that? Of course, it’s just more rare to see. Being able to create a learning experience for one person at a time is a HUGE reason why I love teaching voice. Whatever you do, make a point of ensuring an opportunity for yourself and your children to have a recurring one-on-one learning experience, whether that is with singing, basket weaving, gardening, or whatever you decide because there is just nothing like it.


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