People sometimes say that we are living in the “information economy.” I think that is only partially true. Instead, I believe we are living in the attention economy. Think about it. There is nothing more precious than our attention — not time, money, or material possessions –and everyone wants a piece of it!
There has recently been a lot of talk about mindfulness in the media,and I believe it’s exactly because of information overload. We as a society need to stop and learn to filter out the signal from all the noise.
I specialize in teaching music to children. One thing that I have done from the beginning is made it a point to be truly present while teaching or interacting with my students and their families. At recitals, I give my unwavering focus to each child on the stage, to the point where I feel both emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of the performance. It is as if I am willing their success through my 100% attention.
I didn’t realize that I was doing this until my wife mentioned it to me. She said,
“I love to watch you at your recitals because you are completely there for your students.”
I believe that this total focus on each student in front of me is a big part of why I have such a strong rapport with them.
It is unfortunately so rare for a child to have that complete and total attention from any adult these days. Many parents are so distracted. Not only is there the normal work/life balance, but now there is also the ubiquitous smartphone constantly beeping in the background. Many children seem to never have full attention, and “act out,” because negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Each lesson is also a performance. You have an audience of one, and you are fully engaged in listening, responding, and leading the student to new heights of understanding and ability.
What happens when you give a child your complete presence is remarkable. You have complete trust; you have a safe space where you can encourage, coax, or even cajole your student to move far beyond their previous internally-constructed obstacles. When the student says, “I can’t do it” you can say, “…yet!” and they believe you.
I was so humbled to receive this comment from a parent:
“You have a unique capability to communicate, share and nurture enthusiasm for music… you teach to the individual child. You find a way to access each student where he/she is, and to find the music that touches him/her. I have noticed with Mary* that (while she never wants to disappoint you) she does not fear judgment from you…you have created a safe place for the journey of learning. While you gently push your kids, you are an incredibly patient and kind teacher.
So the lesson is this: Stop trying to multi-task. Be completely present, and it will enable you to move mountains and maybe even change the world.
*Student’s name has been changed
[box] This article originally appeared at the Music Teachers Helper blog.[/box]