Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Throwing Out the Practice Log
When I was young (a million years ago!), I was never, ever asked to keep a practice log. My teacher made a quick list of what I was supposed to work on. I was expected to find time every day to work on those things and to come back the next week sounding better. Period. Not, "please be sure you've checked off at least 5 days and no fewer than 4, and please be sure that you practice for at least 30 minutes, and better yet, an hour each time." There's an assumption in that statement that you are going to practice on some days and not on others. I've come to believe that the more picky and detailed I get in telling students how much they are to practice, the more they focus on how they can practice just enough to satisfy those demands, not whether or not their practicing is creating results. The only good answer to "how much should I practice?" is "as long as it takes."
The truth is, I don't care if they practice for 5 minutes or 500. I just want them to make progress on their music and complete their assignments. I can tell them how to be organized with their time, but I can't make them actually do it, and I'm really tired of wasting lesson time policing their work habits.
So, out with the practice log! This year's incentive program will reward students for the results of their practice, not practice minutes. I feel a huge weight lifting off of my shoulders! I'll ask students to acheive specific weekly goals appropriate to each individual's ability, and it will be their problem, not mine, to determine how much time and repetition it will take to achieve them. I'll report here on how it's working out. Maybe practicing will improve! Maybe it will get worse. We shall see!
Do you require students to keep a practice log? What problems or successes have you had? Feel free to disagree with me, just be nice!
Update: I haven't used a practice log for the last 5 years, and I haven't missed it. Read more here.