Yesterday, my daughter, Malia, performed a solo piece and an ensemble piece during a music festival at the high school. She had to play her clarinet solo in front of a judge. The judge listened to her performance, wrote comments, and provided constructive feedback to Malia after her solo. I am proud to say that Malia’s solo piece, Nocturne from Concerto in G minor, was rated as excellent in intonation, tone, rhythm, technique, and interpretation. She received a superior in “other factors”, like music selection, stage presence, accompaniment, and proficiency. After the performance, the judge spoke to her and gave her advice on what to work on. What I liked is he started out with the positive before the constructive feedback. What I also noticed is he only gave her 3 things to think about-timing, tone, and making sure her chin was down while she played. These were all manageable things Malia could work on.
I can only think back to last summer when Malia first started out with the marching band. In my post, Have No Fear, I wrote about how Malia wanted to quit competitive band and switch to non-competitive. Since then, she has worked hard to improve. She even goes to extra tutoring once a week after school. Malia has put a lot of effort into practicing the clarinet. I was amazed at how she could play by herself in front of a judge. I told her I could not have done that when I was her age.
In the end, it wasn’t really about the judge’s score. It was the sense of accomplishment that Malia felt about doing her best. The lesson I hope she came away with is that hard work really does pay off. I keep trying to repeat that to her. I am trying to help Malia see that it isn’t the letter grade or the test score she gets that is important. We just want to see her try her best and put effort in the thing she is trying to accomplish.
As I go back to my own classroom on Monday, I am going to make sure I remember Malia’s experience. It helps to give positive feedback before offering constructive criticism. I need to remember not to bombard my students with too much criticism and only give them what they can manage. I want to talk about effort and remind my students that you get what you put into it. Finally, I want students to remember that feeling of accomplishment when they know they gave it everything they had. That feeling can carry them through life.