I have been working with a pupil recently on sight-reading, ahead of his forthcoming trumpet exam, and in particular I’ve been trying to encourage him to keep going at all costs. However, much as I have tried to persuade him to do this, I find that each time that he goes wrong, he stops to correct the mistakes. To his credit, his practice skills are pretty good; he is able to identify his own errors, and goes back to correct them. But try as I might to persuade him not to stop – to just keeping going – he can’t!
It has dawned on me that for much of the time we actually encourage our students to do the exact opposite, to stop in order to put things right; so is it any surprise that he does it in this context too?! After all, he’s just doing what I would usually ask the rest of the time – which is actually a good thing!
But for a sight-reading test, we need a different approach. Don’t correct the mistakes! In fact, it’s not unlike running a hurdles race (although I need to stress that I speak with very little first hand experience!) In the hurdles the athletes quite often hit the barriers – sometimes they wobble, sometimes they fall over (the hurdles that is, hopefully not the athletes!) but what they never do is go back and have another go. They just keep going, sometimes leaving a trail of destruction behind them. It doesn’t matter – once the barrier has been hit, it’s too late to do anything about it, so they just keep running to the finish line. In some ways, it’s quite satisfying to make mistakes and then to almost literally run away from them!
And it’s the last bit – the idea that for once it’s actually correct to ignore the mistakes – which has made the difference with this pupil, and I think he has actually found it surprisingly liberating to be allowed to plough on without fear of recrimination! The ideal, of course, is that there are no mistakes, but failing that being allowed (or even encouraged) to ignore any mistakes has been quite …. fun!! Sssshh, don’t tell anyone!! 😉