How to handle students who don’t want to learn

One of the most common problems in any field of education is how to deal with students who simply don’t want to learn what you teach.

Some are easy to convert with a little shift in perspective. Others are intent on simply not enjoying anything you have to offer.

It’s frustrating: I certainly want all of my students to be passionate about music, to leave lessons feeling like they made real progress and have a clear path to becoming better. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

I’ve made the mistake of letting the students take charge of where lessons should go when I should be the one guiding them. However, experience has taught me that 1) a student who wants to learn will quickly learn to ask the right questions and 2) a student who does not want to learn needs to be guided to become better while feeling open to providing feedback when the time is right.

My personality type makes me want to put a ton of effort into students who don’t like lessons, to somehow “save” them from their boredom. I was in their shoes. I hated lessons for many years.

But I have to keep reminding myself that there are students who are passionate, who work hard, who love their interactions with me. Those are the students who I should be investing in. I’ll still work hard with the ones who don’t want to learn in hopes that things will turn around, but I can’t burn myself out chasing unattainable goals.

In my heart, I still believe that there’s a way to reach every kind of student, but there’s only so much that can be done with weekly sessions and the drag of reluctance.

#UkeJourney, Ep 1 is now live!

Link to post:

I’ve been wanting to learn the ukulele for some time. Thanks to my friends at Journey Instruments, I finally can! This is also going to be my first regular series on my Patreon Channel where supporters can subscribe (for as little as $1) to my content in exchange for rewards. Think of it like a reverse Kickstarter over the course of a longer period of time.

In this episode, I talk about various ways I’m approaching the ukulele given my other musical background. I’m try to shy away from chord charts and instead, gain a deeper understanding of the instrument as a whole using music theory principles. That said, the intent is to keep things light and fun.

Hope everyone who’s trying to learn the ukulele will join me by showing their progress, tips, and tricks via #UkeJourney!

New video series! Uke Journey!

I’ve been wanting to learn ukulele for a while. I’ve always considered it an ideal instrument for parents looking to get their young kids into guitar. The ukulele is small, so the size of the child doesn’t matter. A quality uke is also significantly less expensive than a quality guitar.

My friends at Journey Instruments provided me with a beautiful UC770C ukulele to start my, well, Uke Journey (hence the title of the series). In this preview video, I talk about my intent for the series. The first episode will air this coming Tuesday, October 6 @ 12PM EST.

* Amazon links are affiliate links. Journey Instruments provided a ukulele for an unbiased review.

Advice to a hurt vocal student

The other day, I had a voice student who began the lesson with a question: “What do you do when someone says something bad about your singing?”

This is a topic that many performers will confront at some point, and I thought I’d share my thoughts here. The answer is threefold:


1. It’s part of the job. It’s part of life.

People will say hurtful things. Sometimes they won’t be justified. Sometimes, people unintentionally hurt you, but the fact that it was an accident doesn’t change that you’re hurt when you’re hurt. For example, if someone accidentally runs over your foot with a Mack truck, the fact that it was an accident doesn’t change the fact that your foot is hurt/pancaked.

However, we as humans have to accept that sometimes, we get hurt. Part of putting yourself out there includes running the risk of being at the receiving end of both due and undue criticism. It doesn’t mean it’s right or that it’s fair, but it’ll happen. By accepting that it happens, we emotionally prepare ourselves for what’s to come.


2. Use the pain to fuel you.

When you’re hurt, you’re hurt, but we can choose how the pain affects our lives. If we allow hurtful words to stop us from doing the things we love, we’re the only ones who lose out. I explained that I’m a hypersensitive person and can get pretty upset over things like this. So what I like to do is to remember the person who hurt me and how they made me feel. That person becomes a symbol for why I need to work harder.

Internally, I’ll be thinking, “I’ll show you!” or whatever gets me motivated. Externally, I’ll practice harder and work on my weak spots. The idea is not to ever let the person know that he/she got to you but rather to repurpose the negative feelings into positive fuel to ward off laziness, inefficiency, and bad practice habits. When I don’t feel like practicing, I remind myself of the face, the feeling, and the purpose.

Everyone’s different in how they are motivated, but by finding a way to use negative comments to help you work harder will make sure that hurtful words never set you back more than it needs to.


3. Write a song

So many great (and lucrative) songs have been made in response to someone hurting the songwriter. Great songs are tied to strong emotions, and being hurt is something we can all relate to. There’s no better way of “getting back” at someone than to become ultra-successful or to at least make lemonade from bitter lemons. Inspiration is tough to find, so if something truly moves you, use the opportunity to really get your creatives juices flowing.

Ultimately, the message I tried to get across that revenge and discouragement is not the answer. You can never find the relief you want by saying or doing anything to the person who hurt you. However, there’s a lot we can do for ourselves to improve ourselves, our crafts, and our emotional outlook.