Everybody’s Doing It!

My mother used to have a theory (on the order of the Murphy’s Law type) that said, “If your child associates with another child, and that child is perfectly well-behaved with the exception of one bad habit, that bad habit is the only thing your child will learn from the other child.” After decades of teaching (I have no children of my own to test it out on), I figured out that she is right!

A teacher in the 1800s tries to manage a room full of schoolchildren. While many are behaving, one sleeps, one throws something, one is putting a hat on another, and one is kneeling on the floor

The Naughty School Children
Theophile Emmanuel Duverger

So many students will listen to other performers (which I encourage). However, until they learn to listen to other performers critically, they will tend to emulate the bad characteristics of these performers, on the order of “If a famous performer can get away with this technical fault, so can I.” The problem here is twofold: first off, the famous performer can get away with the technical fault, because, after all, she or he is famous. The second problem is that we don’t want to emulate the faults of the best performers, but their best qualities.

It is always a challenge for teachers to bring out the best possible in their students, and there is going to be a power struggle, as students will attempt to hide (rather than cure) their technical flaws in an attempt to get by. However, teachers have a fiduciary duty to win the power struggle and explain to their students that getting by is an extremely poor choice. Better to spend a few weeks or months curing the technical flaw and not have to deal with “getting around it” any longer!

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