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What is Teaching?

Lesson 2 from: Becoming A Music Teacher: The Art of Sharing Your Talent

Mike Johnston

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Lesson Info

2. What is Teaching?

Next Lesson: Practicing Teaching

Lesson Info

What is Teaching?

First of all, you guys, thanks for being here. I know that it's it's a huge leap to go from the drumming and like that, you know that's the cool aspect, it's it's cool! We make a ton of noise, it's fun. We have fun. And then jumping into the world of explaining, it seems to carry this kind of thing of boredom, like I want to do it. I don't want to teach it, but I don't know. I don't know when the world told us that teaching was plan b, but it has. It happened at some point because everyone that we've kind of runs into had these huge dreams, and then at some point they just said, well, my dream didn't work out, so I guess I'll teach and that's, I don't know that's that's, not the case and doesn't need to be the case, and I think that you can get to a different place where teaching could be your plan a and teaching to be something that should be practice and should be cared about and that's what I want to break down like the only reason I even played drums was teo almost like validate th...

e fact that all right, well, I can do it so now invalidated to teach it. That's another thing to you shouldn't you know, you don't want to jump into teaching too fast when you can't even play what you're supposed to be teaching or you can't even do what you're supposed to be teaching, so you have to be able to do something before you can explain it and that's what today we're gonna be doing. So just to give you guys and you guys a heads up on what we're going to be working as far as teaching today, it's a long day, it's a long day of different subjects and there's many different subjects that make teaching possible the big payoff subjects? How do I do it? And how do I make money doing it? Those will come, I promise, but there's more that goes into it than that, and if you just had that that's not enough. So in this segment we're going to breaking down what teaching really is really talking about the delivery of information and caring about it and getting into it and starting toe idolize teachers. You know, even when I was a kid, I didn't have posters of tommy lee and ricky rocket and john bottom on my wall, I had posters of ed thick, thin. And jim chapin and if you don't know if you don't play drums those were the boring teacher guys but they weren't boring to me they were my heroes because I thought this guy's explain things so amazing and I just fell in love with explanation so we talk a lot about that in this first segment in the second and third segments that's what we're really going to break down the techniques of teaching so how do you teach and it's not that's what we're going to talk a little bit in just a second about but teaching is not telling and that's definitely huge misconception I'm going to tell you something therefore I taught it incorrect there's more to it than that so in segments two and three that's we're going to be breaking down and then segment for that's the big payoff section that is okay now that I can do this how do I make a living doing it? And you know, russ, you know talked about it earlier but it's not about making money that you're going to make money doing something in your life the real thing is how do I make money and feel good about it? How do I overdeliver and that's I think something that that I really focus on heavily is it okay? I'm going to put a price tag on this thing this drum lesson is a dollar ninety nine ok, then I need to make sure that it's worth twenty five, ninety nine I need to overdeliver so much that I can always go to sleep feeling good. There have been times in my past and we'll talk about this where I went for kind of the money grab, which is I saw something on youtube of mine that did really well, and so I thought, I'm not even into that, but that's a super popular topic. Now I'm gonna go sell it, and it failed miserably. People can see right through it. It was a money guy was a cash grab, and then I thought, this isn't going to sell it all, but whoever does by this, this is really going to help them a lot, and it went through the roof with sales, and I wasn't expecting it all because it wasn't a quick cash grab, and so will even talk about my own personal financial situation as far as how I handle money and how I handle income so that money never ever influences any of my decisions and that's a hard thing to do, and eventually you're going to get to that. So let's talk about what teaching is really quick, actually like love to jump in just really quick and clarify something meme quinn out there on in the chat room says, this isn't just aimed at drummers, is it? You want to talk a little bit about who this is for? Absolutely this is for I mean, my my goal with this is that this is for anybody that's ever wanted to explain something to anyone else that's it. So my vision of this class, when I first started or first brought it up to creative live, my vision was it'd be really cool to teach drum teachers how to teach better, and it be really cool to teach a big brother how to teach his little brother how to shoot a free throw. If I could do that all in one segment, I'd be really happy or in one class, because, that's, what I want to do with this is make people understand that delivering information is an art form, and you can practice it and you can have teacher heroes, you know, my teacher heroes, most of them don't play drums, most of them are physicists or astronomers and like, oh my god, how did you just make string theory makes sense to me, like you're a brilliant teacher, so that's, for the most part, what we're going to talking about today, so all right now, as far as what is teaching, I mentioned earlier that teaching is not telling and in that what I mean by that is that when you tell somebody something and you just say all right I'm going to teach you how to play the drum set and then you do it and that's it that's not teaching that's just I just did it and I think a lot of people leave it it just that and they don't ever go into like okay but that's not how you started so if you don't know your own journey you can't teach something so you have to sit down at the instrument whether it be guitar bass, drums, piano basketball it doesn't matter you have to put yourself in that environment think like well how did I start? What did I feel like when I started? What was this journey like? There is a timeline to all of this and you must have started at some point so if you're trying to teach from your perspective now way over here there's no way that you can do it because that's not where the student is the student is where you used to be so you have to go back in time and think like, well that's right like this hand in this leg we're always together they just would never ever freaking separate and no matter what I did they just went together and it's really annoying but you see all the cool drummers just laying down with this hand and this pedal down here is going don't don't sucaco thing, then this guy comes in clapper top that's home, so oh, I think it took home it's like, how is that possible? Well, it's not possible by starting there, it starts with going, you go down, you go up, you go down and it's like you have to take yourself back in time to be able to teach and we'll go through all those techniques. But teaching is not telling teaching is explaining something from a to b to c don't skip don't skip all the steps that you went through to physically internalize this skill that you're trying to get that's what teaching is, and more importantly, it's recognition in the student if you don't recognize whether they're getting it or not, then you're not teaching you're just letting it bounce off of their head and they're just going because they're too scared to let you know that they don't get it, so we'll talk about the techniques of retention. How do you know that the student is retaining this information? Because if they're not retaining it? And you're a private drone strikes you're going to have to teach it again next week, and if you're a private basketball coach, you know, trying to get something ready, you're going to teach it again next week and the week after because they're not retaining it that's, not the students fault that's your fault is the educator, and you need to recognize that and really kind of understand that now to me, one of the biggest things that makes a teacher kind of stick out and makes them make you gravitate towards them is their passion, and if they're not passionate about what they're teaching it's never going to stick with you and there's a reason that I don't teach certain subjects and it's because I don't have a passion for those subjects and I can play them and I'm proficient at them on the drum set, but I'm not passionate about them, and so I always pass those suits off to somebody else in my town who is passionate about it, and the passion is really like a big key. So when I'm starting to kind of get into things like teaching, if I was going teach jack bauer said, jack, we're going to work on your independence, iowa, and you would work even work on independence, so if we're teaching your independence, you would see me get like extremely excited as you're failing because I know that that breakthrough so close and I and I would be able to see your your glimpse into my old timeline where I'm like oh my god, I know exactly you're going through your twenty seconds away from this huge breakthrough it's going to happen and then everything just works and I'm there for that moment talk to anybody I just want to point out that we have had that expert right? I know you're sitting there on your couch and you're like I can see it in your face and yeah failing miserably on my part, right? Well, yeah, but really I know where it's going, you know and that's it's like of course you're failing you're working on something you cannot do and I'm okay with that that's the whole reason I'm teaching you something it's because you can't do it and that's something I mean, you know, I wear a bracelet that says embrace the suck because it's like get excited about what you can't do. I don't understand why we have to be so scared of what we can't do it, whatever I can't do is what I just can't do right now, but I will be able to do it and you have to chip away at it and as an instructor it's your job to help the student chip away at it and chip away and chip away until it gets closer and closer. So passion I think it's something that just there's no way you conover great passion it's so important and it's a correlation to my own journey as a student soap as a student I did you know the same thing that we all do it went through grade school and junior high and high school and I'd say on average had a solid d plus average. So for those of you international students watching that's not a good thing I don't know what your marks are at home but that's up that is half a mark away from the worst that we can possibly give out so or d plus no that's actually pretty good that's not too bad it's it's uh, it's actually, the best do you get so our marks in school go a b, c d and then we go straight to f well, I was just a little bit above f in school, always getting a's and banned because I liked it it was fun and we got to do is show up and not, you know, not drop your sticks and inappropriate times. Um, I worked mostly on being able to stick a pencil into a ceiling by just tossing it in one flip, which I could probably be right now, but I'm not going to on bouncing my six off the floor, but I got aids and band, and then I got d's and everything else. Then I went, uh, out on tour, and then my father got sick when I was about twenty six, and so I wanted to go back to college to prove to my dad that I wasn't stupid, you know, that I wasn't just some drum guy, so I left the touring world. I enrolled in one semester's worth of college and took a bunch of classes that sounded hard, you know, just to see if I could tackle them, and I got straight a's, and I thought, like I might any smarter than I was then, like, if anything, I'm less intelligent. I've been out on tour for six years, doing nothing with my brain, other than playing loud rock songs and stuff, and so I had to start to analyze why did I get straight a's in a college course and then d's and f's in high school in junior high, and I realized that it was passion. Passion was the key to all of this, and what had happened was in high school and junior high, I was being taught subjects by people that did not get degrees in those subjects, so I was teaching I was being taught math. By the gym coach who, you know, we just had layoffs and so the gym coach was going teach math was being taught spanish by the history teacher because the history teacher knew enough spanish to teach it, and I couldn't engage myself as a student because of that, because there was no passion there. Then when I got to college, I was doing with people that had degrees in the subjects they were teaching, they chose the subjects, they were teaching their passion about those subjects, and it really, really like I was so it was so easy for me to engage those teachers because I could tell like they were excited when they when I was learning, you know, african american history eighteen fifty six to the present, I could totally I mean, the guy was like, in, you know, he was happy about the triumphs, he was crying about the struggles, and it was like, how could I ignore this? How could this not sink in? And for the first time also he was teaching me what really happened in history rather than dates and times, and he allowed me to say, look, stop memorizing things you don't need to know the dates and times for this class, all I care about is that you learn what happened and gave me so much freedom soon I was like I think I can do that because you're so engaging and he was telling me these things and so when I teach the drums I try to bring that passion to the instrument and so if you look at the next thing okay so thiss is ah this is what it looks like in most people that this is like one of those things where people say like like this is what my friends think I do this is what I actually do so this is what everyone thinks of drum lesson is like you take the cubist kid in america put him on a drum set wait for him to smile and then just tell somebody to take a picture of it and I was I was technically teaching at this moment but really all this is is my buddy darryl brought his son over seems kind of interested in drums and said hey can I can I bring my son over so that he can check out your place and said yeah of course we put him on the kit took some pictures the kid ended up being a savant he was like name a country into you know eastern europe and I can tell you the capital and I was like what and he did it he knew every I could say anything and you tell me all the surrounding countries but he was really interested in drums but this is not a drum teaching this is just a moment in time and I don't want people to think that well I would teach but I don't have to drum sets and I would teach but I don't have this gear if you want to explain something that somebody you can teach anywhere at any time so this is a clinic that I was at and there's one my favorite pictures of all time so I'm at a clinic that I was giving um in canada I think I think it was in toronto canada for this and I noticed this kid and he's with his dad his dad is clearly there to see me the kid clearly does not know that I exist and probably doesn't even want to be there so dad gets up to go do something and I sit down next to the kid I'm like what somebody he's like hi I was like who you here to see and it's like I don't know what it's like right on them and so I was like this is perfect this is like this is reality I never know if the if the dads like oh my god I've watched all of your videos and you're my favorite drummer ok? We're not in reality now now he's talking to somebody that he has created in his mind online and he's already invented my personality and I can't possibly live up to the hype but with this kid I get a fresh start this kid doesn't know who I am he doesn't know what he's there and so we sit down and I say, hey man, you want some drumsticks and he's like and so I give him my sticks and then I start showing him you know, like what would tip is what nylon tip is what? Why my tips or shape the way they are on my signature sticks and then clearly he asks me what I'm pointing tio, what do those numbers mean on your drumstick on your signature drumsticks? So I'm telling him what jack knows, which is that's the code to my bathroom, a two mikes lessons dot com facility and I don't ever want my students to ask me the code because it just gets annoying throughout the week, so I put them on my sticks and so so yes, so he's getting a chuckle out of it, I don't know in candidate they call it the bathroom or the loo or whatever, but so we're having a good time. And so in that moment, though, like when I saw this, you know, I didn't take this picture there's just this just showed up on social media and I was like, that's teaching like that's that right? There is the passion that I'm talking about like I'm having so much fun telling this kid about some silly numbers on a drumstick and if you can bring that to whatever you're teaching there's no way that he's forgotten what those numbers mean right now because it meant the world to me to sit down there and just tell him and then knowing just knowing that at some point like I'd be looking at the clock and big all right, tommy, I got to go, man and then I just walked up onto the drum said he'd be like no way I was just sitting next to that guy it was like it was such a fun thing, so this slide definitely you know, this is just awesome. So this is in germany and I was playing this my first drum festival over it's called the final drum festival it's one of the biggest trump festivals in the world and it was time for me to get ready to go play and so it's a really well run festival all of my favorite drummers were on the festival, so it was myself benny grub, matt helper and j p movie this is actually the festival that I met matt helper and j p prove it for the first time um and us nicol was on it, it was just a killer lineup but was my first vessel, so I was really nervous, like extremely nervous and, uh so I start walking to go backstage to we're gonna warm up and I see this kid from poland just sitting on the ground playing on a backpack he's just tapping and stuff and I was like, well I have to warm up one way or another why do I have to warm up by myself? I can warm up with this kid so I sat down and I'm like how's it going? He freaks out home we gotta drove all the way from pulling to see you and I'm like well do I got to get my hands warm before I play you want to warm up together and so we sat down and we started playing and I don't think that this is any less teaching in that first light I showed you know me sitting down on the proper drum set with the proper student and it being perfect and the way he always thought in your head how is that any more teaching than this? We sat down for probably fifteen minutes we talked about technique and grip I gave him a ton of horrible advice probably because I was like did I don't care about technique just hit things as hard as I can as fast as I can and he's like really so we just sort of nail in the backpack and we had a ton of fun and so that's what teaching to me is about is recognizing moments in an area of can I give you any information and are you willing to accept it and if so, then that's teaching if not then we've got some problems and so I think that you know when it's your turn to teach this is what should be in your head and you know jackie would mention that you have ah drum studio right? Well, you know it's one of those things where you have this setup you paid all this money to make this dream happen but does it have to be there? You know, it's like could you take them outside? Could you take the student on a walk and make them march in time the whole time and talk about groove and feel and how everything everything we do has a pulse to it? You know, like find ways to expand your teaching so that they're not always in that first slide always on that perfect drum set in that perfect drum teacher world? It doesn't have to be that way and for you guys at home it's the same thing it doesn't have to be that, you know, well, this is what guitar lessons are and this is you know what I saw for piano lessons? I saw this slide on google when I typed in piano lessons it's like it doesn't have to be like that it can be really anything you want so the next big question should you teach that's a rough question? Because I think people think there has to be a certain proficiency for you to be able to teach and there does for sure, but I think that can also be overrated you should teach if you have a passion for explaining things to people and if you are anything like me than you have that passion, then yes, you should teach and we'll talk about like when do you know it's time to teach? Because I think that's the one of the biggest questions I ever hear from anybody like I want to teach my good enough and that's the wrong question are you good enough? Well the distance between you and the student that's what matters so it does not matter how good you are compared to me how good you are compared to thomas lane that helper and benny grab none of that matters it matters the distance between you and the student so if the student doesn't know how to hold a stick but I've been playing drums for five years and I can play my rudiments and all my rules and I could play some basic rules then yes, I could teach that students something the biggest part is being honest with the student saying, look, I'm actually not that far ahead of you on the drumming timeline I'm happy to show you some stuff and just know that I will refer you to another drum teacher when you catch up to a level that I can't where the distances enough anymore but that distance between you and the student is very important it's really important to recognize when that distance isn't enough and that happens to me all the time so I've kind of built a name is an educator and most of that has been built in, you know, a world for me of just general teaching independence, rudiments, you know, world grooves and sometimes people come into this soon well, I saw you on the cover of modern drum magazine, I'm getting radio audition for berkeley school music, you're the guy and I it's up to me and it's up to you guys and everyone at home to be honest and say, you know what? I'm actually not your guy I'm not passionate about jazz haven't going to berkeley, so I don't know what your audition is going to be like, and I'm sorry I'm not your guy, but this is the guy this is the guy in town. I did my research, I know who lives in this town and I know who can help you with this audition this guy went to berkeley, this guy graduated from there, he loves jazz and you know, you have to be honest and it's scary because you know, when we're dealing with money to give up a student, you're giving up, you know, one hundred dollars a month generally that's like the average rate, and give up one hundred dollars a month to do what's right for the student is scary as all get out, but you have to understand that if you give that student up more than likely, that teacher will then refer student to you that money will come back around, and if if money drives every decision you make it's it's going to be a rough go because you'll never do what's right for the student? And if you would just do what's right the first time, it will grow so much bigger, and that even happens in retail, where it's like, if you could just sell the person what they need, like if I only need this, please just tell me this and stop trying to sell me this, because if you get me the right thing the first time, I'll come back and spend ten thousand dollars over the next five years. But if you sell me things that I don't need the first time, I'm never coming back, so you made your thirty bucks, but you never get the thirty thousand was waiting for you, and the same thing comes with teaching, you have to do what's right for the student and that's? Like I said, it could be scary to be sitting in a room be like, ok, I have to admit you're actually superior to me. Andi happens to me all the time, you know? So then I have a decision to make one have to be honest and tell the student okay, honestly, you're quite superior to me on this instrument in the subject you want to learn now I can send you to somebody else. The other thing that I do have is the capability to plan, and I can if I can plan that if I had your skill set, this is where I would go with it. I physically can't do it. I've never worked on this stuff, but if I had your skill set that's, what I would do and then I leave it up to the student, what do you want to do with this? And then it's up to them? So that's one of those things that should you teach, you just have to measure the distance between yourself and the student that's really important. So before we move on to you guys have any questions about anything, you got one that's kind of along the same lines that this might be something you're talking about, but that it asked for for team oh how would you advise those who want to become teachers to overcome the feeling of I'm not a master of this myself how could I teach others I know teaching is a great way to learn but do you ever feel like you're not good enough it's something and you can't teach it to others before working on it yourself or you just wing it and jump right in his soup is you think of a good idea for a lesson on that was from who knows from chemo team oh um I guess I'll go there chemo yeah I mean that that is what you're trying to avoid is the wing it I hope this works out that is a roll of the dice it's a gamble and you don't want to do that you can do a couple things one like I said it's all about the distance between you and the students so if you judge that okay I may not be a master of the drums but I'm pretty proficient and you're just starting out so the distance is enough that I can teach you and as you grow if you grow super fast and you start to catch up to me and surpassed me then I will pass you on to another teacher and I think that's a huge graduation for any private student is when their teacher comes to him and says, hey you're amazing I'm gonna send you tim that's you know that's like our local jazz guy in sacramento and I graduate people to tim met sometimes so I say dude I don't think I can help you anymore on this sensitive tim that's that is such that's not a downer for you as a teacher you kidding like that's a huge thing like dude I've taught you so well and you've practiced so hard that I have nothing left to give you men so I'm going to give you to someone else so and I didn't I definitely didn't study with one teacher my whole life I didn't have one some old here but videotape you know that I watched I had many and so I think that's a good thing but as far as just winging the content I don't think that's a good idea because like I said it's a gamble and you just you might crap out you know and that sucks and if you don't aren't familiar with that term it doesn't mean anything like what it just sounded like it's a game is a gambling game so it's really important tio prepare you know and sometimes you know I have a student says hey I really want to learn this periphery song and I listened to and I go so do I power and so so I say decided to be honest I say ok you know what let's work on some independence that this song is going to require we'll do that this week I will spend the week researching the song I will call my friend matt plays in this van I'll ask him what are you doing and I will get ready for next week's lesson and that the honesty never fails and teaching it only fails when you try to b s your way out of it and act like no I got this this is how it's played and then the kid is like really because I have this youtube video of matt halpern and it looks a little bit like this and you're like clearly clearly matt didn't play it right it's like that's probably not the case so so team oh, I think I hope that answers your question that it's really about the distance between you and the student and the honesty of saying look give me a week to prepare for this and we will knock this out of the park next week or saying this is so outside my realm of expertise and letting the student no like even their teachers fallible as faras look I that instrument we're going to talk about the history of that instant theirs over one hundred years of people trying to be great at that instrument there's no way I could know all of it in my thirty years of playing it so it's okay that you stumbled upon something that you love that I don't know how to do I just have to be honest and say to, I don't know how to do that. I'm sorry, but I do know somebody that does. So I hope that helps, buddy.

Ratings and Reviews

fbuser b4d93b5f

Mike is such a great educator. He is well versed in all aspects of teaching and also branding and making a living with it. He is a passionate and truly dedicated teacher. I also really liked that he made it clear that teaching is not a plan b for him but his true calling and it can be such a rewarding experience. I got a lot out of this session and I truly recommend it to anyone who is interesting in taking this path.

a Creativelive Student

Mike, thank you for your wonderful teaching. I have been a performer and vocal educator for over 20 years and I've learn so much today to add to my own personal instruction. These teachings are so transferrable and your passion is simply awesome. I see you and I see a reflection of myself. I'm going to study you some more by purchasing this session. It's been awesome to watch. Thanks for the inspiration!


This is the most brilliant class. There are so many great points in here, it is an information overload; but explained it such a simple way. I watch one of these videos almost every week, just to top up on what I should be giving my students - it serves as a good reminder and an even better teaching aid. Mike; time and time again, he releases great media that everyone must see. I can't speak highly enough of this.

Student Work