Teaching Generation Z: stories and lessons from the studio.
Teaching has to change with the times. This is my 20th year of teaching flute. I’ve watched the technology change and have had to adapt my teaching for a new generation of students.
I’m raising two Generation Z kids. Most of the time, they are pretty awesome (I’m Generation X, obviously.) Many of my flute students are also Generation Z.
They will never rent a movie from Blockbuster or understand how rich and cool you had to be to have a car phone, which was HUGE. They will never know how much time and effort it took to make a mix tape by recording songs from the radio.
Few of my flute students have a CD player in their house. I have to remember this when I go to loan out a CD from my collection and get a blank stare.
Ask Generation Z to find something on their phones and they are lightning-quick. All of the world’s knowledge is at their fingertips. Apps solve so many of the most difficult problems we have as musicians. I remember buying my Dr. Beat metronome. I purchased it used for $100. Now, for $2.99 everyone can download an app with more features and functions than my old Dr. Beat.
The first time I saw the symbol (#), I thought it looked like a tic-tac-toe game. Kids now are likely to know it as a hashtag.
Terry* was working on a Theme and Variations piece for the recital. It had a simple melody and 6 variations. I always ask my students to think of different moods or colors or characters for the variations. For Terry, we worked with something she already knew very well — emojis!
Terry decided that the theme was happy and light: 😁
The first variation was different because it looked at the theme in a new way: 🧐
The second variation was silly and over-the-top: 🤣
Then we came to the slow, minor variation: 🥺 if she wanted it to be wistful or maybe 😭 if she wanted to express a more depressing mood.
The next variation was suddenly in a different meter (3/4) and it sounded goofy: 🤪
Finally, a technical variation to celebrate the end of the piece: 🥳
*not her real name
Teaching Generation Z has its difficulties, but also many rewards.
I genuinely like to know what’s going on in the lives of my students, what makes them laugh, how they learn, what their daily experiences are. It keeps my teaching fresh when I can make things relevant for them.
These kids may never understand why my mom made me keep a quarter in my flute case (to use a pay phone in an emergency), but that’s OK. These kids are smart, eco-conscious, and loving. They are going to change the world.