Do you have any shy types in your music studio?

I do, and I am on the shyer side myself.  

It can be hard for us as teachers to know how to connect to our shy, quiet pupils.

We don’t want to make them feel like they need to fake extroversion or be different than who they are…but the long silences can feel a little awkward.

How can we engage them and still keep them in their comfort zone?

Here are my tips for connecting with shy students without trying to change who they are.

Start Off Slowly

Try not to push a shy student out of their comfort zone too quickly.

Whether their shyness is caused by introversion, social anxiety, past trauma, or just the personality they were born with, they need more “adjusting time” then your more outgoing students .

Let them take their time getting to know you as their teacher and spending time with you regularly during lessons.

Once they’ve grown more comfortable around you, they might start to show you a surprising amount of personality.

And even if they don’t, they will likely appreciate the fact that you’re there for them without being pushy.

Find Their Unique Interests

I like to find out a little bit about my students at our first lesson. Usually I ask them the following:

  • When is your birthday?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • What is your favorite animal?
  • What is your favorite kind of candy?
  • What do you like to do for fun?

Not only does this break the ice a little bit for both of us, you can also learn a lot about your new student by the answers.

That information comes in especially handy when teaching a quieter child.

You can try to connect with them a bit more by bringing up those favorites when appropriate: “Let’s use the blue highlighter since that’s your favorite color.” “Do you have any plans for your birthday?” “Have you played much basketball lately?”

Having an arsenal of information can help you fill in some of those awkward silences and hopefully put your student a little more at ease.

Bring Familiar Friends

Not all shyness is caused by anxiety, but sometimes it is. I like bringing a “friend” to lessons for my students who want something to cuddle.

Usually that’s Buddy the Rhythm Tiger (our unofficial studio mascot), but I’ll also bring in a crocheted Composer of the Month, stuffed animals for review games, etc.

Almost all of the kids love Buddy and his many friends, but it’s especially helpful for shy and quiet students.

Sometimes it’s easier for them to connect to a fluffy animal friend than another person.

If you’re looking for a tip on how teach shy students, this is one of the most effective ones. (I speak from years of experience as a somewhat shy person and stuffed animal lover.)

Focus on Musical Expression

Shy students may have some trouble expressing themselves in words, but the makes the tools of musical expression even more important.

It’s great for them to experience the feeling of a thunderous forte, a peaceful legato, or a slow, soft waltz.

Talk about the different sounds they can make with their music and the colorful emotions that they evoke.

Music is artistry, and the more reserved and quiet among us are usually quite skilled at creating it.

Embrace Their Strengths

Shyer people (again, I’m one) may have some challenges, but we also have some unique strengths.

We are usually good listeners, quick learners, and calm, peaceful people.

We’ll probably never be the life of the party, and that’s okay.

The best thing we as teachers can do for our students is simply let them be who they are. That is the quickest and most effective way to make a child feel comfortable around you and create a safe space for them to have lessons.

That’s what we’ve wanted all along, right?

Do you have any tips for how to teach shy students? Share them with us in the comments!

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