Permission to play freely

Have you heard about Brené Brown's book, "Dare to Lead?" I read it recently, listened to interviews and TED talks, and got the audio version so I could listen to it in the car. Today I am writing about two concepts, vulnerability and permission slips which were inspired by the book and her writing.

Brown defines vulnerability as , "Having the courage to show up when you can't control the outcome." I had a student play in a talent show this weekend. The lesson before, he was anxious and worried. We have online lessons, and one of the things he does when he gets like this is turn off the camera and stop playing. I was very grateful for the idea of being courageous and brave for performances. We were able to get through his anxiety by reframing the performance as a brave act of a courageous person, and that being worried or scared was OK because courageous people show up when they are scared. He turned the camera back on (wshew!) and by the end of the lesson he had refocused and was much less stressed.

The second (of many) ideas from her writing which has been put into practice the last few weeks is permission slips. Permission slips for lessons are when you, or preferably your student,  write down something he can do, think, or feel during a lesson or practice session.

I think about all of the times as an adult a permission slip would have been useful. For example, I started singing lessons a few years ago. I wanted to have a beginner's mindset so I could emphasize with my students. It has been humbling. One of the things singers need is breath support- more air is better sound. One way to do this is to relax the muscles the lower abdomen to allow the lungs to expand downwards. 

I have never been comfortable with my weight so relaxing those muscles  has been really hard. I wish I had given myself permission to "let it all hang out" when I started learning to sing. My teacher isn't concerned at all with my weight, it is my hang-up, but giving myself permission while singing allows me to relax in the lesson so I can sing better and learn more. 

Permission slips are like "get out of jail free" cards. It is good to have one, but you don't need to use it if you don't land in jail. 

Download your copy of piano Permission Slips. The file has a list of potential permissions for your students to get started with, but it is better if they write the specific permission needed for your lesson or their practice session. 

Here's how I use this in lessons:

  1. The first lesson I use the permission slips, I explain the concept, and read through the list of potential permissions.

  2. I ask my student what permission he needs to give himself.

  3. He writes it down.

  4. The second lesson, I don't need to go through the explanation about permissions, so I ask what permission he needs and he writes it down.

Of course, you have permission to cringe at some of these examples. For example, giving a student permission to "call 2 minutes of hard work a practice session," can be difficult if you don't see it in the context of forming a habit and overcoming inertia. 

Happy teaching :-)

Sarah Beatrice Lyngra