Early on in parenting, I read about the concept of playing up and playing down. It turns out that children really don’t have a specific age as a range – and they can play more or less maturely depending on their playmates.
So my seven-year-old can have markedly different behavior and maturity depending on whether he’s playing with a ten-year-old, a five-year-old, or a classmate.
One of our challenges as educators is to always get our students to play up – behave and make music at a maturity level that belies their age.
Because my choir integrates students from 9th-12th grade, it’s easy to get the younger singers to play up; for the older students, one way to encourage them to not play down is to erase the authoritative distance between you and them. If I treat them and interact with them as an equal, then they have no choice but to play up.
If you want your students to rise to a challenge, then you should provide someone to meet at that higher level.