Every piano lesson is not a winner. Kids have good days and bad days.
Sometimes, I have the knack of changing tears to laughter, simply by understanding that what the child needs is not “business as usual.”
There are bad days that you can make into useful ones, and bad days so bad that they are useless in terms of piano lessons.
If a child is really distraught, there is little chance of a lesson, unless you decide to make it into a mini-recital lecture, perhaps of the funniest music you can find. Or tell funny stories about the great composers. Click here to read a few.
But the lesser degrees of childish discomfort can be combated in a variety of ways.
Fatigue, boredom, bad mood and apathy can usually be dispersed with a round of theory games.
It is the gamesmanship that will keep them interested when they are in no mood for pedagogy.
I once had a little girl as a student, and one lesson she was distraught because her cat was lost. There really was nothing we could do. No game sparked her interest, no joke raised a smile.
She wasn’t “there.” I made sure that she didn’t feel any displeasure on my part, and taught her little brother instead.
The next week, the cat had been found and everything was fine. She had the best lesson in months. If I had made her work when she was upset, she only would have remembered the drudgery of that day. Instead, she was refreshed and ready to go. No loss to anyone for being lenient and understanding.
I suppose the real lesson was that we are allowed to enjoy the piano when we want to, not just when the teacher says it’s okay. Bending the rules in this direction will buy you, as a piano teacher, a lot of friendly mileage that can be redeemed for good work at a later time.
No matter what the outcome of the lesson, good, bad or indifferent, you must leave the child with the impression that they did a good job, and that you look forward to more fun next week.
This can only be accomplished one of two ways:
1. If the child is in the right mood, they will have a good lesson and the praise will be deserved.
2. If the child is not in the mood, you will have bent over backwards far enough for them to have learned something and had fun. The proportion of the two is irrelevant.
If you leave the child feeling guilty, incompetent and sad, you have moved backwards, and the child’s enthusiasm for the piano is diminished.
Resolve then, that the child, if they feel bad at the beginning of the lesson, will at least feel good when they leave.
For those who say that I coddle the kids, I would reply: I’ve seen the results of hard-edged, accomplishment oriented piano teaching, and I have never seen one of these kids just be a kid and enjoy playing the piano.
Yes, for a very few kids at the top, these methods work. But for the average child, it’s like making a three year old play basketball with teenagers. Of course they’ll hate it.
With these disciplinarian piano teachers, it’s always a psychological battle for the child, with the teacher and the parents on either side, and the loser is the child’s enjoyment of music, which is actually why you started lessons in the first place.
Any truly gifted child will not experience any negative effects by starting with a “soft” piano method. Simply switch them to the “hard” curriculum if they take to it. I have done this hundreds of times, and it always works.
But start the average child on the hard system, and you get the statistics the piano teaching industry is famous for: 90% failure.
Start soft, test the waters, and then choose an appropriate curriculum for that individual child.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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