A wise piano teacher will follow the child’s pace with piano lessons.
The biggest mistake that piano teachers make is to go too fast.
Look at the child’s face.
Their expression will tell you instantly how well you are pacing the lesson.
This is the “one-size-fits-all” mentality that pervades the piano teaching world.
This type of teacher goes from page to page in a standard text, with no regard for the personality of the child.
If you stand back and consider any particular child, aside from your (the teacher’s) desired pace, you’ll find that most children have their own way of absorbing information, and their own schedule for doing so.
Every child is totally different, and you’ll have to find the particular way to act that makes them want to learn.
For example, a talented 10 year-old I teach seems to have trouble understanding what I am asking of him at the piano. He gets the general idea, but at the end of the lesson one feels less than confident that he will be able to put it together. But the next week, he has learned the whole thing, exactly as I asked. All he needed was “marination time,” as I call it.
What is obvious to one child may not be to another child, and at what point the child will see what is needed varies wildly from child to child.
Patience is the only possible tool in such a situation.
Just because one child understands fingering right away doesn’t mean the child in front of you will fall into that average. Yet many piano teachers teach exactly that way: “You ought to be able to do that by now,” is what they say, humiliating the student, especially if they have made an honest effort.
Factors affecting the information absorption rate can include age, maturity, attitude, personality, mood, and motor skills. Everyone has a bad day, everyone, sometimes, cannot figure out the problem. It’s not lziness, it’s just that moment in time. You have to go with the flow of the lesson.
It is the teacher’s job to figure out why a certain skill is not being mastered, and if it isn’t, find a way to introduce that skill successfully, on the child’s level.
Additionally, the teacher may have to defer learning one skill until another has matured.
You have to know which battle to fight when, or you will perish on the rocky shores of “This-is-too-hard.” Once you reach that land, the only tactic is retreat.
While this advice applies to piano curriculum as a whole, it also applies to the actual conduct of the lesson.
Learn how to gauge the endurance of each student. Respect it as their “comfort zone.”
Every task that involves actual repetition and drudgery must be immediately followed by a game.
Remind them as they toil, “Keep going, then we’ll play a game.” The knowledge that relief is on the way increases their desire to solve the problems of music.
I never push into the comfort zone unless I see that the child is on the edge of discovering an important point. In that case, and that case alone, I push a little bit farther and demand a tiny bit more.
Respect the comfort zone and your student will instinctively give you more effort.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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