Patient piano teachers have two sides, pro and con.
Some think patience is a virtue, others think it is indulgence of lazy children.
I once had a person comment in our forum that “Patient piano teachers are just controlling their anger.”
I think the person making the comment was being impatient with my constant call for creativity and slow, fun work.
I’d still hate to have my kid study piano with the person who made that comment.
But what if they are right? What if patience is just controlled anger?
Are we doing something wrong when we decide not to give in to our instinctive impatience and anger with childishness? What about our detractors who say we are too lenient?
Should we explode and get mad, like the old piano teachers who rapped your knuckles for every mistake? By the way, there are still piano teachers out there that do that, since I get emails and letters all the time from people who experience it.
In many ways, I AM exploding when kids are fumbling and learning. This is because the thing I want from them I mastered long ago, and seems so easy to me. But there it is, the phrase, “…seems so easy to me.”
Your point of view doesn’t matter. You had better pay attention to every movement and nuance of the child attempting to master the aforementioned skill. Your anger is completely irrelevant to the child’s piano learning process, unless you inject anger into it, in which case you destroy the learning process instantly and make the child into a penitent.
But here is the difference: I do let my impatience secretly drive me to stay several steps ahead of the child, devising ways of getting them to understand.
So I am impatient, but with myself.
I am impatient with myself when I have not found a way to unlock a certain skill, or have not found the underlying reason for a child’s difficulty with it.
This is also because I am not lost in their current failure, which is inevitable, but rather, sitting further away, I am looking for the cause of the failure or refining their attempt. Many piano teachers get lost in the child’s fumblings, rather than seeing what the fumblings must mean.
For example, fumbling with fingering may mean many things other than a child’s failure to grasp fingering. Let’s take fingering as an example, since it is often a subject that causes initial frustration for many children.
If a child is fumbling with fingering, there may be hidden underlying causes that the piano teacher should treat first:
Is the child able to conceive of moving the fingers as a group, outside of the piano and music? The younger the child, the more you will have to work on this before you attempt fingering in any serious manner.
Are the child’s fingers very weak? Almost all kids have very weak finger muscles.
You’ll have to play games in which the fingers are raised before you expect them to raise their fingers in the realm of fingering.
Do they understand up and down at the piano, different at the piano than in the world?
Do they understand left and right?
So if I watch a child fumble at fingering, my mind is actually running through the above list, seeing if we can improve the underlying skills, mental or physical, that will lead to success at our task.
To answer the comment that “Patience is controlled anger,” I suppose in a way they are right.
But I’m actually too busy watching the child to feel anything approaching anger.
I’ve learned to start instantly looking through my mental index of underlying causes and skills to find the correct course.
Common sense always works.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press