Even A Good Piano Teacher Has A Bad Day
Even a good piano teacher has a bad day. A week ago I taught a day of very bad piano lessons. I could see it happening, reflected in my student's faces. The thought had formed in my mind that I needed to show progress to the parents. In fact they were perfectly happy with the pace I set. It was in my mind. So I pushed a little too hard. I corrected too much, with an attitude, instead of finding a way to soften the blow and encourage them.
Know When To Back Off
The first child to show a reaction was a twelve year-old boy who is brilliant, but can't sit still and engage his talents. I have to be very careful with him to ensure that he becomes interested and engaged. He is an athlete, an outdoors all-American boy, but still marginally interested in piano because his friends play and he likes it. When I corrected him with the slightest disdain, his reaction was, "Stop being depressing." This is childish honesty at its best.
Teacher's Feelings Are Irrelevant
Then I taught his sister, a much more organized child. I can push her much harder usually. But today I exceeded my limit. This child looked at me and suddenly said, "Stop pushing me! Piano is just for fun." Piano is just for fun! What wisdom! But that was exactly the point. To a child, piano is a fun, elective activity. Keep it on that fun level until the child is ready for more. Then you will have a willing candidate, ready for progress.
Don't Lose Sight Of The Fun
If you lose that fun level too soon, the child will withdraw. Soon they will decide that the piano is not for them. Sometimes I find it very difficult to see it from the child's point of view. Once, when I was very young, I worked as a salesman, and I had a brilliant boss. He said, "You have to feel the mood of the room with a ten foot thermometer, and then act accordingly. All that matters is how they are feeling that day." I often think of my students as I am on the way to their house. I imagine into what mood I am injecting myself.
Child's Point Of View
What I have learned is to look in their eyes constantly to check their real reaction to the lesson. A child's eyes do not lie. If they're delighted, you'll see it. If they're bored or tired it will be reflected in their eyes. Early piano lessons are more a negotiation than an inflexible indoctrination. If you are clever enough to establish the sense of fun, you may be lucky enough to eventually see real progress. Patience, not pushing. The only critic that matters is not the parents, but the look in the child's eyes during their piano lesson.