So You Want To Be A Piano Teacher
Let’s assume you have the requisite musical education, regardless of your age, to teach a child the basics of the piano. With that requirement in hand you are ready perhaps to embark on a career of piano teaching. “But wait,” you say! “Won’t I need a few other things to become a piano teacher?”
That is true, you’ll need a car and a studio, a piano or perhaps two. And a good dose of almost Biblical patience, too. It can be a bumpy ride.
Are You Prepared For A Half Hour With A Kid?
Consider the psychological requirements for sitting with one child. It's a half hour at a time, again and again, day after day, showing them how to play the piano. If you’ve guessed some of the qualities already, let me enumerate the most important. Don’t even think about being a piano teacher if you don’t really love kids.
I mean “love kids” on those days when they’re tired and hot and sticky, sugar-shocked and fresh from two hours on the computer. I mean kids in a bad mood and who don’t want any more education right now, thank you. That’s when you’ll really be tested. Unless you have an affection for kids and an understanding of how hard it is to grow up, don’t bother to become a piano teacher.
The children will know who you are the moment you walk through the door, and they better like you a lot.
Patience Is The Only Tool
You will require the patience of a block of stone. If you’ve ever herded cats, you’ll have an idea of how difficult it can be to grab and hold a child’s attention. I’ve witnessed kids who took years to figure out the basics of the piano such as fingering and reading music. If you wait long enough and keep trying, you can do this with any child.
The key is to let them set the pace, at least on the surface. If they need to fool around for a few moments, it may be more productive to go along with it. You should encourage it, so that they are able to blow off a little steam. Then they are ready to work because they know you will let up when the pressure is too much. It’s simple child psychology.
Humor Always Works
A sense of humor will get you 10,000 times the reaction and results than a gruff attitude. Gruffness and disapproval are two qualities that I utterly banish from my manner with a child. It’s their piano lesson and you need to go at their pace, aware of their mood, always on the lookout for that momentary opportunity to press their musical knowledge forward.
You will get a lot more done by using the little spaces in between the fun. Let them be happy, sing, make up songs, then when the moment is right, they’ll be ready for your next point. You had better love repetition and have an almost biblical ability to disguise a simple task in a thousand and one different ways.
No child accepts blind repetition gladly. If you disguise it as a game, they will adopt it wholeheartedly.
The Lesson Belongs To The Child
I have an image in my mind that allows me to start each piano lesson with a child and make them happy about it. I imagine the child before I arrive, having their own happy day. And then magically I appear. I say to myself that whatever has happened to me that day is irrelevant. All that matters is how that child feels about their lesson on this day.
And I resolve that no matter what, that child is going to feel good about playing the piano on that day. It doesn’t matter if they have practiced or not, if they are in a good mood, or if they make great progress. It matters only that they sat at the piano, gave it their best try, enjoyed it, and were praised for their honest efforts.
It’s my job to make their musical education a happy one. Do that by accurately gauging their mood and acting appropriately. It works every single time.