Ten Rules For A Pleasant Lesson Atmosphere
Here are ten rules for a pleasant lesson atmosphere. The mood is controlled by the teacher, and must be set immediately, as soon as you walk in the room. The lesson must begin in a friendly, casual way. There should be no sense of hurry, no rush to work. We're here to enjoy the piano. Even though you are teaching a child, you might do well to treat them like a young artist. In a conservatory, the student brings music they wish to play, and presents it to the master. I always ask first, "What are you going to play me?" This puts them in the drivers seat, with me right next to them.
A Song Is Like A Toy
Be very careful to see if the child wants to play the song in question. If they seem bored, immediately say, "Let's play something else." Imagine a child with a toy. You will have a very hard time convincing them to enjoy playing with a toy they don't like. Banish impatience and disappointment. No one cares if this child can't play perfectly, or barely at all. It is your job to go at their pace, no matter how glacial that might be. Be careful when you ask them to practice. The danger is that they don't, and then you might feel obliged to make them feel guilty. This may seem like "tough love" to the old school piano teacher. To the child. you have just killed the whole reason to play the piano by being impatient and gruff. What child wants to spend half an hour with a disagreeable adult?
Cleverly Crafted Curriculum
Find a way to make your curriculum palatable. If you insist on only reading music, at least find ways to make it interesting. The rote approach will have the average child running from the room. No child wants to play piano with the expectation that an adult will inevitably be upset at their efforts. Ignore their mistakes outwardly. Make a note of it. But think carefully before you point out mistakes without a way out for the child. Avoid direct failure, since you can always try again.
Repeated Victory Will Make You Invincible
Resolve that the child will leave the lesson feeling like a winner. Many teachers will say, "But what if the child was terrible?" If the child was terrible, you weren't clever enough to find a way to interest them. With enough patience, you can interest a child in almost anything. These are children: there's no excuse for overpowering them with your "program." Have reasonable expectations for your young students. Why did you, the teacher, start playing the piano? Whatever the influences that made you a piano teacher, remember that it may be a completely different set of influences that will make the student in front of you "catch fire" and want to play the piano.
Watch How The Child Feels
Don't assume that the process that got you interested in the piano will work for every or any child. At every point in the lesson, ask yourself, "Is this child enjoying this?" In total contradiction to most piano teachers, the truth is that enjoyment is the fastest path into a child's brain. Force, guilt and pressure cannot compare to poise, patience and humor.