The Purpose of the First Five Piano Lessons
The purpose of the first five piano lessons is to convince the child they want to take a sixth.
If you're thinking farther ahead than that, you're dreaming. Even on piano lesson #1,000,000, you’ll want and need lesson #1,000,001, if you get that far.
The piano is not mastered or even grazed in a single lesson. It is only with repeated exposure, even inundation, that a pianist learns their moves. This is true with a child as well.
Don't Force Feed Piano Curriculum
A young piano teacher will often miss the point of the earliest lessons. It’s not about you and your curriculum. It’s about the child and how they feel. A force fed curriculum is not teaching at all, but indoctrination.
Teaching is an active deed. Like a prizefighter, you must be on your balance and not be thrown off by odd blows and occurrences. We’re dealing with children’s minds, after all.
Your Secret Agenda Of Reading Music
There is always a secret curriculum that you are trying to teach the child. That is the art of reading music. I say secret, because you don’t want to make it obvious that you are interested in one thing only. A child doesn’t need to know that they are being taught to read music, even while they are being taught to read music.
By this I mean that you should be clever enough to know how to disguise a task as a game, and know how to follow through on the game and deliver fun and education at the same time.
Children Show Me How To Teach Piano
You cannot teach rookie children like cadets gung-ho to make Carnegie hall. But you can give rookie children the opportunity to decide if being a cadet is their cup of tea. This secret curriculum (reading music) is the only weapon with which conventional piano teachers equip themselves.
And children hate it, anticipating a foul medicine they know tastes bad. Their minds close up and they wait patiently and numbly until you can show them something either more interesting, or presented in a more palatable way.
Conventional Lessons Only Offer Reading Music
The problem is, of course, that the conventional teacher has nothing else to offer besides the bitter syrup of reading music. And you wonder why kids quit! When children’s minds shut off due to this curriculum overload, you’re out of luck. If there’s one thing reading music takes in abundance, it is attention and focus.
Control Ratio Of Work To Fun
My solution to this problem is to always do reading music as a short segment. They know after a while that it will be very short, and pay attention as best they can to get through it as quickly as possible. I make it fun, but they can see me watching their struggle every second, ready to release the pressure when it is too great.
First Fun, Then Work
I cast all kidding aside and ask for a few moments of work, and I always get it, often more at their own request. That brief work period, multiplied many times over, is my repayment for all the clever educational clowning that I use to keep the atmosphere congenial and child-friendly.
My philosophy as a piano teacher is that I would rather engage a child’s mind willingly for sixty seconds, than a grudging half hour in which learning is like pulling teeth.