A patient piano teacher knows when to back off, when to be less demanding, and when to switch to an activity that provides relief from stress.
Of course there’s a curriculum you’re trying to instill, but it does no good if the child is completely stressed out by your manner.
The child’s stress usually comes from the teacher’s insistence on following a set curriculum, with a set timetable. But kids lag behind, they get confused, they don’t practice. Browbeating them and insisting on concentration when they can’t deliver it is torture to a kid.
A better approach is to know what you want to teach the child, but then find out what part of that curriculum is palatable to them that day, and try that. Curriculum at this level can be taught in any order, and complying with the child makes them cooperative.
Sometimes kids are in no mood for anything, and then you have to back off completely. Be crafty, and disguise a simple skill as “nothing.” Force never works.
Force always has an equal reaction, which is apathy.
Combine the old school, conventional methods with the newer ideas, like Piano By Number, and now you have a toolchest that will interest a child if it is presented in the right proportion, regardless of their mood.
You need to be constantly assessing the state of the patient/student to see what they are capable of at that moment. The force method doesn’t care what mood the kid is in, we’re playing page 26.
Kids get tired of reading music, then I retreat to numbers. When they get tired of numbers, I switch to piano games. When they get tired of piano games, I switch to hilarious music history. Once they are laughing, we can start again at the top of the list.
The best advice on salesmanship I ever got was from a real estate entrepeneur, who said to me, “You’ve got to have a thermometer ten feet long to sense the mood in the room. That’s what sells: sensitivity.”
Some will say I’m “soft on crime” and need to utilize “tough love,” but my methods produce results: students who play under their own steam, who want to play.
At times kids will simply not be in the mood for anything. They want to watch TV, they want to play ipad.
At such times, I play a game called ATOMIC PIANO LESSON. The child sits on a chair or the sofa, and I play piano, asking them for their reactions to the music I am playing. It is really ear-training, but they will never know it.
Then I ask them to play a C chord from the sofa, six feet away. Of course they can’t, but they pretend to reach. Then they laugh. I seem to be asking for the impossible.
Usually, once they are laughing, they will return to the piano and play a tune or two, usually with one finger. We laugh.
But we are still in agreement, because we had fun: we will keep trying.
Tomorrow is another day.
Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press