I've been a piano teacher professionally for 15 years now. It's been quite a journey. When I was fresh out of college I was ready to start teaching piano and wanted to be the best teacher possible. I went to visit my very first piano teacher and asked her for some advice. She told me a couple of things that have proven to be true: SMILE at your students and be their friend, and WAIT 10 years for the real rewards.
2 Pieces of Advice to Becoming a Great Piano Teacher
I’ve been a piano teacher professionally for 15 years now. It’s been quite a journey. When I was fresh out of college I was ready to start teaching piano and wanted to be the best teacher possible. I went to visit my very first piano teacher and asked her for some advice. She told me a couple of things that have proven to be true: SMILE at your students and be their friend, and WAIT 10 years for the real rewards.
I understood immediately the importance of being a friend to the students: if you are their friend, you will get results. This was the bottom line for me. I wanted good students. I wanted results.
My take on waiting 10 years for the real rewards was that after 10 years your students would be very good piano players and that would be enjoyable.
It turns out her 2 pieces of advice were right, but not for the reasons I initially thought.
I had no problem being a friend to my students – I am a friendly person by nature, so being their friend came naturally. But rather than simply getting results from the students, I found that I truly did care about them as individuals. I cared about their weekly struggles and successes. I attended their musicals and their graduations, because I wanted to. Being a friend to my students encompasses so much more than simply trying to get them to play the piano well for me! You see, as a piano teacher, you are one of the ONLY people in the lives of these children who is there with them week in and week out for 12+ years. They become part of your family – my students now come back and visit me from college and beyond. We text each other and they sometimes still want to share their struggles and successes with me. Playing the piano involves a lot of “trouble-shooting” – there are so many tiny details that must be attended to and resolved. This constant attention to solving problems gives students life skills, not only piano skills. So, piano teachers, watch out and be forewarned – you are going to care about your students and their lives – but don’t be afraid of that; embrace it and be their friend, for in it lies a tremendous internal reward.
As for the advice of waiting ten years, it’s not just about having great sounding students. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a piano teacher to the same students for ten years, you WILL have some great sounding students – musically, that is very rewarding and satisfying. There is something else that happens after ten years, though. You see, after ten years, you KNOW the music well enough to teach it in your sleep. You KNOW the techniques needed to be able to teach each piece. You have honed your teaching skills to be able to explain the “how to’s” behind pianistic difficulties and that is no small feat! With that accomplishment comes a confidence that cannot be easily achieved until you cross that ten year mark. And, after ten years, you yearn for an even greater skill set for yourself and a deeper understanding of the music that you teach.
So remember: the art of being a piano teacher does not happen overnight! If you are a new piano teacher, take the words of my first piano teacher to heart. Be a friend to your students in every aspect of the word and then wait ten years to see your true teaching skills come to fruition!
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