I wish there had been somebody who I could have asked for advice when I was a new teacher. I can remember feeling very bewildered and confused sometimes about what to teach and how to teach it.
I say this because last week in the Curiosity Lounge (our private Facebook group for paid up subscribers to The Community of The Curious Piano Teachers) one of our members asked for advice as he was about to give his first ever piano lessons.
Well, the help just flooded in. (There were about 43 comments in total from over 20 more experienced piano teachers who had the ‘been there, done that’ T-shirt!)
The sharing of personal experience from many of The Community members was fabulous. Such good, practical advice was given that I just had to pass it on. So here it is, brought to life with quotes from members of The Community – our online membership site that offers ongoing professional development and support to piano teachers worldwide.
#1 Make a plan
Have a plan for lessons. Keep things simple by focussing on just one main objective.
‘Pick an objective that you want to work on and then create activities from there’. Rebecca SL
#2 Take your time
Go slow! Take your time and don’t feel that you have to rush through things. It is easy to make assumptions about what a pupil does or doesn’t understand.
‘Take it SLOWLY…..allow lots of time for concepts to really settle with your students. Use lots of games and reinforcement methods that don’t feel like “drill and kill”. I feel like I always rushed the reading process and until recently, didn’t allow students enough time to really grasp concepts. I feel like now I teach in slow motion.’ Debbie G
#3 Be creative
Give yourself permission to explore ways of teaching and learning. Improvisation, singing, playing by ear, playing by rote, sound stories, rhythm cup games are just a few ideas on this aspect.
As the new teacher commented: ‘I am really excited by the creative bit. So many great ideas for firing up the imagination out there! Wasn’t like that when I was on my first lessons! I hope I can become skilled enough to teach the curriculum/framework/fundamentals in an engaging way. And allowing myself to go off on a tangent if it is fun and worth exploring!’
Several teachers recommended our teaching resource ‘Let’s Play’ as a great tool for acquiring more resources and teaching ideas for beginner piano lessons.
#4 Enjoy yourself
If you enjoy yourself then there’s a good chance the pupil will relax and be able to learn as well. Smile and remember to laugh if you make a mistake – which you will by the way! As one of the teachers remarked: ‘If you enjoy the lesson so will they – remember to play games as well. Students love them and it’s easy to encompass a learning point’. Simon B
#5 Look after yourself
Do remember to pace yourself in how many pupils you agree to take on initially.
A great piece of advice came from Angie T on this: ‘Pace yourself taking in pupils in tranches – it’s good to have cohorts of between 4-6 new pupils per term. This means you have natural peer groups for organising groups/concerts… and after 3 terms/ intakes of newbies, you will have refined your teaching of beginners and tested your enrolment/admin processes’.
What you want to avoid is having so many pupils that you leave no time to read, reflect and plan.
#6 Be sure of yourself and what matters
Spend some time considering the bigger picture of why playing the piano is important for you and your pupils. This will then put you in a stronger position when dealing with awkward and/or pushy parents.
‘Don’t be over accommodating to parents. When you get really busy you’ll regret it. Respect what you believe in and what works for you’. Wendy D
#7 Set up your business
‘Remember you are a teacher *and* a business owner. Take time to get your admin procedures/systems in place while you’ve only got a handful of students. That way, when your teaching practice builds, your time won’t be eaten up by paperwork’. Emma H
#8 Keep reading and being curious
One final piece of advice is to continue to read and listen to experts, and the advice they give, with an open and critical mind.
‘Read lots of different views and form your own opinions. Seek out alternative views that may differ to ‘the norm’. You may not agree with them but they will challenge and reinforce your thinking’. Rebecca SL
To all new piano teachers out there; you’re not alone – we’re here to help. Together we can have a significant impact on the way the piano is taught and learnt! If you’d like to find out more about our membership send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get straight back to you about how we can help you get started.
To all the members of The Community of The Curious Piano Teachers who contributed to this article – thank you!