Let’s talk about piano teaching


Have you talked to anyone about your piano teaching recently? Have you been able to celebrate the weekly achievements of pupils or get advice on problems you have encountered? Or have you just had to talk to the cat?

Today I am going to share 3 simple ways that will help you to develop and strengthen your piano teaching skills; talking, observing, collaborating.

piano teaching business

Teaching the piano is often a lonely and isolated job with little opportunity to share and discuss points of common interests with other teachers. It’s no wonder that here in the UK, although the world around us have moved on dramatically, we are essentially teaching the piano exactly the same way as we did 150 years ago!

But with the advent of technology all that can, and is, changing.

It’s good to talk and just about every week for the past year Sharon and I have chatted on-line via Skype. Sometimes it has just been a phone call but we prefer Skype because we can see each other (this usually includes Sharon watching me have my breakfast!) and interact. Often, we start by exchanging recent teaching successes or problems before we get down to business matters and all things ‘curious’.

For both of us it has been a very welcome addition to our week and we have talked through problems together that individually we were really struggling with.

I was flicking through Facebook (as you do) a few weeks ago and a certain video caught my eye. It was a piano teacher working with a young student and I was really impressed that the communication between them was either at the piano or through body or facial gestures with very little talking in evidence. I love watching other people teach – it is always such a privilege to be able to. For me, watching this video for about 40 seconds really made me re-think an aspect of my teaching that week and I know that my pupils noticed the difference. Whether a lesson is outstanding, good or not so good there is always something to learn and to reflect on.

Observing others play and/or teach is one of the best forms of professional development there is and we don’t do enough of it!

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In Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA animate lecture Changing Education Paradigms he makes, what is for me, the very powerful statement that:

collaboration is the stuff of growth‘.

Click here to watch Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson

From my own experience I know this to be true. Working as a tutor on The Piano Teachers’ Course, alongside other expert teachers, over a period of time has deepened my teaching in a way that nothing else could and this collaboration has given me valuable insights into my own teaching.

But, for most piano teachers, until recently collaboration has had some practical problems. Now however, the internet has once again opened up new possibilities.

On-line collaboration is proving fruitful within The Community of The Curious Piano Teachers. As you might have read in last week’s Curious Blog many members of The Community have been undertaking their own, personal 21-day challenge to memorise a piece of music, away from the piano!

There has been a lot of mutual encouragement present, in-depth discussions on how to overcome problems and how the whole process has felt – scarier than many anticipated!

This week many of them have been posting videos of their performances in the Curiosity Lounge. One of them, Lizbeth, has been kind and brave enough to let us share her performance with you all. As you watch and enjoy this remember that this is the first time she played the Menuett in F on the piano!

Click here to watch Lizbeth’s memorised performance of Menuett in F

Lizbeth performance

I think you’ll agree when I say ‘bravo, Lizbeth!’

For collaboration to work there has to be a sense of trust, support and mutual endeavour. Within the Curiosity Lounge these qualities are in abundance. As one member commented the other day:

What is so great about this group is that everyone is so encouraging and willing to share. No one seeks to score points and everyone is supportive of each other‘.

As Curious Piano Teachers we are all working together to find new and innovative ways to teach the piano. Sharon and I are just a small part of this and although we create resources that are valued by members of The Community in return we find ourselves hugely inspired by their thoughts and suggestions.

So, if you want to flourish and grow as a piano teacher here are some ideas for ways that you can use the internet to get you started:

  • Over the next month get in touch with a piano teaching friend or colleague, either via Skype or in person, and have a coffee and a chat.
  • Search out as many models of good playing or teaching as you can find on-line.
  • Set yourself the challenge of learning and recording a piece over a set period. Be brave and share it with someone else!
  • Collaborate with someone else on a project – this can be on any subject connected with teachng or playing the piano but do it with at least one other person.

Or, of course, you could become a Curious Piano Teacher yourself! Just one click HERE will get you started on the adventure.

Whichever your chosen path I would love you to leave a comment letting us know what you are going to be up to!

This post was written by Sally Cathcart | co-founder of The Curious Piano Teachers.

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