An essay about helping children learn how to learn. I wrote this based on my teaching experiences years ago, and success with working with piano students and families that were over-scheduled.
This is the child who never has a week-day at home after school. Who does not get enough unstructured play time, that is necessary, for a child of his/her age. And who therefore doesn’t learn.
A child who has lots of hobby classes, and yet, never spends time on any hobby just for fun, only when there’s homework. A child, who is learning to just do what is required for each hobby class, and does not explore ideas of his/her own.
This is a child who does not read at home – but goes for a reading class. Who cannot just put music on and dance madly, like we did, but has to go for dance class. Who cannot just stay home and draw for the pleasure of it, but goes to art class.
This child, cannot just explore one hobby class at a time, until one of them fits…..he/she has to do them all – from age 5 onwards.
This child may grow to be an eight year old, who has difficulty answering a question, if it differs from what he is thinking about. A Teenager who often does not listen to what is being asked. And adult who memorises very quickly and has a lot to unlearn before she can learn to reason and think.
This Indian child might even be studying in a school system that encourages rote learning. And where teachers have too many students and sometimes, insufficient education in teaching, to focus on teaching children to think and reason.
I can see what’s happening, because I’m sometimes struggling to help children learn. I talk to parents, and find that they’re quite comfortable with their child’s hectic schedule, until things start to go wrong.
Until both the piano teacher and the child’s school teacher have the same problem. Because this child, who has absolutely no learning disabilities, is still having difficulty learning!
Talking – about choosing one hobby (even if it means stopping piano class) and just one sport or movement activity to focus on, often falls on deaf ears. I’ve seen this, and I know it goes.
So, I’m doing what I can to change how I teach, writing progress reports in the homework book. Talking to busy parents when they can make time for it in their schedules. And writing the occasional email.
And finally, when I reach a point where all efforts have failed, and it’s reached a point where I can’t actually go on teaching, I’m asking piano students to take a break and return when they can free up their schedule.
And evidently, this is what was needed…..a wake up call!!
Piano teaching is so much more than teaching piano playing. Effective piano teaching will always have an impact on the way a student thinks and lives.
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