Why I spend 15 minutes of piano class talking to new piano parents
It’s sometime now, since I’ve been doing this with parents of my young beginners. Parents sit in on class or I talk to them on the phone during class, so their child is aware of what we discuss. We talk about :
- Piano practise scheduling.
- How the practise homework addresses the students learning style.
- Piano teaching methods in general and my teaching approach specifically.
- How movement, breaks & activities are used during piano class to help fidgety children learn to sit still at the piano. More on this below in ‘Teaching fidgety kids to sit still.’
- How parents should handle movement & breaks during practise at home, so it remains beneficial and doesn’t sabotage discipline during home piano practise.
- Why it’s normal for young piano students to be irregular with home piano practise, unless they get the help they need. That young students simply don’t have the ability to schedule practise & adhere to a schedule.
I’m writing about it, because it has made a huge difference to the quality of support that my students and I receive from their parents. The simple truth is this – Students who last out in piano are invariably the ones whose parents get involved.
What parent involvement means
Children and teenagers usually don’t practise on their own, because they have difficulty scheduling their activities. Each child has a different personality, so the extent of parent support a student needs varies.
Here’s what parent support usually means for most young piano students :
- Setting a daily practise schedule. More on this below, in ‘What a relaxed practise schedule means.’
- Reminding your child to practise.
- Listening to your child play.
- Being around daily, or as often as possible, at practise time & peeping into the practise room to listen.
- Making sure your child to reads the homework book.
- Being there to provide moral support when your child has taken on a challenging piece (through choice) and finds it difficult working alone.
- Being as consistent as you can with your involvement in piano practise.
- Showing appreciation. More on this below in ‘Noticing those small (but BIG) achievements.’
What parent support means as kids grow up
- Being around once or twice a week during practise time.
- Reminding your child to practise, using practise charts if needed, so you know that practise has been done in your absence.
- Checking the homework book & talking to the teacher once in a way, so you know what’s going on.
- Discussing your childs goals with the piano teacher, so that the goals set are reasonable given the level of your child’s studies & other hobbies. Goals in terms of the number of pieces learned, playing for concerts or piano exams. So that it’s easy to assess progress.
- Talking to the teacher now & then about the level of enthusiasm & commitment your child has and any other activities or situations that put your child under pressure. So, the piano teacher knows when to push your child harder, and when to give him/her a little leeway.
Teaching fidgety kids to sit still
“Sit still! Be serious! And play!”
This is what many piano parents are saying to their young kids at home, in an effort to get practise done. And it’s just quite crazy, because, it’s normal for young kids to have shorter attention spans, and to fidget. It also goes against what they’re learning in piano class, which is
“Play is an integral part of learning”
Many of us piano teachers are letting the child’s idea of fun determine what goes on in class, creating off-the-stool piano activities that include movement to teach musical concepts.
Some parents understand the advantage of this teaching approach immediately and others take time to understand, but irrespective, all have questions. Because sadly, learning through fun is a very new concept. So teachers need to take time to explain.
We’re talking in piano class, about the value of play, and about fact that the average Navi Mumbai child today gets much much less than the recommended physical activity he/she needs to grow and develop. Talking about the fact that children need to play and move to develop good motor coordination seems to make parents realise it’s importance.
What a relaxed practise schedule means
- 2 or 3 small practise slots at different times rather than one single block of time
- An extra slot, so there’s leeway, for when your child needs a change in routine
- Practise slots should have free time before & after because children often take time to reach the piano, and sometimes enjoy playing & want to stay longer
Noticing those small (but BIG) achievements
This is the most important issue that I’ve faced with new piano parents. Every child has different difficulties, and what seems easy to an adult, may be really really hard for a young child. A lot of times, piano class is repetition.
Piano teacher’s work for years, correcting the same weak spot at every class. It may be sitting still long enough to practise a piece well, bad hand position, banging the keys, an inability to play slow, or to play on time. Parents getting the same feedback class after class, need to know that this is how it goes in piano class. It’s quite normal.
It’s not that their child is lazy or inattentive, but that it’s difficult for a child to remember and to work on his/her weak spot at home, when there’s no teacher around. It’s good when parents remind their child, but only if it’s once in a way. Too much, and children feel they’re being chased or nagged and it takes the joy out of practise. What really works is positive reinforcement. Record the student when there’s a successful attempt at home, show it to the rest of the family later, and bring it to piano class.
Sometimes, the improvements are so small, that parents simply can’t see them. And yet these tiny steps forward are so BIG, because the young piano student has had to really try hard, and they deserve praise. It’s why piano teachers take the trouble to point out small improvements. And take the time, to explain to parents, why they’re such huge steps forward.
Here’s a related post ‘Teaching parents the value of struggle and how it’s helping’
My Piano Mom’s (and some Piano Dad’s) help make their kids see that learning something new and challenging is fun. They also make teaching their kids a joyful and rewarding time for me, and I see them as an immense support to the learning process.