Would you study Geography to prepare for History paper?
This is exactly what a couple of my students did, and the parents were upset. Really upset! That their child was so irresponsible and did not take the trouble to check what was scheduled before revising.
Something similar happens frequently with piano practise at home and piano parents often don’t understand the subject. So they think things are going well, when they might not be.
Students sometimes spend quite a bit of time at the piano experimenting with new stuff, or playing through pieces they enjoy. This is wonderful as it means the student it exploring and enjoying the instrument and this is necessary.
What’s also necessary for progress is ‘practise’ and doing the ‘homework’ assigned during piano lessons, and the student who skips this obviously doesn’t do well.
Goal setting and communication
Piano teachers usually modify their lesson plans to meet the students interest. This is fine with beginner level students, or students who just want to enjoy lessons and are willing to learn at a comfortable pace. But this usually doesn’t work when :
- Either the student or the piano parent has given the teacher very clear cut goals and expectations from piano lessons. And lessons are planned based on this.
- With students with learning difficulties or behavioural issues, because they need regular homework or discipline in order to move beyond their difficulty.
- With preparation for examinations or performances.
Piano parents and teachers need to work together when a student isn’t doing well, so there’s change for the better :
- Either a change at home with regular practise and homework done,
- Or reworking the students goals, if they no longer work with what the student can reasonably do at home.
When parents don’t understand
My early years in Navi Mumbai were a period of growth and realisation. Kharghar was fairly new to piano teaching and piano class meant a variety of different kinds of classes. I wrote about it in This class called piano class.
While many parents were happy to take the time to understand what was going on in piano lessons, there were quite a few who weren’t.
I learned that educating parents was the secret to progress. Quite a challenge even with those that were interested, and a lost effort with those that weren’t.
There were two major difficulties I faced when teaching in this market which is new to the kind of piano teaching teachers like me do.
Difficulty No 1 : Misconceptions and a lack of respect for the subject
Here’s some common misconceptions that hinder quality piano practise :
- Piano playing is easy.
- It doesn’t matter what the teacher says, students can practise erratically and tell their teacher that homework done.
- Posture and hand position don’t matter. Students can sit the way they like to and just tell the teacher they’re following instructions, and things will be fine.
- Children and teens should work and schedule their piano practise independently.
- Practise doesn’t need focus as it’s fun and enjoyable and the student can be interrupted at any time if there’s something needed, or even for a chat. Studies on the other hand, need focus and the student must be given quality study time.
Many teachers like me are careful to interview students and explain how piano class works before enrolment.
Difficulty No 2 : A general lack of respect for teachers as a professionals
Teaching as a profession is often the last choice for students who plan their graduate and post-graduate studies and are looking for careers that will help them gain financial independence and support their families.
- The income teachers earn isn’t enough to support regular teacher education and teachers who study often do it despite that.
- This also means that teachers need to work longer hours, taking more students than they can cope with, in an effort to earn enough, leading to stress and burn-out.
Being new to Navi Mumbai and teaching in this market was a challenge for me at first. To many parents of today, teaching is a commodity they buy. Unlike with earlier generations, quite a few families today don’t see it as a service that requires dedication and vocation. It’s a different value system and this attitude just doesn’t work for progress in piano lessons.
It’s changing a lot for me now, as most of my students tend to be referrals or students who have read my blog, and know what to expect. And this makes a huge difference!
There are two vital elements needed for effective learning – in piano lessons and in any subject for that matter. Respect for the Subject is the beginning. This creates demand for quality teaching, and a value for the teachers who provide it, driving Respect for the Teacher.
Respect is a vital ingredient to learning. Without this, there’s no value for teaching imparted. And the student who lacks this respect is the loser in the long run.
On this Teachers Day, I’d like to thank my wonderful teachers and wish every teacher a Happy Teachers Day!