4 reasons why your family’s lucky if you’re a lousy cook

Some of my women friends are stuck. They’re amazing cooks & they were just so good at it, that other family members stopped taking turns with cooking. They loved cooking & took pains to cater to differing tastes, by cooking a wide variety of dishes at every meal.

It’s hitting them hard as they get older & their priorities change. They want time to spend with their extended family & often struggle to get time to meet up with their friends. Because running their home, looking after older family members & producing fabulous meals daily takes all the time they have.

They’re talking about it when we meet & realising that their being so good at cooking has made their family fussy. They now want to unlearn their amazing cooking skills & learn from women with cooking skills like mine!

If you are like me, and your cooking skills range from lousy on a bad day, to basic on a good one, don’t feel bad. Here’s 4 reasons why your family is lucky :

  • No one will be terribly overweight, because they’re not likely to overeat.
  • Everyone will learn the true meaning of the first line of Serenity Prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Your family will eventually learn to eat the few things you can cook that are edible. After many years, they’ll have gone so used to your cooking, that they’ll have lowered their standards and  will even insist that you’re the most amazing cook!
  • A lot more gets done at home, because you have the time. Because you can cook what you find easy, because there will be no special requests – for snacks, deserts or just about anything else…if dal (pulses), sabji (veggies) & a couple of chicken dishes are all you can cook that’s edible, everyone will be thrilled to eat it everyday!
  • You’re always smiling when you have guests over – because you can enjoy spending time with them. Everyone will be really thrilled if you don’t put yourself out to cook for them and will even try to hint broadly saying “Don’t worry to cook dear, let’s all go out for lunch, or order in. We know you’re busy and will just be tired if you have to do a lot of cooking!”

 

I’m saying no to the requests I’ve had for cooking classes.  The truth is, all I have to do is ‘try’ to cook well and that’s enough for things to go terrible wrong….so I don’t think I can teach it. It’s just a natural talent!

😀

Questions parents of young beginner piano students need to ask

Here’s a list of 8 questions that come up over the course of piano teaching. I’m addressing these answer’s specifically to the parents of my new beginner students.

1) Does my teaching approach suit the parent and child? Do the parent, student and teacher have the same goals?

Parents and students goals change over time, so these are questions I constantly asks myself. Because the teaching styles of different teachers are different, and there may come a time when the student needs a change.

I keep parents involved with what’s happening in piano class through comments in the homework book, emails and phone calls where necessary. When children give trouble or go through difficult phases relating to learning, I rely a lot on parent support, and this helps both me and the student, as it has a very very positive impact on learning.

Parents of young children who don’t wish to be involved in piano class and want their child’s learning to happen without any involvement at home, definitely need a teacher with a different approach.

2) How quick does the class progress?

This depends entirely on whether your child practises regularly or not. Children who practise get taught something new, and children who don’t practise, mostly revise work they’ve forgotten.

3) Should I correct my child’s practise mistakes?

The answer to this is a big big NO. Your child needs, from the first, to listen and correct his/her own mistakes. You may however help, by asking questions to make your child listen and think. For example :

“Did you play correct? Can you play it again, it sounds so good!” Your 5 year old child might say it was correct, even when it was wrong, but will play a second time and will automatically be paying more attention – is more likely to hear a mistake, and stop and correct it. Teacher’s correct mistakes and explain in class, so your child will learn to hear mistakes fairly quickly.

This approach eventually leads to really good – and independent learning.

4) What do I do when my child practises regularly, with great enthusiasm and committment, but practises WRONG?

Here’s when you need to talk to me – preferable on the phone, so your child can’t hear, and we can talk about what needs to be done to remedy this. I write instructions in the homework book, which you can help your young child read and follow, and will take up any special learning issues your child has.

5) Why do we need targets or goals?

Parents pay a fee in expectation that their child will learn, and the teacher spends valuable time on a student with the same hope. Setting targets helps the parent, student and teacher work towards a common end. The purpose of the target is not to put pressure on the student, and I say this very very emphatically!

Rather, it is to ensure that progress in piano class happens with absolutely no pressure, so the young student thinks of piano playing as a fun and relaxing thing to do.

6) Why does the parent need to be ‘around’ to implement practise. Can’t they just tell their child to ‘go practise’ or ‘get practise done’?

The piano is a very lonely instrument, unlike the violin or guitar, where students have more opportunities to play in groups. Young children whose parents implement practise by saying ‘play for me’ because -’ I love to hear you’ or ‘I find listening to you fun or relaxing’ usually have children who grow to love the routine of piano practise.

They develop a routine, because their parents taught them this, by being around every day. It surprises me, that even working mother’s are able to make time to do this..until I realise, it’s not just because they enjoy their child playing, though that’s a part of it.

More, it’s because they realise there’s long term value to their child’s musical development, and are willing to put in the regular effort that is necessary to help their child learn.

7) My child gets some things well and struggle with some others

Piano playing is a lot of learning. It takes time to work on a piece and get it right. Sometimes, children work very hard and it still takes time. If the homework book shows that 50% of your child’s work is good – your child is doing well.

As the level of difficulty increases, the pieces get harder, and your child grows up, results take more time. This is when your child and I the teacher, need your help – to reinforce the idea that even good students struggle.

In fact, the life of a pianist is a constant effort to be better – because learning never ends. What your child is now learning, is enjoy learning. To be confident in the face of a struggle – the struggle to learn. To be mature in the face of adversity, and to keep trying, even when things get tough. It is very true, that piano students learn skills in piano class that help them get through life.

8) Why is my child’s progress so slow?

It’s your child’s practise routine – or really, lack of it…..It often takes parents anything from 3 months to a year to realise that their young child needs help with practise – to schedule practise, and a daily routine, so that it’s not overly crowded with too many activities.

Children with very tight daily schedules get stressed and tend to learn very slow as a result. I’ve written about my overly scheduled students in ‘Coping with the over-scheduled child in piano class’

A warm welcome to all my new students and their parents – to the joy and the challenge of learning to play the piano.

The impact of 100 minutes of practise

A follow up on My Personal Sight-reading Challenge and Month 6 of My Personal Sight-reading Challenge

My Personal Sight-reading Challenge : 5 minutes a day, 20 days a month

I took up this challenge in 2016 to make learning new pieces a part of my daily schedule. My practise commitment of 5 minutes a day, 20 days a month was easy to keep up. On days that I had time, 5 minutes often stretched to 45 minutes.

Something really IS is better than nothing

Learning new material became a regular part of my daily routine, and I practised older material in rotation, to keep in touch with it.

An erratic practise schedule like this was not enough for me to reach the playing levels that I would have liked to, but there was progress. Slow, steady, comfortable and enjoyable. It was enough to get me playing full pieces, rather than just demos of sections that I would practise to teach my students.

What’s more important, is that I started to feel the joy of playing once again, and to go to the piano to relax… Something that I had forgotten to do through the many years of busy – with family and work commitments, when I did not make the time to play the piano just for me.

Modifying my goals to meet my abilities

I had a few practise setbacks, because problems with my hands due to some health issues affected piano playing, among other things. So I had to modify my goals, take on easier pieces and take practise breaks for long stretches.

‘The 30 piece challenge”  was out of my reach, because even though I had learned enough material, many pieces were still too rough and needed more work. However my levels of motivations were steady and no longer needed to upload my ‘first reading’ of each piece to make sure I continued, so I stopped doing this.

Having goals that were flexible and small helped me feel a sense of achievement. And this motivated me to stick with it.

Getting your child to the piano at practise time

Young piano students generally don’t practise unless there’s supervision. They need help with scheduling practise and they also need daily reminders to practise. Here are a few effective and not so effective ways that parents handle the daily reminders.

  • Tell my children to practise and they will do it on their own

Most parents who do this and expect instant obedience will fail. Some of them might also make the mistake of thinking that their child is not interested in piano playing, because they don’t obey.

What many parents don’t realise, is that piano playing is a very solitary hobby for the young piano student and what they most want, in order to practise, is company. Just someone to be around, listen and enjoy their playing.

This method often degenerates into the next method.

  • Shout and lecture on a daily basis

This is the most ineffective way of getting practise done and the cause of a large number of children losing interest in piano playing. Some children who are still very very keen on learning despite this, get very defensive and their minds just shut down, so at piano class, convincing them to learn something new becomes a very difficult task for the teacher.

  • Set a practise time, and see that the child is free at that time, remind your child twice

This is the most effective, and a large number of musical children who do well, have parents who do this. Children usually respond to the second reminder and parents who are prepared to remind their child twice do not get irritated when their child doesn’t go to the piano at first reminder.

  • Listen to your child either during practise or at the end of the day, 3 times a week – preferably on alternate days

This works very well for parents who are both working and come home too late to be there at practise time. For most children, just a reminder that they have to play for their parents is enough to motivate them to practise.

 

  • Convince your child that you need them to play the piano, so that you can relax after a busy day

One parent came out with this really creative solution. Her child would often tell me that she had to practise every day, because that was the only time her parents could relax and unwind. The parent would lie down on a yoga mat and use practise time to do some relaxation techniques!

Young children who get the support they need in the early years, will grow into teens who want to practise daily. The role of the parent will change, from scheduling practise and daily supervision, to helping their child to this on their own.

Mixed feelings

May 2015 : Mixed feelings as I stop teaching in Bandra

I miss my lovely lot of students there and yet, I’m feeling the relief… now that I don’t have to do that crazy commute that took a good 5 hours out of each day.

I’m looking forward to taking on more students in Khargar, to getting time to make friends in my neighbourhood, and to time at home.

So for now, it’s goodbye to all my Bandra students and their very very supportive families. I wish you well.

 

2017 : Setting up in Khargar

It’s been a few years since I stopped teaching in Bandra. I have started teaching there again, but it’s just couple of students, as I work full time in Khargar, Navi Mumbai.

I don’t advertise, so setting up teaching the piano here in Khargar went slow and gave me time. I used it to study, practise and upgrade the quality of my teaching. And to make time to meet up with friends for chai.

🙂

I now run a small piano teaching studio in Khargar, Navi Mumbai and I plan for it to stay that way. Because this gives me time to focus on continuously improving the quality of my teaching. Staying small helps me do this, while getting time to have a relaxed home life, time with family and time for me.

Maintaining work life balance is a daily effort & sometimes a struggle, but it’s been going pretty good this year.

Recording and Guided Self-Assessment in piano in class

Getting piano students to practise

Get a group of piano teachers talking about what they struggle with, and students NOT practising is very likely to be a hot topic.

    • Erratic practise
    • Students ‘playing’ through pieces rather than ‘practising’ them, ignoring instructions in the homework book.
    • Practising making mistakes. Instead of using practise techniques to avoid them, to practise NOT making them.

Like every teacher, I’m constantly looking for remedies to lack of practise, and to poor practise, because what works with one batch of students might not work with another.

My first experiments with recording in piano class

I turned to the recorder on my cellphone in a desperate attempt to motivate a batch of students to practise – when all other methods failed. Audio or video recordings of any student who’d made great progress, emailed to my students & parents. And was surprised and quite thrilled with the results and the way it motivated my students!  

A remedy for the hearing gap

Piano students want progress, and are often unable to understand the quality of work that is required to achieve this. A review of my lessons this year made me realise that students just don’t hear what their teacher hears. This hearing gap is one of the reasons why students get upset with the critical evaluation that’s a part of every piano class.

This November 2017, I decided to put my cellphone recorder and a pile of unused file dividers (assessment cards) to use, to remedy this problem :

      • I recorded my student playing at piano class, and both of us (student and I) listened to the recording immediately.
      • We then discussed how the student would assess his/her playing and what the assessment criteria I’d set meant. 
      • We listened again, and my student and I both did separate assessments.
      • If my grading/comments differed with my student’s, I’d explain my reasons and the student was free to agree, or disagree if unconvinced, marking as he/she felt fit.

It was an eye opener : I was expecting to have to talk about work that my students marked higher than I did. What surprised me was that they did not register some really excellent progress. I had to explain and get them to listen again, to help them understand  how well they’d done!


I started experimenting with recording my piano students after reading a post from the blog of Frances Wilson’s Piano Studio –  The benefits of recording your piano lessons class.

Recording plus a Guided Student Self-Assessment in piano class is improving the quality of my students practise and making a very positive difference to the way they respond to feedback. It’s also changing the way I interact with my students and taking away a potential source of student-teacher conflict. So much, that now it’s a regular part of my piano lessons. 

My Personal Sightreading Challenge – 5 minutes and 20 days a month

Making the time in my daily schedule and committing to learn new pieces had always been a struggle. So, in April 2015, I decided to make a change. I started small, with just 5 minutes a day, 20 days a month spent on sight reading a new piece.

My first piece was a Bach 2 part invention – just a few bars on day 1,  and I kept adding 1 or 2 more bars each day. I started out recording the results each day, so I could see progress, however small, and feel a little motivated to continue.

I also decided that I would record that first rough run-through of each piece, the first time I could play it completely, upload it, and post a link online.

My goals were small – to learn one piece a month and keep in touch with the pieces I had learned earlier.

Related articles :

Month 6 of “My Personal Sightreading Challenge”

The impact of 100 minutes of practise