A child came to my piano studio, visibly sad. She also was without the piano books that she was supposed to bring to every lesson.
I decided to take a chance.
While she forlornly sat at the piano bench, I said to her, “How about we do a little chat? When you first start piano lessons with me, you were such a happy child. But these couple of weeks, you seemed upset about something. Do you feel upset? Do you know what is bothering you?
The child replies, “I feel upset, but I don’t know why I am upset.”
“Do you like coming here to learn the piano?”
“Yes I do.”
“How is school?”
“School is good.”
“Then, can I guess it is something at home that is bothering you?”
She nodded, “Like yesterday, I had a swimming lesson, and my mom forgot to pack my swimsuit , and by the time she got me the swimsuit, the lesson is over!”
“Ahh, that is too bad! How does that make you feel?”
“It makes me feel very sad. It also makes me feel my mother does not love me.”
By this time, the child was sobbing.
“You know what, Rachel, I am sure your mother loves you very, very much. But sometimes, if she does not feel good inside, then she might forget to pack your things. You must never doubt that your mother loves you very much, O.K.? Next time your mother forget to pack your things, said to yourself, ‘my mother loves me very much. She is just not feeling good today.”
The child seemed convinced, and we were able to start a productive lesson during which she totally stopped crying and was smiling and laughing and enjoying herself at the projects I chose for her.
I am glad I have a degree in psychology, and can help children if they are emotionally upset.
Teaching a strong-willed child
Tracy is a strong-willed 7-y-old. She does not like to be told what to do. During one session, she refused to learn the songs I chose for her, and when I told her to focus, she crawled under the piano in protest. I realized this was not going to work if lessons continued like this. So over the course of next week, I contemplated on how to improve the situation. There are two things I want from her: “Be willing to learn,” and “Behave.” But how do I get her to do that? Being a piano teacher, I cannot punish her or give her a time-out when she misbehaves. But, I do know what she likes: She looks forward to the prizes I give out to children at the end of class, one prize if they do a good job and two prizes if they do a great job. So when the next class rolled around, I said to Tracy, “Here is what we are going to do. I will choose some new songs for you to learn. For each new song you learn, you get a check. For three checks you get, you get a prize.” Immediately she was more motivated to learn. When she started to act inappropriately, I reminded her, “You are waste your time. The better you concentrate, the quicker you will earn your prize.” During that session she learned three new songs in good time, and took home a prize that made her grin from cheek to cheek. We both won.
Teaching piano could be fun or boring, exhilarating or infuriating, rewarding or frustrating, depending on the days, the students, the months of the years, or your mental or physical state. Over the years, I learn to accept all those states, and deal with problems as they arise but enjoy it when feeling rewarded and exhilarated. Teaching piano is an art, and a business.
Charlotte just came for a lesson today. She only started lessons this year but she is progressing fast. She plays all the songs she is supposed to play this week for me from memory! Students like this are a delight to piano teachers. :)