During my early years of piano teaching, I spent a lot of time on learning about piano playing and music aspects: piano technique, piano performance, music theory and analysis, music history – all the technical aspects of piano performance. Little did I know that, in order to learn how to teach better, I needed to learn specifically about teaching and pyschology, meaning how to communicate and deliver my teaching, and understand my students in a deeper level. That is mainly because no teachers I knew taught me about it (except one during my master degree study at Indiana, and I am forever grateful she changed my view on teaching).
Most piano teachers focused on teaching me how to play the piano, which of course was important, as I was studying piano performance and becoming a professional piano performer. But most pianists at one point or the other would teach students at various levels. With higher-level students, the aspect of psychology and teaching deliverance might be less impactful, but I believe it is still to a certain extent influential.
Once I found out there were specific aspects of my teaching I needed to address, I started dive deep into reading all sorts of books on teaching, communication and psychology (in particular, child psychology). That was very rewarding personally and more importantly, richly enhanced my teaching in so many ways.
I believe as a teacher in general, no matter what subject it is, must have a few very important qualities. The first most obvious quality to most is having an extensive knowledge in the subject. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that, the first most important quality for a True Teacher, is to have the passion to teach. A Teacher must want to teach before they desire to start teaching, not because they need a job, but because they truly want to pass on their knowledge, to educate, and inspire their students at any age and level. That, to me, is a True Teacher. A Mentor.
Then, surely, a Teacher must have great knowledge in the subject they teach. They should never stop learning about it, even when they already have spent many years learning about the topic. When one learns more, one realize there is so much more to learn! A True Teacher is a Real Learner. They never stop learning, reading, and thinking about the subject they teach.
The third most important quality of a Teacher for me is to have compassion for their students. The Teacher must care to pass on their knowledge to their students, and genuinely care for their students, whether they understand the Teacher’s teaching or not. And if the students do not understand the Teacher, instead of getting upset or blaming the misunderstanding on the students, the Teacher must find a better way to communicate, explain, and deliver that message. If a Student wants and makes an effort to learn, the Teacher must make an effort to teach.
I find some teachers are not willing to make an effort, and when they themselves do not know how to do something, they discourage their students to also not to try it. That is plain wrong, and it is sheer laziness (and perhaps fear) in my view.
Teachers must encourage their students to try different things, to shape them in a way that they are learning the basics, but also venture and explore what their hearts desire. If a teacher does not feel they are capable of guiding the students anymore, the teacher should either, learn to help the students, or, point them to the right direction, and perhaps, it is time for them to part ways so that the students can learn from someone else who can continue to help them.
I am all about encouraging my students in the most positive way, and as much as me not being a patient person to myself, I am surprisingly very patient with my students. I want them to have a great learning environment, especially the young ones, to be nourished and encouraged so that they can reach their highest potential they want for themselves. I want them to keep trying, do not give up easily, and find a way to motivate themselves at the piano. I am not the strictist teacher because I don’t believe in negative reinforcement at all. I myself suffered from that growing up, and the last thing I wish on my young students is to receive that same treatment that does not encourage growth and flourish happiness.
As for the more mature adult students, especially for the casual and beginner playes, my philosophy is, just give it a try, and have fun. It would feel it’s taking much longer than you like in terms of progress, but just keep trying, keep having fun, keep putting time and effort in, no matter how little every day or week, because they all add up, and if you hang in there, and keep on going in this musical journey of yours and ours, you would see and most importantly, feel the result.
Music is about enjoyment, music IS magical. Music is also about sharing. I love teaching it, and I love playing it. I love all the sharing with my students and their parents and families. I hope you all have a chance to feel the magic in one way or the other.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my music and knowledge with you all.
Have a blessed weekend,