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I've never taught before. I'm curious to hear from teachers. What's it like?

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I’m curious to see what teachers will say.

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The actual teaching is easy and enjoyable. The hard part is the precariousness of the job and all the things surrounding the job, like trying to get parents to buy a proper instrument, or getting students to practice. The culture is not supportive of hard work and the parents have no real academic goals for their children. I could teach the average pupil to play piano in seven years if they practiced with intensity forty-five minutes a day, five days per week. Instead, they dawdle along because their parents don't support them properly. Feelings are king. When you see kids actually succeed at piano, it's not due to talent for the most part, but rather hard work. The parents are sorely lacking in the area of discipline. They seem to need their kids' approval all the time. "Just say, "no"" is applied to drugs, but really should be applied to vacations, trips to the mall, and birthday parties.

Last edited by Candywoman; 05/22/22 07:35 PM.
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Well, I have a day job unconnected with music which pays all the bills and then some, but I decided to start teaching piano a few years ago, as part of my long-term aim as a proselytizer for classical music and the piano (- the same reason as I give free piano recitals, mainly for non-musical audiences). I've already been helping adult beginners and re-starters over the past decade, who ask me for advice after attending my recitals, so it was only a small step from there to actually giving piano lessons.

But as I am not doing it for a living, my situation is different from that of full-time piano teachers. And very likely, my teaching methods will seem at odds with those (especially in the U.S.) unfamiliar with the graded music syllabus system that (almost) all teachers here in the UK use, and which students and their parents expect. We follow an exam syllabus (most commonly, ABRSM and Trinity) grade by grade, so everyone is on the same page - teachers know what students need to achieve, and students know what they have to achieve at each grade.......which not just saves a lot of hassle and misunderstandings (of the sort I frequently see from adult students in PW) but also ensures that nothing important gets missed. (In case people don't know, apart from playing pieces of the required standard, there are scales & arpeggios, aural skills and sight-reading tests at each grade.)

To answer the question directly, and as I teach children only, it's very fulfilling and enjoyable to see students 'grow' musically from complete beginners to becoming real pianists and musicians over the years, and understanding how each of them tick and adapting my teaching style to their personalities. The standards needed to be achieved are only the starting point: my aim is to instill a love of (classical) music and the enjoyment of piano playing to all my students, regardless of their innate musicality, so I tell them stories of the great composers whose music they are learning, play many appealing pieces for them (not the ones they are learning, of course: they need to learn how to tackle new pieces by reading the music themselves with my help) to show them not just the different styles of various composers, but also how they influence each other and develop from their predecessors, and not least - the possibilities of the piano and what it's capable of. All through the lessons, I use every opportunity to develop their ears, starting (with the beginners) by counting beats aloud while singing them in pitch with the notes they are playing, all the while making everything fun for them as well as getting the shy ones to lose their inhibitions about singing aloud etc (which they need to do for their aurals in the exams). Apart from ensuring they become proficient in reading music, I also encourage them to play any tune they can think of (pop, movie themes etc) by ear, and when the time is ripe, show them how to flesh it out with appropriate accompaniments using the correct harmonies.

Basically, my aim is straightforward: to make learning piano enjoyable so that it becomes a part of their lives and they stay for the long haul, and develop their all-round musicality along with technical skills so that they can understand music as a listener as well as make music in ways other than playing the piano (e.g. singing - which I regard as essential towards acquiring comprehensive aural skills).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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I taught guitar private lessons over 20 years and clinician later in my 64 years as a guitarist:
Likely same issues for piano teachers:

Set a make up policy and stick to it-can be a nightmare

Children—parent presence?

Fee policy -up front—-no refund?

Practice expectations—up front—all my students knew I required them to READ and practice on the days that they eat.. nothing worse than the torture of a student who did nothing.

Sheet of lesson plans is helpful too.

Finally is the piano side manners —-I sort of suffered through private lessons w a great jazz pianist who was grumpy all the time —just a musical genius and I knew how to extract his best and endure the grief—worth it but many would not.

There will be serious students and not give a care students but they all pay the same fee—more people return because they like you.

Oh , never waste a students money by requiring him to keep playing a piece to its right. That’s for at home practice—not to waste students money-
Expertise worth more than time but try not to take calls or interrupt lessons too much.

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Thanks for the thoughts! These are interesting to hear.

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I have a question if I may ask, do you continue to regularly practice / learn new works in your spare time, even when teaching full time?

I recall asking this to my first teacher as a teenager - we were talking about Chopin's first ballade and my teacher mentioned that she would love to play it. I asked why she doesn't, to which she replied (roughly) that it was difficult and too tiring after teaching piano all day.

Now that I'm older, I am often quite exhausted after a day of work, but the change of scenery / activity usually gives me a surge of energy to play. I imagine that might be more difficult if you've spent the whole day already sitting in front of the piano!

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My college pedagogy professor said that we should be able to play what we teach.

Now I admit, I do not like all the spring recital pieces- students choose/I buy/provide music they want. Anime, current pop music, sci-fi themes, whatever! But I can run through the music and find trouble spots and sort fingerings before giving it to the student.

And, I play at the recitals myself. And, even with my advanced high schoolers, I need to inspire them so I have to practice difficult music. I have to practice despite teaching all day.

OP-
look up piano student policies on line. Notice what they stress.

Read thru this forum. What do we discuss?

With summer coming up, you might find a piano teacher seminar in a large town. Might be fun to attend!

Good luck!


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There is a facebook group called "Piano Teacher Apprentice". You need to be a member in order to read the posts, but it is quite interesting.


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Thanks for the continuous info. The impression I'm getting is that a decent pedagogical approach is to identify/establish interest in the student first, and work from that. This could mean picking a piece or style that appeals to them, as a goal from early on, and then tailoring an approach that gets them to their goals.

When I first started, my teacher just used the same author (James Bastien), for almost all her students. I started at Level 1 and moved through the levels. I think I'd find this approach a bit limiting as a teacher, but what else can be done? I know there are other series' as well from other authors, but the gist tends to be the same. What's the standard route these days for musicians? Is there a standard?

It wasn't until my next teacher, when I was at a more intermediate level, that we picked out music together. And this marked a big transition for me, as I became more passionate and motivated.

However, it's important to learn the basics. It seems that books like Bastien are often quite well-geared for beginners, because they cover all the bases, providing a foundation.

I will admit I do have some piano teaching experience, albeit long ago, and in a very limited capacity. I was asked by a friend of the family, who listened to my playing, if I would teach her son. At the time, I was a high school student reaching an advanced level; I must've been about 17. I didn't feel that I quite knew how to teach him, but I did my best. He was not the ideal student for any teacher, I don't think.

He showed up with a simplified version of "The Entertainer", and his mom told me "he wants to play this". I did my best to teach him over the course of a few months, anyway. It seemed he wasn't practicing much and didn't have a great musical sense. But I must've also been partly to blame for my own inexperience. I came to dread our lessons, and often didn't know how to make it through the 45 minutes (which might've been a bit long anyway).

In the end, I asked if I could refer him to my own teacher at the time, because I just didn't seem to have what it took to get him to progress very quickly. She kind of rescued the situation, but I was relieved to see that he didn't exactly make great strides with her, either.

I've wondered about trying again with teaching (I'm now 35), but I want to have a more solid approach in place if I try to do so.

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You need to meet with a piano teacher or two and discuss methods. Any information you glean, you should pay for. That way you get the real goods. And you need to dive in with both feet. Your experience of teaching will never turn out the way you thought, nor the way ours has worked out.

Your error with "The Entertainer" is similar to the one I made earlier on. I spent nine months teaching a girl Fur Elise who should simply not have been allowed to touch it. A rookie error, avoidable with a good mentor.

The internet is not a good source for learning how to pick the best method book. You need to find the teacher in your city who teaches beginners best. They are rare. Most teachers simply move too quickly in the beginning.

Start by getting some students this fall and maintaining pedagogy lessons with a teacher yourself.

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Teaching is very hard.

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Originally Posted by Candywoman
The actual teaching is easy and enjoyable. The hard part is the precariousness of the job and all the things surrounding the job, like trying to get parents to buy a proper instrument, or getting students to practice. The culture is not supportive of hard work and the parents have no real academic goals for their children. I could teach the average pupil to play piano in seven years if they practiced with intensity forty-five minutes a day, five days per week. Instead, they dawdle along because their parents don't support them properly. Feelings are king. When you see kids actually succeed at piano, it's not due to talent for the most part, but rather hard work. The parents are sorely lacking in the area of discipline. They seem to need their kids' approval all the time. "Just say, "no"" is applied to drugs, but really should be applied to vacations, trips to the mall, and birthday parties.

This is very true. You are competing with everything from sports, video games and internet for their time.
I hold a recital for them once a year. Had it yesterday and you know the story. Those who put the time in definitely improved. The ones less so did not improve much.
I'm thinking of ending it with one family. I want them to learn to read better. You can do all the things in the world to help them, but at some point the student has to work by themselves what you assign to develop.
Frustrating.
Then there are the surprises. Thinking if a student will get that sonatina together by the recital and he plays it great because he listened to you and worked on those exercises and scales, etc.

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You will get students of all ages and levels.

How would you teach a 10 year old how to read? A five year old? An adult? All are different, and you need to adjust yourself, and most likely, your curriculum.

I have developed what I call "horizontal learning." This is for students that need more time to focus on a concept, and/or for students that do not practice, but parents want to see something new each week anyway.

I have worksheets, games, extra sheet music, sight reading, more theory pages, lending library books, etc... that I add as needed. My more advanced students need much less of this because they are working and progressing.

As for recital, I have almost a standard variation now as I open of-
"Welcome, thank you...blah blah blah...
you will be hearing the work product of many students, all ages and stages. I only have them once a week. That means we met about 18 times this semester. Let's encourage them today as they share what they have prepared."

And you will have students that soar! And you will float!~.

And, you will have duds. and you move on.

Like any job, it is a job. But it does have great rewards!


Learning as I teach.

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