Lots of great comments here! Thank you.
A few thoughts:
Try to ask more questions!
Definitely. I love asking questions to get into the student's mind, so to speak. Sometimes I learn some pretty fascinating things.
Case in point (funny story from one lesson this week):
The student was taking forever to start playing one of his pieces. He's not ordinarily a speedy, launch-into-playing-immediately type of student, but this time he was especially super-slow. I thought he probably didn't practice the piece very much, as he seemed not to know how to begin.
I waited probably literally a full minute, and when I couldn't stand the silence any more, I asked him what he was thinking about, and why he wasn't starting the music.
He told me he was trying to hear in his mind what tempo he wanted to go, but the ticking clock on the wall 10 feet behind him was distracting him!
Anyway...there definitely get to be some interesting answers at times.
Talk about Top/Bottom, Right/Left, Up/Down, High/Low, Front/Back, etc.:
Fascinating discussion, and one that points to the challenges of reading music that is vertical on a music rack and playing it simultaneously on a keyboard that's perpendicular to the position of the music.
One thing I've tried to emphasize to students is that the left hand is closer to the low side of the piano (Low and Left both start with the letter L), and the rIGHt hand is closer to the hIGH side (both "right" and "high" have IGH in them). I also have them play low sounds and high sounds to correspond with "Left" and "Right," respectively. Most students can hear the difference between low and high, so I try to get them to associate the sound with the name of the hand that usually plays those sounds.
Then the next challenge, of course, is distinguishing between notes on the staff that may be going up even as you drop to the next lower system on the page; the changing of stem direction when the notes get high or low enough; and other interesting things like that.
At the very least, I try to be attentive to that eyes glazing over look of boredom...
The other is to carefully monitor the other people's reactions and see when they're receiving and when they're zoning.
I would recommend that watching your student's facial expressions and whether there is dialogue will tell you what is too much or just right
Good points. The zoning/glazed over look happens more with the older students--the younger ones tend to start playing the piano while I'm talking.
Or an attentive parent can help. One student looked out the window once recently while I was talking, and his mom snapped her fingers once sharply, looked at her son, and pointed at me, in a wordless "Pay attention to your teacher!" directive.
But it was also a good note-to-self for me to quit yapping!
The most valuable but most extremely painful thing I've ever done is let my smart phone run on video. Then, get the nerve to watch it.
I'll have to get a recording device that goes longer than the 30 seconds that my "dumb phone" takes video. Or maybe turn it on at random times that I'm explaining things, and try to get done before the 30 seconds is up. Hmmm... But, yes, I think a lot could be learned (not that I'd take any delight in the findings!) through it.
For the advanced students, though, I do catch myself going off on a tangent because I have so much junk knowledge to share with people.
I can relate to this. I get chattier with advanced students, sharing stories about composers and performers historical and current, and other such stuff. Sometimes they're interested in it, similarly to what dogperson mentioned about enjoyable digressions, but other times the glazed-over look starts creeping across the student's face... Time to get back to the playing then.
I wish I could simply avoid
getting to the point where the boredom sets in!