Do you have a “Chatty Cathy” as a piano student? These kinds of piano students are always amusing, are never boring, and are full of amazingly un-related information during their piano lesson time. You know more about them (and their parents!) than you ever thought possible, and they are all too eager to know everything about you! Teaching piano to chatty students usually goes a bit like this:
What is this piano made out of? My friend has new braids in her hair because she went to Mexico. Did you know that there can be pink fish? She saw some. Why is your hair a darker color? My mom dyes her hair too. My hamster kept me awake all night last night. Do you know what nocturnal means? It might snow tomorrow and that’s really cool because I get to use my new snow pants, but my mom says they might still be too long for me. But I grew! Do you want to see how high I can reach? Why do you have a new chair? I like the color blue. It used to be my favorite color but now I like gold…
Just how are you supposed to teach piano amongst this stream of chatter? The last thing we want to do is squelch Chatty Cathy’s enthusiasm, or disrupt her growing bond with you… her beloved piano teacher. However, you need to accomplish something in her piano lesson other than memorizing the names of her goldfish! Try these strategies at your Chatty Cathy’s next lesson to maximize teaching time:
1. Visually Represent Your Piano Lesson Structure
Chatty Cathy needs to see exactly everything that needs to be accomplished in her piano lesson in order to stay on track. Have a large chart displayed with the lesson tasks (ie. ear training, learn new piece, review old pieces, sight reading etc.) clearly set out. Go one step further and let her check off each task as it is completed. When you notice she is getting off track, this visual is a way to gently remind her of everything you have left to do.
2. Schedule Mini “talk breaks” During the Piano Lesson
But I am not suggesting you spend large amounts of the lesson drawn into her web of discussion. Instead, structure her verbal enthusiasm by giving her the opportunity to briefly tell you one interesting thing about her day after each task is completed. She desperately wants to share her experiences with you, and a student/teacher bond is a wonderful thing. Allow her to give you those glimpses into who she is, but put a limit on her by saying “You can tell me one thing that happened at school today right after I hear your piece from last week.”
3. Be Genuine in Your Interest
A large part of Chatty Cathy’s desire to keep chatting is to gain some positive reinforcement from you. Make a point of remembering things she has told you in the past. The fact that she has been heard (and that you cared to remember) will help her to realize that she doesn’t need to tell you everything every single lesson. Her chatter is born out of a desire to get your attention. Show her she has it.
4. Share a Bit About Yourself
Chatty Cathy finds tidbits of information about you to be quite thrilling. Let her get to know you by sharing interesting parts of your own life in between piano tasks. If she gets a satisfying “read” on you each lesson, she’ll be less likely to spend gobs of time plying you with questions, desperate for a connection with you.
Become Chatty Cathy’s Piano Teaching ‘BFF’
While Chatty Cathy may be slightly trying at times – and may make fitting everything into a piano lesson difficult, remember that relationship-building is a very large part of being a great piano teacher. Chatty Cathy is actually making this part of piano lessons easy on you! Embrace her outgoing nature and use it to your advantage as you guide her through her piano lessons. You’ll have an enthusiastic and committed piano student as a result with a strong connection to her teacher. And, you may just have an unstoppable word-of-mouth marketing machine to boot as Chatty Cathy does what she does best! 🙂