We’re in the final stages of building our own home. Which means I’ve spent most evenings this past week from 8:00-11:30 painting doors. I’d rather not be doing this.
It was somewhere around 10:45 last night that I started to get really frustrated. How many freaking doors did we put in this place? Was I ever going to be finished? If I wasn’t such a perfectionist then maybe I would be faster… but I’m obsessed with making sure no paint drips mar the face of the doors. And everywhere I turn there is another surface that seems to be saying “Nah nah… I’m not painted yet!”. I haven’t felt this frustrated in years.
And I’ve started to notice just how my frustration has impeded my progress. And it got me thinking about my intermediate piano students… and how feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and as though there is no end in sight impedes their progress too. So starting today I’m making a change.
5 Tips for Preventing Burn-Out in Your Intermediate Piano Students
Burn out with your advanced students happens easily. They’re seemingly past the point of needing any coddling – you give them the material, pass on your expertise, expect them to follow through and repeat this process time and time again… for years. But even the most motivated intermediate piano student can feel snowed-under. There will always be those pieces that seem as though they will never be mastered. There will always be those “surfaces that still need paint…” (*sigh*…don’t remind me).
Check out the following 5 suggestions for preventing burn-out in your intermediate piano students:
1. Achieve a balance when selecting repertoire – if your student is tackling a particularly challenging piece be sure to pair it with something that requires very little effort, but is still musically rewarding. Encourage them to intersperse this “brain break” piece at regular intervals during their home practice. Place equal importance on the completion of this piece as you do the challenging one. You can still teach valuable skills with an easier piece. I have started taking a break from painting doors to caulk windows. Thrilling, I know. 😛
2. Set small and attainable goals – I’ve given myself a limit of 2 fully-completed doors per night. If I think about the 17 I have left to do I’m likely to throw my roller in the air and catch the next Greyhound bus to Florida. As much as your student may want to take on huge amounts… limit them to smaller sections. With less material to cover your student will end up accomplishing more… faster, and of a higher quality.
3. Set them up for success – Over-teach to your intermediate students. What do I mean by this? Cover every part of their piece that you think could potentially cause a problem. Tell them what they already know. Show them what they can already do. Take sections apart and discover the “why” behind it’s purpose in the piece. Leave no stone unturned in your quest to set your student up for success. And while they may know 90% of what you are telling them… that last 10% may be just what causes their frustration down the road. They need all the tools you can give them to get through the hard parts. Just like I need a darn paint brush that doesn’t leave bristles in my paint…but I digress…
4. Create a deadline – Beginning piano students rarely experience long-term frustration with a piece… because it’s over and they’ve moved on in their book within a couple of weeks. Intermediate piano students working on advanced repertoire, however, don’t often get this luxury. Frustration and burn-out can easily set in when there is seemingly no end in sight. So, create a deadline and work towards the completion of each piece with a firm end date in mind. My carpets arrive on Tuesday… paint and carpet don’t mix. I’m motivated to hustle. I know this won’t (and can’t!) go on forever.
5. Show them you understand – it’s very easy to fall firmly into the role of a teacher… and forget to be a confidant. We have so much we want to teach, so much we want them to learn… it’s easy to forget to bring the human side into playing advanced repertoire. Show them you understand by commiserating with them, laughing with them, empathizing with them. There’s nothing worse than being frustrated and being alone. It’s almost impossible to be frustrated when you have someone pulling for you who understands your trials and tribulations. And so I’d like to take this moment to thank Trevor who has now listened to me gripe and complain about getting paint on black hinges for a week now with no hint of “Just get it done please…” in his voice.
Approach your intermediate piano students with the desire to prevent burn-out and the spin-offs of this way of teaching will delight you; you’ll have a piano student who remains motivated, produces quality results and who has a good sense of humor about the entire process. Existing in a frustration-free zone is good for all of us!