Someone forwarded me a link to this article from a national newspaper last week. It’s titled “Celebrate Boys Boyness And Work With it”. I was instantly interested. As a piano teacher I’ve known for years that male and female students are different. As a teacher you learn to adapt to what works for each individual student… my boy students all seem to need similar adaptations. They’re just different than girls. And I’ve learned that’s okay!
You can draw many parallels between boys’ needs in a school situation vs. boys in a piano lesson situation. As this article states “Boys will only stay engaged as long as the work interests them; they’re much quicker to tune out.” It goes on to talk about the public school education system and how many believe that the structure of school is failing boys – it’s not giving them the environment they need to succeed… and so girls are surpassing boys in terms of academic success.
So how can we as piano teachers ensure that our boys aren’t “checking out”?
How can we adapt to suit their learning style, their interests, their needs? How can we prevent our piano studios from being heavily weighted to the female category? How can we interest boys in piano lessons enough to keep them motivated, engaged and committed?
These were some of the questions I asked myself as a young teacher watching my boy students struggle through the method book series I was using. Their need for action, adventure and visual appeal just wasn’t being met. And yes, there will always be those exceptions; those boys who dutifully do what’s asked of them… who progress as well as any female student.
But there will always be those boys who are left behind, who quit… who never accomplish what they could have if they’d been approached in the right way.
There is a funny reluctance on the part of some to acknowledge that boys are, in fact, different. Treating everyone the same is politically correct… but not always educationally sound.
And so Trevor and I embarked on a mission. And The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo series became a staple at my studio. While creating this series we read a ton of articles just like this one stating that traditional methods of educating boys just wasn’t working. But what was working were materials that were created with the interests of boys in mind; materials that were highly visual, interesting and appealing to the interests of boys.
We receive emails on an almost daily basis letting us know how the Fortissimo piano books have positively affected the male students of piano teachers everywhere. Their students love the intrigue of the comic, they love the idea of using the piano to create the soundtrack to the story, they love the highly-visual nature, they love the “cool” sound of the music. But most of all, teachers love the difference it has made to their male students. They are practising, progressing and staying motivated. Boys will be boys… and that’s okay. We just need to acknowledge this fact and work with it, not against it.