By the 8th student of your piano teaching day, you’re probably feeling a little tired. It’s the umpteenth time you’ve heard the exact same piece… and the umpteenth time you’ve corrected fingering, reminded about a rest, worked on legato playing… a piano teacher’s day can be a long one.
But did you know that a very simple adjustment to your piano teaching approach can actually make your day fly by, your piano kids practice and progress more, and your overall mood lighten?
All you need to know is how to teach piano with a whole lot of ‘!’
If you’ve ever sat and watched a kids’ entertainer in action you’ll notice how animated they are. Everything is exaggerated, everything is enthusiastic. We as adults can sometimes find this tiresome (okay we find this tiresome always!) but kids eat this up and these entertainers know it! As a child, life, in general, is pretty darn exciting… and if an adult is there and is excited with you… well, then that excitement factor ramps up like crazy.
‘!’ gets results when working with kids.
‘!’ in your Piano Studio
I don’t consider my piano teaching day a success unless my cheek muscles hurt from smiling. If my face is feeling fine then I probably haven’t been giving it my all. Crazy? Perhaps. Does it work? Yes. I’m confident I can take any young piano student and have them over the moon with happiness in less than 12 minutes.
Before you begin “perfecting your perkiness” you’ll want to check out this blog post on the importance of well-timed praise as everything below doesn’t work as well if you don’t have your timing down. But after many many many years of making piano kids feel good about themselves, I’ve been able to narrow down the “how” into an exact science…
1. Use the child’s name – recently my 6-year-old piano student played through a piece in her piano book top to bottom with absolutely no assistance from me and she did it perfectly. It would have been sufficient to simply tell her that it was great… but it makes a greater impact I instead exclaim “Kiara!!”…and follow it with a look of pure astonishment and a moment of gleeful amazed silence. Using your students’ names immediately personalizes your praise and makes it much more meaningful. Try it… your piano kids will literally burst with pride.
2. Immediately list “The Three” – What’s “The Three?” It’s a term I use for the 3 things you can come up with the fastest on which to compliment your piano student. For example, with Kiara it was “You knew exactly where to start, you held every half note for exactly 2 beats AND you remembered all of the dynamics we talked about!” If you say this with enough “!” then you can be guaranteed that your piano student will always remember to do each of “The Three” every single time they play this particular piano piece. Change up “The Three” with each piece and you’ll soon have a piano student with a huge dose of perfecto!
3. Ask your kids to reflect – Following up your initial exclamations, give your student the opportunity to revel in their success. Ask them “Did you know you could play that well?!”, “Do you remember when holding half notes was hard for you?!”, “Look way back here in your book… you could only playing with your right hand!” etc. This gives your piano kids the chance for some self-reflection (which quickly equals self-esteem if you’ve given them this opportunity frequently enough). Are you using our “Growth Mindset Brag Tags?”
4. Be conscious of your inflection and expression – how you deliver statements can make a huge difference. Adding a bit more! can really make your piano students’ day. Consider how we naturally speak to our pets. I bet you can get your dog’s tail wagging just by changing the tone of your voice (even if you’re saying “Want to go to the vet?”). Children are the same – the way you say something means as much as the words you say.
While it may take a bit of time to find the perfect amount of ‘!’, the payoffs for this effort are huge. Children who feel good about themselves are more confident, more apt to take risks, and are more willing to accept challenges. And enthusiasm is as contagious as yawning. If you’re enthusiastic your piano kids will be enthusiastic. If your student is enthusiastic then you, in turn, will be enthused. It’s a wonderful circle effect. And, it makes time fly and increases your job satisfaction too; humans love to make other humans feel good.
With a studio full of piano kids who feel good about themselves and who associate piano lessons with these feelings of success, how can you go wrong? You can’t! So go ahead.. make your cheeks hurt the next time you are teaching 🙂