Yesterday a small incident in my teaching day left me pondering things for quite a while. It turned my whole philosophy of teaching on its head. So I’d like to share it with you, and invite comments.
I teach a beautiful 16 year-old girl who plays like an angel. She really is very good, a joy to listen to and very enthusiastic. My husband had just commented on her wonderful playing and I was telling her. “Why thank you,” she said, “It wasn’t always so – I used to hate coming!” I was stunned but before I could answer she said she would like to share a secret with me. It appears that when she first started coming when she was eight, she cried and screamed before every lesson but her parents took no notice and come she did. She had arrived from another teacher and technique was poor in every way, but I could see that she was very musical. I do remember her resistance to reading music, but was unaware of her feelings. Apparently this went on until one day when her father pretended to phone me saying she would no longer be coming to the lessons because she hated it, and then she screamed that she did want to come and the tantrums stopped.
Wow! I have another pupil who I do remember kicking and screaming in her lesson with her mother keeping her on the music stool and me very embarrassed, hoping she would give up – but no and seven years later she also is a very competent player. So I was not quite sure what to make of all this. I always feel that if a child is not enjoying playing they should not be playing, and yet here were two extreme cases which have resulted in excellent and very happy pianists.
The conclusions I can draw are that playing the piano is a skill and as such requires regular practice of that skill and perseverance. These parents were cluey enough to realise that it was going to be a hard road and were happy to support and encourage that commitment, even when the going got tough, and it often does at some stage when learning the piano. Parents are the salt of the earth and I admire them greatly. These parents had held firm even when pressure was on and have been rewarded with children who now have a life-long skill which they love.
It’s tough bringing up children, and we all want our children to be happy, but committing to anything is a quality worth learning and the play-offs are enormous, far beyond learning a great skill, no mean feat. It effects character and relationships, trust and abilities and is definitely worth the learning. Committed parents make committed children and strong character. And certainly makes our job as teachers much easier.