Here in Australia we are a few weeks into our new school year. If you are an Australian piano teacher you may well have gone through the process of planning what you will do in this new year of 2012. Perhaps the process was somewhat cursory. You have been teaching for years and have a vague idea of how to greet the pupils whom you haven’t seen for six weeks – how was Christmas? What have they totally forgotten? Pick up the pieces and carry on from where they are. Or maybe you think of each pupil and take a look at where you expect them to be by the end of the year and plan accordingly. Bravo!
I must admit that some years I have fitted into the first category. But this year I have been doing some hard thinking about how children learn
– how all children learn to walk and talk and acquire amazing skills before the age of 5 years. But then how slowly but surely they are told “You are wrong”, “You can’t do that”, “You can’t be good at everything,” until children forget to try, and believe they are no good at anything.
Succeeding at one thing brings success in many things. I realise that as piano teachers we can make such a difference in children’s lives by making sure they have success and go out of the lesson believing in themselves.
So this year I have not only planned for each child, in a realistic but inspiring way, but I have included them in the planning process. Let me explain: each child up to about the age of 12 has received a display folder. In this I have put – child’s details including birthday so I can do something special on that day, a calender of all term dates, a notebook for recording what is to be done each week (I’ve vowed to keep to no more than 3 things), and an all important goal sheet. This we fill in together – there might be an exam to take this year, special piece they want to play, how much practice they can commit to each day, a composing goal.
From here I finish making up a folder. I have put in fun sheets that revise or fill in the gaps on anything they should have learned to date (this depends very much on their strengths and weaknesses). I plan pieces that take us to where we want to go and exercises which I call hand gymnastics. I rely heavily on Dozen a Day books which I still think are great. To save these being yet another reading exercise, we learn them with keyboard shut by looking at the patterns etc. Then we open the keyboard and play. It works so well. Children are excited that they can remember the piece and they can focus on their hands – shape, attack etc.
And finally, I have no need to pick up where they were, or make them feel bad because of what they have forgotten because it is all being covered in a new and exciting way. They feel clever if they half know it, or can learn more easily with fresh materials.