I was invited to participate in a skit with several members of my local piano teachers organization at our annual January luncheon yesterday. I played the role of the "fidgety, talkative, won't-stop-playing-even-when-the-piano-teacher-is-talking kid."
In real life, I was actually more of a "model student." (If you don't believe me, you can ask my mother.) But I had a lot of fun pretending; my colleagues were practically falling out of their chairs laughing at my shenanigans.
The "bored teenager" and the "difficult, whiny kid" were also represented in the skit; they were hilarious, too. And, let me tell you, I am familiar with ALL of these characters. I actually had a particular student in mind as I played my part yesterday; I simply behaved as he does when he walks into my studio each week.
The point of the exercise was for us, as piano teachers, to share how we deal with these various personalities. And it gave me some real food for thought.
Because it is easy to take my students' attitudes towards piano lessons personally--to respond as if a child who is fidgety, or bored, or whiny, is behaving disrespectfully. But I have found that, in most cases, my students' behavior has little to do with me, and more to do with their lives outside my piano studio. And I believe that part of my job is to help them forget all about everything else, at least for a little while, and immerse themselves in making music.
The fidgety kid? My challenge is to keep him in the moment with tasks that are fully engaging. The bored teenager? Usually it isn't so much a matter of boredom as exhaustion. What those young adults need more than anything is an outlet for their emotions. The whiny children? They need something to wonder about. They need a reason to smile.
Even the so-called "model student" mustn't be taken for granted. I don't want to burn him out. I don't want him to be a robot. For him, I want music to be a sophisticated means of self-expression, not just another means of pleasing adults.
I love my job. I love playing the piano, and I get a thrill out of taking that whole--"playing the piano"--and breaking it down into smaller parts, and then figuring out how to transfer those pieces to my piano students, so that they can create meaningful wholes for themselves.
There is no joy in life like the joy of making music.