Over the last two weeks I've discussed the parent's and child's role in the journey, today it's the teacher's. The road to learning anything new is never smooth. There are ups and downs, struggles and joys and the teacher is there to accompany the learner through them all, the good times and the bad.
Role 1 - Facilitating open communication
Role 2 - Identifying and solving problems
These problems may be emotional and related to the child, or technical / musical related to the piece of music. Children arrive for their lessons in various moods and states of readiness to learn and teachers need to be able to observe and adjust their teaching to suit the child. This can be pretty hard to do as we are under time pressure and want to teach the child as much as we can in the time available, however sometimes it's just necessary to abandon the plan and go with how the child is feeling.
Role 3 - Entertainer
Role 4 - Researcher
As teachers we have to be endlessly curious about how we can teach 'better' (helped by ongoing professional development, for example from The Curious Piano Teachers, or membership of Facebook groups for teachers); what resources we can find for our students; which piece will suit which student; how to find a piece a student has requested that is arranged suitably for their level.
Role 5 - Educator
Not only do we need to educate ourselves and our students (this has been discussed in earlier posts), but we also need to educate parents. Many parents long to play instruments themselves and either didn't as a child, or did and gave up too soon and regret it, or did and became quite successful - whichever it is teachers need to let parents know what music education looks like today. It looks pretty different from what they experienced as a child or think they already know and they may not recognise it as what they want for their child. But it is what their child needs if they are to become fulfilled musicians.
Music education has moved on and these days high quality music education teaches the whole child all the skills they need to be successful musicians. So children learn through movement, songs, games, rhymes, they learn to play by ear and from notation, they are encouraged to make up their own music and 'mess around' on the piano. Learning an instrument is not just learning to decipher dots someone else wrote on a page.
I'm sure there are many roles that I've missed. Can you help teachers become better by identifying any more?
I'll be taking a break from blogging until after Christmas. The purpose of these first posts has been to help educate readers about why music is important, what good quality music education looks like and how they can help their children succeed. In January I'll look at a different topic.
Children tend to love music, they like to dance, to sing and to play on instruments. Really, they just have to show up at the lessons wanting to learn and curious to explore. By all means try out instrumental lessons with your child, but if he or she doesn't want to continue, please don't make them. Instead help them find what they do want to do.
When a child wants to learn an instrument it's essential they choose one they like the sound of since they will spend a lot of time playing it.
Parents can help by playing all sorts of music and even giving children the opportunity to try some out - advice here! Peter and the Wolf is a good piece to introduce children to various orchestral instruments, as is Carnival of the Animals.
Music is an entire language and just as children took years to learn to speak full sentences so will they take years to learn the language of music. This doesn't mean it can't be fun, engaging and fulfilling (which is the teacher's job; we'll look at that next week), from the beginning but reaching the dizzying heights of Grade 8 is hard work!
As well as showing up willing to learn, children need the parent's and teacher's support to develop:
Please remind your child not to be afraid to ask if he / she doesn't understand something and also to let their teacher know if they are not enjoying a particular approach or piece. Good teachers who have undertaken professional development can adapt their approach and can easily provide different repertoire to better suit the child. We are not mind readers and while we can 'pick up' on undercurrents we don't always succeed.
So much of the child's experience in learning an instrument depends on the quality of the teaching and if the child can develop the attitudes discussed above and is supported by their parents they will be well on their way with their musical journey. Next week I'll look at the final part of the triangle - the teacher.
What is your child's experience of music lessons? Are they developing the attitudes they need to succeed? Is there anything you can do to help them even more than you are already? If you missed the parent's role in the learning journey read it here.
So, you've signed your child up for piano lessons and just like every other extra curricular activity, you pay the bill, drop your child off on time and your job is done. Or is it?
They listen to enthralling stories from Inner Musician and are then taught motifs (musical ideas) to make the story their own, using the piano to tell stories about thunderstorms, butterflies, the ocean and other countries.
This is available for existing 1:1 students too, so if you'd like your child to experience the joy of improvisation just let me know and I can sign you up to Inner Musician.
Director of Surrey Music School.
Benefits Of Learning Music
Good Music Teaching
Music Lessons For Children Guildford
Online Piano Lessons
Piano Lessons Chertsey
The Curious Piano Teachers
Traditional Music Teaching