If you never feel bored, tired, burned out while teaching this post is not for you. If you could use a little help to “Make time fly while teaching piano lessons” read on.
What are the first words that come to mind when you think about teaching piano lessons? Exciting?
Maybe, sometimes. But let’s be honest, our job, while super rewarding can be at times, well…you know…boring. There I said it. Teaching music lessons can be boring, especially with students who don’t practice. Especially beginners who don’t practice.
You all know the drill;
“Put your second finger on D” “No D, it’s right next to the C.”
“How many beats does that half note get??”
“The F is sharped, it’s in the key signature.”
Even with the best of students teaching hour after hour can be tedious and tiring. But it doesn’t have to be. What if I told you that I never get bored while teaching? Would you believe it? Well, it’s true. To be honest, I used to sometimes feel like time was dragging while I was teaching. But not anymore. Eight or ten students back to back, no problem. Bring em on, it seems like no time before I am finishing up and heading out of the studio. Even on the days when my students haven’t been practicing.
Here is how to make the time fly while teaching piano lessons.
It’s all about You
You have to be ready. Being well rested, well fed and physically “up” is a key factor. If you’re tired or not feeling well. Everything is harder, especially trying to focus on what someone else is doing. Teaching is like blood-letting it’s a major energy drain. Try to get a good nights’ rest, grab a snack and take 15-30 minutes to center yourself before teaching. If you are a full-time worker who teaches private lessons in addition to your already full schedule leave a little time for yourself before you begin teaching you’ll be glad you did. Treat yourself to a nice cup of tea or coffee you deserve it.
Clear your mind
Just like being physically prepared to teach being mentally prepared is equally as important. It’s just that this is more difficult. Conflicts and pressures at work or at home can make the job seem like torture. Resolve to put any of that aside while you are teaching. You can think about it later. Your piano teaching job is important. You are here to have fun teaching your students.
Now for the nuts and bolts of making the lesson fun. Be prepared for all sorts of things that may come up.
Have extra books on hand in case a student forgets to bring his book along.
Keep some piano teaching games on hand. They are great for reinforcing important skills and students love them. Sometimes a 5-minute game is enough to get them on track.
Teach your students to improvise, I have started using this improvisation program at every lesson. “Quick win Improv”
Have students watch a 2 or 3-minute video of a great pianist playing. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Pace the lesson
If your lessons are 30 minutes long. Have every student plays his or her favorite piece upon entering the studio. This takes the pressure off. They get to choose exactly what they want to play first.
Then you may want to spend 15-20 minutes on repertoire
Play a game if you think that it would be beneficial or if the student needs a break.
This leaves time for scales, technique, improvisation and music theory (or you can begin with these).
Hour lessons usually get a 2-minute stretch break at the 30-minute mark.
What about the students who just aren’t prepared?
Some students rarely practice and most students will occasionally have weeks when they don’t practice. Here are some tips on how to work with an unprepared student.
The occasionally unprepared student.
Even the best students can have an off week now and then. Here’s how you can deal with this.
Make the lesson a practice session. Let your student use the time to practice and give instructions on how to practice more efficiently
Play some piano teaching games like “Musical Terms Journey” or “Rhythm Card Deck” games.
Read the post “Create You Own Hands-On Piano Teaching Activities”
Have an improvisation or composition lesson.
Work on music theory or scales and arpeggios. Make it fun by turning it into a challenge.
Sight-read some duets with your student this is fun for both of you.
The student who rarely or never practices.
These students are difficult. I have written about the situation before. Reasons why students don’t practice, how to get them to practice more and lastly how to say goodbye to a student who is not interested in the piano. However, sometimes you can’t just let a non-practicing student go. Maybe because you work for a studio, you need the income, the student has a practicing sibling or perhaps the parent won’t allow the student to quit. What then? I have been in that situation here is how I make it less arduous for both of us.
If the student is a beginner trudging through the notes. Have the student name each note while I write the notes in the lightly have the student play the piece and erase them one by one. That is all of the Cs, then all of the Es etc. each time having the student play the piece again.
(Tip; write the notes lightly and right next to the note head, not on the top or bottom of the staff)
Use a chalkboard with a blank staff written on it. Have your student name and play notes as you write them. You can also use note spelling sheets and rhythmic exercises.
For these students, it’s about getting as much of the basics in as possible. I don’t recommend allowing games or other fun activities with students who regularly neglect to practice. The goal is indeed to get them to practice.
Make time fly while teaching piano lessons
Using these ideas can make lessons a lot more fun for you and in turn your students. If you don’t like sitting for long periods go ahead and get out of your seat from time to time. It’s also fun to play so why not incorporate some of your own piano playing into your students’ lessons? Whether that be playing duets, playing their pieces for them or showing them something you are playing.
The bottom line is
Stay engaged. Think of each student as an individual challenge. Before you know it you will be packing up and heading home wondering where the time went.
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