This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book
“The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town” Empowering Teachers to Inspire Students.
“A Miracle is a shift in perspective.” The Monarch System
So what is perspective anyway? I think we all have some idea.
“A simple shift in your perspective about the importance or meaning of a particular event, or a shift in your belief about your capacity to cope with it positively, can change your focus and your emotional reality”. Definition from dictionary.com
I have discovered that perspective is just about everything in teaching and in life. My perspective is powerful. It determines what I believe and what I believe determines how I feel. How I feel impacts my outlook on life and my outlook on others. If I am feeling good and peaceful I can focus and get more accomplished. If I am enthusiastic and energetic I am more creative. My perspective is also contagious when I am happy and motivated the people around me are likely to be happy. and motivated, If I am excited they probably will be as well.
In short, I have found that the world around me turns out to be a reflection of what is going on inside of myself. This means that if I wish to have a vibrant joyful studio, I need to be a vibrant joyful teacher. For me, the key to this is to be able to maintain a positive perspective in any situation. Not only to think of new ways to do things but to see things that could be perceived as negative in a positive light.
I read this story some time ago.
It was two days before Christmas. I was shopping at a busy department store the jewelry counter was slammed with people vying to get the attention of the sales associate. “Miss,miss!! I am next. Miss. miss!” the frantic shoppers cried. I watched in amazement as the smiling woman patiently and cheerfully waited on each person. When my turn finally came I asked her “How is it that you are so calm and happy with all of these people shouting and demanding you wait on them, don’t you feel stressed out?” “Well” she laughed “I just look at it like this, I must be pretty important if so many people want my attention.”
She went on to explain that she understood the stress and excitement the customers must be feeling. As far as she was concerned this was all part of the job. She was able to step back look deeper and find the good in the situation. This clerk had what I would call a positive perspective.
I have discovered that not only does it help me feel good about teaching, but a positive perspective also makes it so I see my students in the very best light. This makes me feel joyful and energetic, which in turn makes my students and their families feel joyful and energetic as well. All this enthusiasm turns out to be infectious, it connects us and inspires all of us to do our very best.
Years ago I had a new student I’ll call Tim. Tim was a transfer student. To be honest, I almost didn’t take him on. He had been through a string of teachers all of whom he said didn’t like him. Tim told me all of his other teachers were always upset with him because he hated practicing. When I heard this I thought…well you can probably guess what I thought.
Anyway, there was something I liked about this young man. He seemed “real” for lack of a better word. He was polite and a genuinely nice kid. I liked his mom too. She didn’t want to give up on Tim’s piano playing she felt the piano was a part of his overall education whether he liked it or not.
So I asked him if he wanted to learn to play the piano. When he answered affirmatively I decided to give teaching him a try. My first and most important challenge was to change my own perspective.
I started out with a mindset that said “Uh oh! this is gonna be tough” I originally thought that I would have do a ton of remediation with this young man. I worried that he probably had such bad practice habits that, like his other teachers, I probably wouldn’t be able to get him to practice either. It seemed as though disaster loomed.
I had to shift my perspective and fast if I was to have any chance of succeeding with this student.
So I decided to believe that I could reach him. That there was something the other teachers may have been missing. Some way to help him love the piano and start practicing. I decided to look at Tim as a challenge rather than a chore.
Here’s what I did.
First things first, I treated myself to a Starbucks.
After that necessary step, I decided I would do whatever I could to build Tim up and win him over. I was determined to find good things about his playing and encourage him. I found out that he had a really good ear. He could play a lot of popular songs from memory. I dug deep into finding out why he wasn’t practicing even though he said that he wanted to learn to play. He was still using a method book that was kind of babyish in my view. So I decide to change that.
I played a hunch, I kind of thought that maybe he was bored and not being challenged so I game him some music that was a bit (just a bit) more difficult than he had been working with. I also integrated some popular much of his choice into his lesson. Finally, I told him that I expected him to practice at home, on a daily basis. No Options on this, just do it.
Tim started working and incorporating piano practice into his daily routine. As he improved his note reading, sight-reading, and playing he became even more enthusiastic about the piano. His mom was thrilled! I am happy that I did not overlook this young man. He was indeed one of the best students I have ever taught.
If I had turned him away or taken him on and kept the negative attitude I’d had he probably would have gone on to another teacher or maybe he would have quit altogether. This is another example of what I call the positive perspective factor. A change in how I thought about and reacted to the situation may be all of the difference.
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