When is a piano keyboard lesson wonderful? This enlightening scenario occurs when a teacher has a sense of responsibility, commitment and humor. It’s also desirable for a teacher to be able to demonstrate with ease any technical difficulties that may arise from a piece that is being learned by a student.
Many of my colleagues have had both types of teachers in the past, and have survived the ‘nightmare’ quite well. Alas, some students do not survive a bad teaching experience, in the sense that their hobby or potential career as a pianist gets shattered by a teacher with a horrific attitude. This situation beckons the question, “How does one survive an abusive teacher, or even a teacher of no inspiration and mediocre ability?” This is a tough question which deserves a fresh paragraph.
I have always followed the philosophy that one always learns something from a good or a bad teacher. Awful teachers are a shining example of qualities to be avoided in life’s future. Of course, the best option is to leave a bad teacher before they make life miserable for you. However, that is not always an immediate option, as is occasionally seen in our public and private school systems.
If the only short term option is to ‘tough it out’, as it were, then learning what a teacher is doing wrong is an education in itself, even if it is in unpleasant circumstances. Alas, a low quality teacher will usually have a few scattered bits of okay advice stashed away within all the garbage. If the stench can be ignored, perhaps little crumbs of good can come from an undesirable situation.
I’ve had teachers that have chain smoked (it used to be acceptable), hit knuckles, screamed unnecessarily, and taught while being intoxicated. It’s painfully hilarious to look back at this list and think that I became a professional musician with this type of background. However, as much as I hate to admit it, I did learn how not to teach from my second rate and mediocre teachers of the past.
Of course, I’ve had amazing teachers that I’ve certainly learned a lot more from, and I would have rather learned ‘disturbing methods of teaching and characteristics to be avoided’ from a manual, thus saving the heartache of learning from unsatisfactory tutors.
So why do some teachers develop a less than desirable attitude? It could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps the teacher in question is not a skilled communicator. Perhaps the skill level of the grumpy teacher’s instrumental technique is questionable. In both of these scenarios, a tutor may feel threatened if challenged by a student. It is also possible that an educator, for whatever reason, has grown intolerant or has become burnt out. Both of these situations should indicate red flags for students and their parents or guardians.
So when is a piano keyboard lesson completely and utterly satisfying? It’s satisfying when I teach it to a student who leaves the lesson with a smile on their face and a twinkle of inspiration in their eyes. That’s when!
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Article Added on Saturday, February 7, 2009
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