I’m Teaching a Beginner- Again
In the spring of 2016, I took on 3 piano students. All girls, all with prior music experience, and very close in age. I’ve been working with them for the past year and a half and have not taken on any more students. But this month, one of the families informed me that the oldest daughter would no longer be taking lessons and instead their son would be
At first, this sounded all well and good. Their son had shown much more enthusiasm for the instrument than the oldest daughter had and it’s always easier to teach someone who is curious and excited. Today, when we were just 30 minutes from starting the lesson, I had a bit of a panic attack. What do you do in a first lesson? I have no recollection of my own first lesson at 8 and I recall very little from the first lessons I taught. I’m out of practice. Furthermore, whatever I did in those first several lessons was probably not the ideal way to teach and talk and explain music to someone.
So, I Googled it. (What is this wealth of shareable knowledge for if you don’t use it?) A very helpful blog post was the first thing I clicked on and it gave an excellent outline for what you could accomplish in the first lesson. Even having that nearby for reference throughout the lesson, I felt nervous and started right in on the keys and how they’re named in alphabetical order instead of starting with something simpler, like finger numbers. I didn’t let him talk enough- partially because he was feeling nervous and being quiet and that made me feel even more uncertain. So I filled the silence, asked dumb questions, and probably confused him.
I have next week, another 7 days to prepare and review this lesson, another 30 minutes to spend together connecting as people and learning more about this instrument. Even in the role of “teacher”, I am still a student of music. I’m learning how to explain and make sense of the rules that are so deeply embedded in my mind, I don’t even think about the logic. I have to explain why a scale is 8 notes, why there are black keys in scales, and why we curve our fingers. I’m explaining what it is to be a pianist. Whether we occupy the bench or the chair, we are learning and growing as musicians. That’s a beautiful thing. I have work to do and much more to learn as a young teacher, and yet, I can appreciate that magic is happening right now, every time we sit before the keys together.