Yes. I’m doing the right thing.

Big internal struggle. Did I push them too hard? Were the lessons so exhausting that they’re going to lose some of the enjoyment of music?

Two lessons last night – an hour each – both are good students who have been with me awhile already – who still somehow think that practicing FAST is acceptable. How can they not know how I’m going to respond? Error after error after error. Do they think by playing quickly they can just gloss over the tough bits? That maybe I won’t notice a complete absence of rhythm/shaping/correct notes?

Dana’s words were ringing in my head: “I’m sure most piano teachers are familiar with the practice war and some may even have come to accept it as just a normal part of lessons. Well, the rebel in me is standing up today and saying NO! This has got to stop!” Her post had a different angle but the sentiment is the same.

Another blogger (can’t remember who – apologies) either posted or left a comment somewhere last week about taking lesson time to sit back and let each student “practice” at the lesson in order to assess the practice habits.

So we practiced. SLOWLY. PAINSTAKINGLY. Trying to show them that if they can do it correctly 4 times in a row it’s learned. For life. “If you’re still making mistakes, you’re still going too fast.”

Make them work – but then build them up. The last 10 minutes of each lesson were spent on something I knew they could do well – with one student it was a previously learned piece that we’ve resurrected and are polishing. With the other – it was theory. (He loves it. His comment last week: “I only like fractions because I play the piano.”) So the lessons ended well.

Still – I struggled. As a parent I’m paying other teachers good money to teach my kids their other instruments. I want to know that I’m getting my money’s worth. I know I have the support of these parents – in fact, they probably think I don’t push their kids hard enough. As a teacher I’m torn – get it right and all will be well – as long as I don’t break them. As a human being who had a string a bad nights – I just hope I didn’t let my own frustration and crabbiness show.

I read two things this morning that affirmed the whole work hard thing – one in an article shared by David McKay on Facebook – “And never underestimate the power of finding something you love and practicing to improve.” The other – quoted in a post by David Kanigan – “Get things right the first time… this saves you days of having to fix problems.”

Enough said.

Image: Piano Practice by Trent Gudmundsen

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About LaDona's Music Studio

Musician, pianist, teacher, blogger.
This entry was posted in Piano pedagogy, Practice Tips, Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Yes. I’m doing the right thing.

  1. fame1444 says:

    It occurred to me while reading this that teachers who care enough to ponder whether or not they are doing the right thing are the best teachers! Kudos to you!

  2. LaDona- I know exactly how you are feeling. I push too hard sometimes and worry about the effect. But I’d rather push then back off, than not push and have students who just don’t progress. This is who I am as a teacher. A wise friend and piano teacher once told me- first you have to decide who you are as a teacher and what your studio represents. Then, try not to be influenced by other teachers in this matter, but stick to your own values and you can’t go wrong.
    Good advice, but this is hard for me too sometimes when I see other teacher’s students consistantly winning competitions and playing so much better than my own. (But its quite easy when I see other teachers taking money from people in the name of piano instruction that effectively teach thier students nothing.)

  3. Thank you for your comments, Suzanne – you’ve nailed it. I like the bit about deciding what the studio represents, though – and no one has left me for another teacher in probably 15 years, so I guess I’m doing OK!

  4. They practice too quickly? If they don’t have time to slow down and do it right, when will they have the time to do it over?

  5. Melodie Archer says:

    Thanks for that LaDona! Same struggle. The last couple of weeks I have been spending an hour being their practice monitor. Quite excruciating but it seems the only thing to do.

  6. Pingback: Mea Culpa | LaDona's Music Studio

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