We all start somewhere.
I was working for a local mom-and-pop music shop when I quit my job and, during the same conversation, asked for an opportunity to teach at their new location. I had only started playing the piano a few years before. There was no prior experience with childhood lessons to guide my approach or choice of materials. So I flipped through the two method books they had available and picked the one that seemed most appealing, and that’s what I had students purchase.
It wasn’t long before I discovered the books weren’t working for many of my students, so I tried switching them, and when someone new signed up, I’d make a quick decision about which of the two methods I’d use. Although I initially felt excitement about trying something new, I soon discovered similar results regardless of my choice.
My intentions were good. I wanted to teach how I thought others were taught. However, attempting to deliver a systematic experience I had never been presented with left me feeling that I better make some big changes or get used to a career of getting slightly better at teaching music no one cares about.
Once I began tailoring the lesson experience to each student’s interest, I quickly noticed a significant increase in their engagement, participation, and practice—simply by letting students take a more active role in the direction of their lessons. From this, I learned three valuable lessons:
- The experience you provide is greater than the lesson you deliver.
- Two teachers using the same materials can provide a very different experience.
- Students can decide what they get to play without necessarily determining what they get to learn.
Information is everywhere. Teachers are in the relationship business. You are what makes the lesson experience special. We are the method.