I still remember my first piano student. I was a student teacher at Baylor’s Piano Preparatory Program. We did group and private lessons and everything was supposed to be monitored by a professor. I remember that I raised a riot because they’d allowed two Sophomores into a Junior/Senior class that was already overcrowded. Some of the student teachers were having to share students, but somehow both of the Sophomores were to get their own private student. Those of us who were Pedagogy majors conferred and decided that this was highly unfair, because the younger student teachers would have an extra year to get in student teaching. So I was the one nominated to approach our Professor and explain. She redistributed the students, but never forgave me for having the gall to question her on the issue.
My student was the oldest of the kids enrolled in the program. As such, most of the material was below her cognitive and developmental level. My first lesson as a teacher was this: if the students aren’t having fun than they probably won’t learn anything. If they don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they won’t put in the effort, and they’ll dislike it even more. If they are chronically unhappy, they will probably quit taking, resulting in lost revenue. This translated into me learning quickly how to make things fun.
That was over seven years ago. To this day, I tell every student that my main goal is for them to have fun. I ask them to tell me if things are boring, or they don’t like something. I can’t solve a problem if I don’t know that it’s there. I try to mix things up in the lessons, from playing songs to playing games. I also try to keep a close read on if the student is having a good time or not.
As a result, most of my “work day” ends up me being goofy and having fun with my students. We sing, we dance, we hop around the room, and I hopefully teach them that music is fun. I don’t care if a student I teach ever ends up being the next “big thing” in piano. I do care that each child that I cross paths with leaves their time with me appreciating and loving music.
Days that I don’t teach drag by. I sit around and contemplate applying to a boring 9-5 job. The days that I do teach, remind me why I chose this career path in the first place. Because having this much fun and getting paid to do so? I’ve hit the jack pot. So yeah, I don’t earn as much as I did in the 9-5 and I don’t earn as much as I did teaching back in the US. But for me, the trade off is worth it. I’m just having fun and getting paid to do it.