My 16-year-old daughter recently lamented: "I feel so sick but don't want to miss school." Surprised by this remark, I wondered if she was concerned about her grades suffering. She continued: "Today we're re-enacting the French and Indian War." Apparently, this re-enactment involved Guerrilla war tactics, paper balls, and a modified version of "Capture the Flag."
The prior week, the students experienced a modern-day simulation of a Salem Witch Trial. Each student had a part to act out in an improvised play about determining who had cheated on a test. It was determined that there wasn't enough evidence to convict.
Oddly enough, when my daughter asked to go to school even though she was sick, I immediately began to think about piano lessons. Are the lessons I teach so engaging that a student does not want to miss, even in the case of ill health? This question made me a bit uneasy, but also determined to re-examine what makes a piano lesson a "can't-miss" event. Two quotes come to mind:
“A lesson is a happening. Something so special happens that the student ends the lesson different from what he was before.” - Sam Holland
"The art of teaching: Creating an environment in which a student wants nothing more than to learn, and having the right materials for the situation.” – Frances Clark
Does a method book in itself create excitement? Does our carefully crafted lesson plan fill the student with fervor? The obvious answer is "no." I would invite the reader to ponder these questions:
1) Can you remember a time when you couldn't wait to get to your own piano lesson? What was it about that teaching environment that made you want to be nowhere else?
2) What can you do to ensure that the student has many musical experiences in the lesson, fully exploring the expressive possibilities of the instrument and of music?
3) What can you do to project an absolute love for the music your student is studying?
4) What can you do to convey to the student that you view him/her as an accomplished learner?
5) How can a spirit of discovery be more completely infused into lessons?
6) How can you involve your student as an equal partner in the learning process?
7) What other questions can you ask of yourself when planning for dynamic, exciting lessons?
One might remark: "Everything doesn't HAVE to be fun! We are already too consumed with catering to a generation raised on video games! I want my student to have discipline!" I believe that discipline, an internal quality, must be preceded by motivation. How can we motivate our students to find their joy and passion in music and make their piano lessons "can't-miss" events?