by Amelia Wong
As a fresh young music graduate, being a rookie at piano teaching was indeed a huge learning platform for me. I remembered, I was terrified of children, aged 7 and below and requested to only be assigned teaching older kids who were already at least Grade 1 and above. I figured, better to play safe with students who already knew how to play the piano and read music, and old enough to be away from parental assistance during lessons.
I had this huge fear that I would not know how to deal with the little ones in class.
“What to do if they start missing their parents and cry incessantly?”
“What if they don’t sit still and fidget around?”
“How do I even teach them to ‘read’ music, what more, to play the piano?”
“Crap!! Why won’t he stop screaming?” and the unimaginable phantom scenario would play in my head which would then cast the strongest negative doubt in my being and erase all possibilities of ever taking them on.
Fast forward a couple of years, I realized the only way to conquer these fears were to embrace the challenges and test out the ‘scary’ waters.
And you know what?
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! Better still, these precious gems, were indeed little blessings and better ‘teachers’ because they taught me more than any textbooks could.
I took over a 5-year-old boy from another teacher not knowing what I was getting myself into. He was feisty, sometimes very physical and would hit out at me during lessons, doesn’t like his hands or wrist touched, liked getting his own ways, played pieces he only wanted.
He would scream and cry to the point that there was one afternoon, after his lesson, he literally screamed his lungs out in class as though he was being abused by me. When I opened the door for my next student, she had the most horrified look on her face, as though she was going to barf with fear upon entering my ‘torturous’ music chamber!
It has been 4 years since then, and my experience of this boy has taught me that he needed:
Love and Support – That it was ok to feel what he felt and be ok with it, but at the same time, understand there were boundaries as well.
Encouragement and Understanding – By doing both, I saw a transformation that allowed him to grow with confidence and slowly take up challenges which otherwise he would have just given up and run away from.
Patience and Trust – It was from having the patience and perseverance on my part that a trust was built and hence, we have a connection that allows us to communicate much better.
Of course, none of this would have been possible if I did not have the support from his parents and aunt, both at home and during lessons during the earlier years. By enrolling them, 4 years on, he has grown to be a bright and cheerful boy, who has been weaned off parental supervision during lessons, no more screaming fits (thank God!), allows me to help him without pushing me away, and most importantly, is willing to take up more music challenges. Of course there are still some ‘bad’ days but these are sparse and very far apart.
PRECIOUS LEARNINGS I HAD
I realized that every child is unique and presented different challenges that would require different solutions to help them during lessons. I realized that I had to be resourceful and quick thinking, in order to allow the lessons to be fruitful for both the student and myself.
So for the fidgety and ‘short-attention’ child, there is an abundance of musical activities and games on hand to stimulate as well as provide a fun element into the lesson.
For those that give up easily and cry, there are little rewards like stickers, stamps, high fives, anything that will allow the child to feel great, even for the smallest achievement, because to them, it is easier to give up than to try.
Never underestimate the power of asking for help and support from parents or even other experienced teachers because it doesn’t make us lesser teachers. In fact, it allows us more room to grow and acquire their wisdom to understand the needs and wants of all these wonderful little children.
It is very important to establish that much needed connection with the children, because without the correct chemistry, it would be like running into a brick wall every lesson. Once this is established, the potential is limitless and the journey, so much more fulfilling.
There is no ‘right’ way, but the way will present itself when one is willing to be open to possibilities and enroll for the support needed to create a joyful and loving lesson environment. It’s no “Disneyland”, there will be ‘bad’ days, the point is never to succumb to failure but to thrive on seeking solutions so that every child WINS!