Throughout my career as a teacher, I have learned that establishing a teaching philosophy at the outset is just as important as choosing a teaching method. The biggest difference being, your approach to teaching versus your teaching infrastructure. This can play out in many ways, with the main two being how you choose to motivate and then how you choose to correct your students or provide feedback.
Getting started with your piano teaching philosophy:
As part of establishing your piano teaching philosophy, you should first contemplate and be able to understand what you believe learning music is all about. Is it about nurturing passion for music, or is it the focus on discipline, or is it about growth and achievement? It could be a combination of all three at varying levels of importance.
It is also good to consider what you want your students to get out of each lesson, and their overall learning journey. This can be slightly adjusted for your students' goals. For example, are they preparing to audition for a university program, or would they rather concentrate on their personal proficiency, or do they want to practice piano as a hobby? You can first decide if they are a good fit with your philosophy, and then determine how your philosophy can be applied to help them achieve their goals.
Applying your teaching philosophy
One of the ways to apply your piano teaching philosophy is according to the four major categories of piano playing, namely performance, creative composition, sight-reading, and aural skills.
If you have a beginner student it’s a good idea to introduce them to the basics of the keys, sharps and flats, some music theory, and beneficial practice habits as these elements will form the foundation upon which they can progress. You will also want to teach them how to read music and show them elementary pieces in which they can become proficient and which bring together previous lesson content.
Similarly, if you have an intermediate student or perhaps someone who is interested in studying for a diploma you should ask them what their goals are and gauge their strengths and weaknesses before adapting your piano teaching philosophy to suit their needs. Depending on your student’s preferences, you should provide opportunities for them to play in front of people, from informal student classes to recitals and festivals. One of the most rewarding aspects of defining your music teaching philosophy is that you can pass on elements of your approach, style, and understanding of musical pieces to your students. There are often several ways of interpreting a piece in terms of dynamics, phrasing, and so on and you can impart your experiential knowledge of this whilst encouraging your students to develop their own styles.
Although every educator’s piano teaching philosophy will vary according to student interests, drawing upon aspects from different schools of piano playing can be advantageous. For example, if your student aspires to become a classical pianist you can concentrate on grades, diplomas, and recitals which entail the intensive practice of scales, chromatic runs, arpeggios, sight-reading, performance, and interpretation. However, will your student build up a repertoire beyond the pieces prescribed by the academe? Will they be comfortable with experimentation and improvisation? In other words, will they be an adaptable musician who can utilize elements outside of their focus to enhance their abilities as classical musicians? And vice versa, if they want to focus on improvisation, composition, and playing in an ensemble, perhaps introducing them to the discipline of classical music, will push them to become better players in these areas.
Understand Your Student
Your students will express interests in certain aspects of the piano and you should consider how to help them achieve their goals. For example, if your student wants to learn how to pick up a tune by listening and playing along to it then you will want to focus on listening and playing in a group. If they want to become adept at the classical performance you will need to devote your time to teaching them classical pieces, theory, dynamics, and melody along with other areas. If they want to create music and improvise you need to provide a framework for this, teaching them how notes and chords relate to each other and showing them pieces that bring this knowledge together while setting composition tasks.
As part of your music teaching philosophy, you should interrogate the rationale behind every aspect of your lesson. Why have you chosen this piece or decided to focus on a particular area of piano practice? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your students and how can you address them? What pieces do your students excel at and which ones will you pick to mold them into better players? Moreover, as a piano player where do your strengths lie and what kind of education can you provide?
An intrinsic aspect of any teacher’s music teaching philosophy is that they impart a love of music to their students. How can you realize that? While teaching pieces that interest your student will encourage engagement, you can draw upon your knowledge to teach them works that will challenge them and introduce them to new forms of music that they will hopefully enjoy and continue to explore.
What is my teaching philosophy?
Even if you've established your music teaching philosophy, it is good to check in sometimes and see if it is still the same, and if it aligns with how you teach day-to-day. By contemplating these questions, not only will you become a more effective teacher; you will also cultivate a lifelong passion for music in your students.
Your philosophy, in practice
No matter your teaching philosophy, Tonara can help you to implement it in your piano lessons (and many other instruments!). From the leaderboards to the practice motivating points, you can decide how to motivate your students, and provide them feedback. Whether you want to focus on sight-reading, fluency, or just fun, Tonara provides a great way to send assignments and track your students' progress.
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