Welcome to Day 12 of the 12 Days of Inspiration!
Today we're talking about tricky personalities - Stinky Students, Talkative Kids, and Know-It-Alls. It’s just a day in the life of a piano teacher!
Instead of addressing "Vivace Influenza" or "Accidental Amnesia" like Nicola Cantan’s fabulous book, The Piano Practice Physician’s Handbook, I'll be looking more at personalities.
So in the spirit of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and her delightful “cures” for difficult children, here are 12 solutions for teaching tricky personalities:
1. The Chatterbox
You know that student who will NOT STOP talking? Yep - I’ve had her too.
Try This - Set a 2 minute timer at the beginning of your lesson. Your student gets to talk about whatever she wants during that time. BUT....once the timer goes off, it's time to focus on piano. (This trick has worked wonders with one of my Chatterbox!)
2. The Silent Student
Silent kids are often SHY kids. Some tend to be quiet all the time, while others are only shy around adults. Either way, silence can make teaching difficult. (Actually, this is something I'm experiencing with one of my students right now.)
Try This - First, avoid yes/no questions. I've found that silent students often resort to nodding or pointing, so you're better off asking specific questions.
Second, as odd as this sounds, I've had the best success when I ask my Silent Student a question and then look away. (I might start writing in their assignment book.) By looking away, it "forces" my student to answer me. Yes, it feels a little rude - and it's really hard to not look at them - but it often works.
3. The Stinky Student
Have you ever had a student come straight from football practice without showering? Oh my! This was once a HUGE problem with one student, but I found a solution. Best of all? It works EVERY time!
Try This - As you sit down to start the lesson, grab some yummy smelling lotion. As you rub it on your hands, dab it right under your nose. Now you'll be smelling your wonderful lotion instead of your student. (Did I mention this works EVERY time!)
4. The Indecisive Student
Perhaps these students are just trying to be polite or maybe they honestly don’t know what they want. Either way, it makes teaching a challenge.
Try This - Simplify the decision by giving an “either-or” choice. Nick Ambrosino addresses this in his book series. It really got me thinking about the way I interact with my students AND my son. Narrowing down choices for students can really help!
5. The Know-It-All
We’ve all had students who...well...argue with you. It’s no fun for teachers, but it happens.
Try This - Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting about, but some things are. You decide what's important - then get some backbone and stick to your guns!
6. The Whiner
You know those students who simply look at a piece of music and immediately launch into - That’s too hard! I can’t play that!
Try This - Have your student play only part of the song. Maybe even just a few measures. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel victory and focusing on smaller chunks of music will get kids there faster. (This can also work for #12 The Perfectionist.)
7. The Heartbroken
Maybe you have a teenage girl who just broke up with her boyfriend. Or perhaps her grandma died or her dog is sick. At some point, nearly every student arrives at their lesson feeling heartsick.
Try This - Give your student a piece of chocolate and ask her if she wants to talk about it. If she does, listen. If she doesn’t, move on. Perhaps it could be an easy favorites week? Or you could spend the lesson working on composition - let her spill her heart into creativity.
Heartache is tough, but it's part of life. Being compassionate is always the right choice.
8. The Disrespectful Student
Try This - First and foremost, continue to be upbeat and polite. Treat your student with kindness - regardless of the way they treat you. (I know it's not always easy.)
Second, don’t hesitate to make gentle corrections. It’s not polite to argue with an adult.
Finally, it’s completely appropriate to discuss their behavior with parents. After all - we teach much more than just piano!
9. The Silly Student
We've all had students who want to laugh and be goofy at their piano lesson. And of course, younger kids often fall into this category.
Try This - One of the best ways to help the Silly Student is to keep lessons fun by including games and movement. These students will also benefit from sticking to a routine during lessons. For example - It'll be easier for them to learn a new song, if they know a fun app is coming up next.
10. The Distracted Student
Teaching piano is hard enough, but if your student isn't paying attention, it's nearly impossible!
Try This - Play detective! Try to discover what distracts your student and make a serious effort to eliminate that. Sometimes it's obvious. For example, most kids enjoy my cats, but they can be a big distraction for other students. In those cases, I make sure my cats are in another room during lesson time.
Like the Silly Student, sticking to a routine also helps distracted students because they know exactly what to expect next.
11. The Sleepy Student
Kids are busier than ever these days! At some point, probably all of them will fall into this category.
Try This - Surprise your student by doing something out-of-the-ordinary and FUN! Play a game or have “duet day.” Maybe you could work on a composition or read a book. You could even simply watch YouTube videos with the goal of finding new music to learn.
One other idea - If you have a student who's alway tired, ask the parent to give them a quick snack on the way to piano lessons. It's usually a good pick-me-up.
12. The Perfectionist
No one likes to make mistakes, but some students take it more personally.
Try This - Stressed out students often need a simple distraction. One great way to change direction is using more apps. When I interviewed Judy Naillon for Technology Boot Camp, she said something I’ve never forgotten - “When you play a game and get the wrong answer - you just want to try again!” This is exactly the attitude our perfectionist students need to develop and we can help.
Or Try This - Have The Perfectionist play only part of the song. Maybe even just a few measures. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel victory and focusing on smaller chunks of music will get kids there faster.
More Posts from 12 Days of Inspiration
1 Powerful Way to Stay Focused and Productive at Colourful Keys
2 Things Every Music Teacher Should Do on Their Break at Mallory’s Music Studio
3 Ways to Reduce Stress at Music Educator Resources
4 New Year’s Resolutiopianosaurusrex.nz/reset-your-music-studio/ns at Violin Judy
5 Ways to Reset Your Music Studio After the Holidays at Pianosaurus Rex
6 Things That Should Happen at a First Piano Lesson at A Very Piano Blog.
7 Tax Deductions for Music Teachers at Sara's Music Studio
8 Questions to Bring Your Studio into the New Year at Fun Key Music
9 Ways to Increase You Studio Retention at Woods Piano Studio
10 Impressive Benefits of Learning Piano By Ear at Piano Picnic
11 Finds for the New Year at Piano Pantry
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Hi there! I'm Tracy Selle. A Christian wife, mom, and author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. I'm also a piano teacher and founder of Upbeat Piano Teachers.