Learning how to teach


We’ve moved through our songs quickly but there’s still time left and I’m desperate for ideas.

I’ve already gone over last week’s songs and we’ve stumbled through this week’s new ones and made them play the notes on their flashcards while I hid their hands with a book, and still there’s about 10 minutes.

Reading music has been hard. They memorize the notes but when they see them all on the staff together they forget, start playing every note until they hit the right one. I need another way to reinforce reading music, but as soon as they get frustrated I lose them.

It’s a random idea but I grab the cardboard pieces with notes pasted on them. “Let’s try something new,” I suggest. “You make your own song!”

And whether it’s the novelty or the fake enthusiasm in my voice, they take to it. The one whose lesson is over, she’s back by the piano bench, asking if she can do it too because we didn’t do this game during her lesson.

I only have one card for each note so they’re short, 5-note tunes but they scramble the cards and line them up, playing each note.

“Let’s do this every time,” they say and where my enthusiasm was fake, theirs isn’t.

And I realize again how very little I know about teaching.

There is absolutely no difference between the practice I made them do, where I held up a card and asked them to play it, and the “new game” we invented yesterday.

Except that we called it a game. And that they lined up the cards.

I make a mental note to try that more often.

I make a lot of mental notes, it seems. Particular note sequences that are challenges for all my younger students; tricks that helped one that might help another; different ways to teach the same thing because sometimes I’m as bored as they are.

And it’s overwhelming.

I’ve only tried to teach someone twice before. Once when I was 12 or 13 and my brother was starting first grade, I was supposed to oversee reading lessons. He couldn’t sit still. We got nowhere, and mom took back over.

The second was when I was 18, again handed a first- second-grade sibling, asked to teach the lessons. She did great until she decided it was confusing, and shut everything down. Mom took her back over too.

So I haven’t exactly had great success in the teaching arena.

It’s going better this time around. Maybe piano is something more concrete, simpler to explain. Maybe being older makes a difference.

But I’m starting to realize: It would take a life time to really learn how to teach.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Learning how to teach

  1. LaVell Welborn

    With your new little one, you’ll be embarking on that lifetime. You have the best example in the world – your own Mom!

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