No one ever talks about this, but teaching piano lessons can be hard on days when you are stressed, sad, or overwhelmed with concerns outside of the studio. It’s difficult to keep your mind on what a student is doing when you are weighted down with personal issues. Watching and listening to someone else play (especially beginning students) takes tremendous mental focus. As piano teachers, we aren’t able to excuse ourselves and leave the lesson. We can’t take phone calls or seem visibly upset during a lesson. We work with children; we must remain calm and cheerful, this can be challenging if there is a lot going on to distract you.
I know a thing or two about teaching during life’s challenging times. Keeping my own mind engaged and free from stress is a tall order on some days. I do my best to have a positive perspective at all times. But I am gloriously human and sometimes have trouble with this. I might be worried about a sick child, an upcoming recital, global warming, the price of tea in China, or anything else. If I let this overtake my mind, my teaching day can become a bit trying. Actually, it will become painfully difficult.
Here are some things that work for me on days when my stress level and concerns outside the studio are high. These ideas may work for you as well.
- Leave Your Worries Outside
I imagine yourself leaving your troubles outside of the studio. This is your workspace. The ability to leave your outside life and focus on your work will take time to cultivate. If you are struggling more than usual on a particular day, write yourself a note about whatever is troubling you and leave it in another room or in your car. Tell yourself you can read the note and get upset or worry after you are finished teaching.
- Live in the Moment, Focus on Your Student
Focus on the student. Look at your student—really look and consider the fact that you get to have this amazing person in your presence for 30-60 minutes. Enjoy her! She is unique and special.
I learned something about a from a Zen teacher. He said to look around and survey your surroundings. Consider that at this very moment, nothing is wrong. Enjoy this moment. Live in it be present. I look at whomever I am teaching at the moment and try to be thankful that I am able to be the teacher. I choose to be thankful for the impact I have on this wonderful person.
- Be kind to yourself.
Have some fun! Pick out a duet to sight read with your student, play a piano game, sing a song, or tell a joke. Look at how cute your little ones are. Have a short conversation with an adult student about the music they are working on. Ask your teens and tweens how their day is going. Celebrate the work you are doing and be inspired by how far your students have come.
Sometimes a little treat can help. A small piece of dark chocolate can pick you up and boost your mood. The theory is that chocolate stimulates neural activity in the regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. A hot cup of tea on a cold day or a cool drink on a hot day can make you feel better on days when you need a little extra pampering.
Bad days will come and go. As musicians, we are especially skilled in the area of mental discipline. We are better able than most people to leave our worries behind and focus on our work.
This post is taken from the book “The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town”
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