Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher?

Posted by: JenW

Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/14/14 08:12 AM

I've been teaching since this spring. I love practicing and playing piano, so I assumed I would feel the same way about teaching. I was surprised to discover that I just feel neutral about teaching. I've discovered that I'm not naturally good at being motivational and that I don't enjoy teaching the same concept over and over. I've also learned that I don't enjoy being alone during the day and then teaching at night when my husband/kids are home.

Did anyone else have the same experience when they first began teaching, and if so, has your passion for teaching improved over time? I'm doing my best to do a good job and I really do care about the students, but it's hard to imagine continuing without being highly passionate about teaching. Thanks for any advice!
Posted by: EllaCat

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/14/14 08:54 AM

My journey to teaching has been a bit of an evolution, with a few false starts. I've always been a teacher, even as a child - it's just who I am. I always knew that teaching something would be a part of my life. I started teaching piano as a teen, and I went into university intending to teach music in schools - but even before I graduated I found out that I didn't actually want to be around large groups of kids all day - I realized that I'm actually a "small doses" person with kids. smile After that I thought I'd teach piano full-time - but when I tried that I found, like you, that the hours didn't agree with me in terms of work/life balance.

To "bring home the bacon" I've ended up working an office job in a field that I never even thought of as an option, and I'm loving it. I teach a couple hours a week in the evenings just to keep my hand in it - the balance generally works for me, but it took a while to get here.

All that to say - sometimes things take a bit of trial & error to figure out. Maybe teaching just isn't for you. If you're not happy then maybe it's best to count it as an "experience" and move on to something else. Life is too short to spend so much time & energy on something that doesn't feel right.
Posted by: ransomed

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/14/14 08:55 PM

This is a demanding job with odd-hours. Pleasing parents and motivating students is not easy most of the time. Wearing all the hats: teacher, bookkeeper, advertiser, public relations, CEO, buying music, invoices, keeping it fresh and fun for the kids... it's not easy to be a good piano teacher.

To earn a modest income I work six days a week and am exhausted with 17 students and another part time job teaching swimming lessons.

If you don't love teaching, why not search for work that is closer to your heart? (if you can earn money doing it).
Posted by: Nyke

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/14/14 11:18 PM

I have always been a natural teacher, I can remember being in 4th or 5th grade being asked to teach younger grades to read. As a teen I enjoyed babysitting I would easily have between 10-20 families on rotation weekly!! Once I entered college I would learn so much of music & theory ahead of the class I was asked by my professor to be a stand-in substitute for quite a few of her classes.
Now as an Executive Director of two studios and I still teach six days a week I can say with absolute ease "I LOVE IT"!- Now that's not to say that I don't have daily struggles, some days i'm just tired and want to stay home in bed, prepare students for festivals and competitions, I have to deal with enforcing my studio policy for payments sometimes, I have to organize recitals, put up with instructor quarrels, deal with student's a lot of a work but at the end of the day I am soooooooo grateful to be apart of these students lives and be able to bring them the joy of music.
Posted by: JenW

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/16/14 07:36 AM

Thanks to everyone for responding. I assumed that loving to play piano is the same as loving to teach piano, but they really are two different things. There seems to be a common theme among your replies of always having been natural teachers. When I think about my natural tendencies, I think of playing piano, as well as tasks like reading, researching, writing, and analyzing information.

I will stick with teaching for the rest of the summer and re-evaluate at that point.
Posted by: Nyke

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/16/14 10:00 AM

Hi JenW,
I was wondering if you can give me a breakdown of your lesson structure and what is the part you dread the most? & what part you kinda sorta look forward to?-Around how many students dso you teach? Because that will determine if your exposed to many personality types.
As a teacher what gives me such a thrill is when a student "Gets It" whatever concept it may be from legato, staccato, dynamics, articulation, a composers style etc......
I do have frustrations when a student is uninterested or doesn't practice those times I feel like reevaluating my reason for teaching. Even my Festival winners disappoint me at times.....but it's mainly because I want everything to go my way and not be a conflict and honestly that's unrealistic. All jobs will give you a challenge, its realizing is the gain worth it.
So my final question is what were you hoping to give as a piano teacher and what were you hoping to gain?
Posted by: Leigh

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/16/14 02:22 PM

I never set out to be a piano teacher. I majored in oboe in college, got a degree in performance. I don't know what I thought I'd do with that, but.....

I minored in piano, just because I liked taking lessons.

Several years later, playing the oboe was not paying the bills, needless to say. Neither was my job in a small-town department store. A couple mothers practically begged me to teach their kids piano, and thus it began. I didn't really enjoy it that much, until a few years later. I built up to 30 or so students, and have moved and started over twice since then, building back up.

It's been 30 years now (!), and I enjoy it more all the time! I especially like teaching the younger kids. I make the lessons fun, using lots of games and other silliness - which I don't think I used to do.

I would say to you: don't give up yet, JenW! Try adding some extras to the lessons - drums, games, etc. Make it fun for the students AND for you!
Posted by: pianojazzgirl

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/16/14 02:34 PM

Like Leigh was saying, teaching piano became much more enjoyable to me the more I discovered and started using different games and activities, as well as checking out new methods (Piano Adventures being a favourite obviously!) and supplements. My favourite part of teaching is the "puzzle solving" aspect. I love figuring out how to best reach each individual student. How to help those who are having difficulty with a certain concept or skill, and how to best motivate and push everyone. I like to constantly keep it "fresh" for me. I research new pieces and games all the time, and love integrating new things (or new versions of old things if you know what I mean). For every concept there are oodles of games, fun worksheets, supplemental pieces and approaches that you can employ. Try out different things with different students (that you think would work best).

Some things you might enjoy adding to lessons if you don't already: improvisation, composition, playing from lead sheets, learning by rote or ear. If you are interested in any of these and would like advice about materials I would be happy to share some ideas. smile
Posted by: JenW

Re: Am I'm meant to be a piano teacher? - 06/17/14 09:11 AM


Thanks for all the thought-provoking questions! My lesson structure typically involves starting with a fun game or warm-up, then working on the assigned songs, and then spending a little time at the end on theory. The part I actually enjoy the most is all the preparation before the lesson -- researching ideas and planning and [I know this sounds crazy] even the office-work tasks. I don't really dread the teaching part, but I just feel neutral about it. What was I hoping to give? I was hoping to share my passion for piano with students. What was I hoping to gain? Low-stress, creative, meaningful work.