A few years ago, I decided to give myself a gift for my 40th birthday -- tennis lessons. Because of where I live, however, that was going to be a bit of a challenge pulling that off. Eventually, I found a tennis pro living just a few miles down the highway from me, and my tennis "career" began.
It has been very interesting to pick up a new sport, a new hobby, a new activity in my mid-life, but I'm so glad I did. Not only have I become a better tennis player these last two years, I've become a better piano teacher. Wanna guess why?
I became a student. And I quickly learned what students, specifically adult students, want when they are learning something new. Here are three important things I noticed
1. I wanted to play.
Well, duh, right? Not exactly. See there is a fine line between drills and playing. My coach likes to run me through drills and I'm tapping my toe ready to play. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know footwork is important, but just let me hit some balls!
And guess what? Your adult students are thinking the same thing. They want to play! Yeah, yeah, yeah, scales are important, but don't forget to let them play. Set them up so they are playing songs they like - and quickly - or you will have a frustrated adult student.
2. I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.
I'm paying good money for these tennis lessons and I want to know that my coach is there on time, ready to work, giving me her full attention. (And I actually have a spectacular coach who is and does all of those things!) If I'm taking time out of my busy schedule and paying money that I had to work hard for, I want my money's worth.
Your adult student feels the same way. He or she is busy -- very busy, so your lessons better be worth it! Don't let that make you feel like they have to be perfect, but piano teacher, you better be ready for them, engaged, and giving them your full attention. They will let you know -- usually with their checkbook -- if you are or aren't.
3. I wanted to get better. (And I wanted my coach to tell me that)
Yeah, I wanted to just play (see #1), but I also wanted to get better at tennis. So, that means doing drills, that means listening to my coach, that means following all of the instructions. And I quickly realized that I wasn't content to just get 1 in every 872 serves in -- I wanted my serves to improve! So, I was willing to practice.
But, I also wanted my coach to notice. It has surprised me how much her encouragement means to me. How much I want to hear her verbally point out my improved backhand or even the timing on my approach shot. The affirmation feels good -- really good and makes me glad I'm taking lessons.
Your adult student is the same way -- no Twinkle Twinkle Little Star six months later for them! They want to improve, and they are willing to work for it. But, they also want you to notice. To acknowledge the hard work. To praise them for unusually smooth legatos or a dramatically held fermata.
And, if you have the time, dear piano teacher, go learn something new. Become a student and I promise you will become a better teacher!