10 Characteristics of Awesome Piano Teachers

Have you decided that it's finally time to share your passion for the piano with the next generation of musicians? Hopefully you've thought about the kind of piano teacher you want to be. Every piano teacher has his or her own style, but we think there are a few characteristics that all awesome piano teachers have in common:

1. They care about their students, and their students know it. Great piano teachers find ways to make a connection with every student. They might do it by taking an interest in their students' lives outside of piano. They might do it by showing respect for their students' ideas and aspirations. In all cases, they know how important trust is in the teacher-student relationship.

2. They're sensitive to the individual goals of their students. Some piano teachers are focused on helping their students pass exams, or win competitions. Some take a more relaxed approach and avoid putting students in stressful situations. Great piano teachers, however, find out what their student's goals are and do everything they can to support them. They're great at explaining options, and they're always ready to change direction as their students grow and change.

3. They're flexible. Great piano teachers go into each lesson with a plan, but are always ready to adapt as needed. Their bag of tricks include a variety of games and activities to help relieve boredom. They let themselves be guided by students' curiosity and interest. Maybe they don't love every single song their students pick, but that's okay - they'll do everything they can to help students learn the music they love (while also, perhaps, exposing them to some less familiar music as well).

4. They give praise as well as correction. Great piano teachers know that their job isn't just to fix mistakes, but to tell students what they're doing well. They understand how to build confidence by making sure students appreciate their successes, as well as the next steps for further improvement.

5. They encourage experimentation and exploration. Great piano teachers are familiar with stylistic conventions, but not irrevocably bound to them. They're less interested in making students play the one, correct interpretation of a piece, and more interested in making sure the student is conscious of the choices they're making. They not only encourage, but demonstrate curiosity and thoughtfulness over dogma.

6. They know how to motivate their students. We all know that learning an instrument means doing each new thing over and over until we've mastered it. Great teachers motivate students by figuring out what they care about - whether it's games, competitions, rewards, or inspirational stories - and use those insights to inspire students to practice.

7. They're great communicators. They can convey concepts concisely and clearly, and know that when it comes to explanations, less speaking and more demonstrating usually works best. They usually have a system for keeping everyone in the loop - students, parents, and anyone else who needs to know what's going on. 

8. They pay attention to how their students are feeling. Great teachers notice signs of stress, discomfort or confusion, and adapt their lessons accordingly. They understand that we all have good and bad days. Conversely, they know how to fan the flames of enthusiasm, and try to give students more of what inspires and excites them about learning the piano.

9. They never stop learning. Great piano teachers are lifelong learners in their own right, always working to improve both their performance and their teaching skills. They join professional associations, read magazines, newsletters and blogs about teaching piano, participate in workshops, and are always keen to swap ideas with other teachers. They love finding new things to try in lessons.

10. They love seeing students flourish. They're fascinated by the challenge of figuring out what works in lessons, and are sincerely delighted when their students show progress. Central to their enjoyment of teaching is not how the lessons reflect on them, but on what their student is getting out of the process. Their students are at the centre of their love of teaching.

If you're thinking that some of these characteristics take a long time to develop, you're right. Awesome-teachers-to-be don't do all this flawlessly in their first lesson. But as they gain experience, they reflect often on their teaching practice, and they never forget what kind of teacher they want to be.

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