1 say something encouraging every lesson.There are a select number of people in the world who do really well when teachers approach them threats. Some people thrive in a situation where they are pushed that way, however most people do so much better with a little encouragement. Make it a point every lesson to say something encouraging. As a piano teacher we know that some lesson just do not go well, the student didn’t practice, they are not paying attention, and clearly its just an off week. I have often found that those lessons can be completely turned around by a few encouraging words. Maybe they didn’t practice but they have been doing so much better keeping their fingers curved. Whatever the compliment may be, find something to appreciate and make a big deal out of it. Kids thrive in an environment where they are praised and encouraged you just might find that if you make this a practice every lesson you have fewer of those lessons that just do not go well.
2 point out what the student did well. As piano teachers it can often feel like our job is to be constantly searching for mistakes. In many ways it is most of what we do. Was that note held the full length? Is the student looking at their hands? Was that a wrong note? It’s a very hard cycle to break because it is so strongly engrained in us but instead of looking for only flaws try to find something good. It may be as simple as the student having good posture. If you deliver the aspects they need to work on with what they did well you will find that they student accepts it so much better and that the reinforcement of what they did well will yield that same result more often. A compliment goes so much farther than a criticism. For example if I correct a half note that is not held but compliment good posture. The good posture will tend to become a habit while the half note may or may not be correct the next time through.
3 write stuff down. I noticed a trend in my own teaching recently that I was very disappointed with. In my attempt to connect with my students and ask about their lives I found that I kept asking them the same questions every week. I have a lot of students and it can be really hard to remember who goes to which school and which plays volleyball instead of basketball. This became a little frustrating for my students because it was as if I never remember what they answered. My intention was good but the outcome was worse than if I had not asked them a question at all. My solution was to keep a notebook with a page for each student where I have all their contact information, a paragraph for technique, scales we are working on, and perhaps most importantly a few notes about where they go to school, their ages, and other information. This way before each lesson I just glance at the notebook and I can ask questions that are more specific to their actually lives in order to show that I know who they are and I care about them aside from just their paychecks.
4 find the style of each student.Each student learns differently and reacts differently to certain styles of reinforcement. I think the best teachers out there are the ones who can read students really quickly and find what works best for their personality. Be willing to be flexible and try new techniques. The more you experiment with this the faster you will learn how to adapt to students learning styles and you will have much more profitable lessons. The best example I have of this is a student recently who was really excited about her lessons and came in each week in a blaze of energy and distraction. From week to week she would be doing cartwheels, lying on the floor, or simply dancing across the room. I tried everything from reasoning with her, talking to parents, I even just sent her home early from one lesson. Eventually I found a method that worked for her. She is a small girl and really small for her age. I discovered that if I could get her to feel that playing piano made her look older she would get really serious and focus. I complemented on how her excellent posture made her look years older and how she could sit at the piano and just look taller. Maybe it’s a little manipulative but ever since I learned what works for her we have been having extremely successful lessons. Talk to your students learn who they are, what their interests are, how their parents handle them and you will get some insights in how to work best with them.