We’re so close to New Year’s Eve I can almost smell the fireworks. And nothing focuses the mind like a firework, so here are my 2012 suggestions for nine resolutions piano teachers might consider making between now and January 1 (and then keeping from January 1 through to December 31!).
1. Spend more time playing the piano. Unless you also work as a performer (whether soloist or collaborative pianist/accompanist) the chances are that you don’t spend very much time actually playing the piano yourself. Promise yourself 20 minutes, 30 minutes, even a whole hour a day for you to exercise your pianism, even if it’s just rattling through some scales, figuring out how to play something by ear, improvising, or playing through new exam music.
2. Spend time learning a new skill or language. Getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing what it’s like to be a beginner all over again will transform your teaching, giving you fresh insights and inspirations, whether you’re learning tapdancing, woodworking, ancient Greek, bonsai gardening, horse-riding or the bagpipes.
3. Discover the work of a composer you’ve never played/taught before. Ideally, discover the work of a few! Maybe you’ve never played Scriabin, or Telemann, or Messiaen. Or Grieg. Or Haydn. Or – well, you get the drift. And while you’re at it, commit to discovering the work of a living composer who is new to you as well.
4. Create a fresh business plan for your piano teaching business. That’s right, you run a business. You don’t have a business plan? OK, maybe this should be resolution number 1…. A business plan involves thinking through what you want to accomplish in terms of services you provide, markets you want to reach, the growth of your business, financial planning, and more. Writing a business plan creates a structure for you to articulate your vision of what you do and how you connect to your students and their parents and the community beyond.
5. Get to know some piano teachers in your area/city/state/country/world. There are great reasons why you should get to know piano teachers in your local area, but connecting with other piano teachers anywhere is what counts. You might do it via an internet forum, a music teachers association, a piano pedagogy conference, by attending the local eisteddfod/competitions/festivals, or clicking ‘like’ on a facebook page. Whatever suits your current circumstances – do it.
6. Refresh your resources. Check your examination syllabuses and manuals – are they current? Are the method books you use the best match for your teaching philosophy? Have you been teaching the same repertoire for the past 15+ years? And are the resources you use to support sight reading, aural skills, technical work and keyboard musicianship the best you can find, or simply the same resources your teacher used when you were a student?
7. Create your own Personal Learning Network. This is about using social media as a tool in improving your professional practice. Here’s a link to a good post explaining what a PLN is and how to make one work.
8. Stress less. Resolve to only enter students into exams you know they can pass, even if they do get the flu, go on an unscheduled holiday, and fail to practice for a month. Get to the end of the 30 minute, 45 minute, 60 minute lessons and stop – time’s up, and there’s always next week to work on what you missed out today. Remember, there are no medals for martyrs.
9. Sing more. I know, you’re a piano teacher, but singing a phrase can communicate in an instant what would take paragraphs of explanation. And find ways to enable your students to sing more, too – hearing your students vocalise their musical ideas gives you precious insights into their connection with their repertoire and their musical imagination.