What 10 Things Do I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Teaching?

By Leah Coutts

This blog was inspired by an article with the same title that I read in the Autumn 2001 Keyboard Companion magazine as part of my studies. As I was reading through the article, I noticed that my list of things I wish I’d know was quite different. I thought I’d share the 10 things that I wish I had known before I started teaching:

1. That my studio would grow so quickly – I could have been more selective about the type of students I decided to take on.

2. That teaching is my livelihood and that it is vital to have a steadfast policy from the start – this would have saved so much hassle with lack of payment and ridiculous catch-up schedules and missed lessons.

3. If you lower your expectations, so will your students – if you keep saying it is okay when no practice has been done, students will not start to practice efficiently.

4. Importance of educating parents as much as the child students – parental involvement is critical for a young child’s success.

5. Play up to natural motivations rather than trying to bribe students to do just what you think is important.

6. It’s not all about the written music – from the start it is about exploratory games and the essence of music, not just learning the notes on the pages.

7. You can say ‘no’ to students – whether it is taking them on as a student, requests outside of your studio policy, or requests for pieces of music that are obviously outside of their current playing standard – and your reputation will not be brought into question, as long as you are reasonable in your response.

8. A student’s goals do not have to match yours. If you understand their motivations for wanting to learn, your relationship will be a lot more successful.

9. You can’t practice for the student. This is one that I still have trouble with – even though it is such an obvious statement. I guess that only those who have been there know how much you can actually achieve when you put in the effort. All we can do is help to motivate and cultivate the desire to want to play.

10. Have designated ‘work’ hours, or it can totally consume you.

If I had known all these things from the start, I don’t think I would have been as good a teacher as I am now through learning these things along the way, as it is experience that shapes you more than knowledge.

Now it’s your turn – are there any things that you wished you had known before you started teaching that aren’t listed here? Do you agree with the above list?

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