(To catch up on this series, see Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)
What would adult students say is their favorite thing about lessons? Here’s what these students told me:
I love how Ginger ends that, “it makes me proud!” It’s amazing that now she can be proud of what she can play! I also like how she mentions that it’s relaxing and it brings her joy. For a perfectionist like Ginger this is huge!
Several students also mentioned that they enjoy the learning process and problem solving. They realize that learning piano is a puzzle that you have to work at, you may not get it the first time, but if you keep at if you will break through and accomplish your goal. I also like how Jennel realizes that she needs the guidance of a teacher to accomplish what she wants. And did you catch her say that adults are more focused and dedicated because they really want to do this? That seems like the exact opposite of the stereotype of adult students, but this is what she believes. How can we argue with that? And most of all, I like hearing how much they love to create music. I love how Ellen simply says “I love playing” Wouldn’t you love for all your students to say that?
So you may have caught on that Bill is a great story-teller. I’ve taught Bill for about 6 years now, and I hear stories from Bill all the time. I have to share with you this highlight of Bill’s piano studies:
Isn’t that amazing? After all these years, piano is a part of his way to say thank you to the soldiers. A couple years ago he also played piano in his granddaughters wedding, isn’t that sweet? Now Bill is not a perfect student, I have to be flexible with his scheduling, and be patient as he learns. He marks every single accidental from the key signature in his music, and every single fingering. His sheet music looks crazy! But this is what works for him. Would I love for him to be able to remember the key signature without marking it in? Yes! But does that really matter for Bill at this point in his life? No!
If I had pushed him to not write these in, and forced him to do things my way, he could have easily become discouraged and quit. And he may have missed out on the chance to play at the memorial site, or play in his granddaughter’s wedding. Piano has become a significant part of his life, and I believe has changed his life for the better. I would have hated for a teachers stubborn insistence on him doing things the ‘correct’ way to have prevented that from happening.
Advice for Teachers
Finally, I have one last video to share in this series. I asked these students what advice they had for teachers considering or currently teaching adults. Here’s what they had to say:
Now isn’t that encouraging? I was in such a good mood while I was working on these videos! And I have to say, my students don’t wait until I turn on the camera to tell me these things. My adult students are so encouraging. They constantly tell me how patient I am, how much they love playing, and how much they enjoy their lessons. That’s something we don’t often get from kids. Kids might enjoy it just as much, but they don’t express it to us in the same way.
So it takes patience, and a lot of encouragement, but it’s worth it! I love what Joe says, “I know a whole lot more about music than I am able to show.” Adults can comprehend and understand the concepts, we just need to give them patience as they learn how to execute it. And my favorite part of all is when Ginger says:
“I wouldn’t be as happy as I am right now.”
Now that’s worth all the patience it takes, to enrich students lives like that.
As teachers we need to keep in mind what Ginger has learned, “it’s not about perfection, it’s about whether or not you are enjoying it”. For RMM students this is the key, and I’m so glad Ginger has realized that. So look at these students, Joe and Bill practice an hour or two before bed each night just because they enjoy it. Who wouldn’t want students like these?
Now think back to those quotes I shared at the beginning of this series, are adult students full of excuses, hard to teach, undependable?? Is the best time to learn really when a child is young? If you came into this session with that mindset, I hope I have changed your perspective. Teaching adult students is one of the most meaningful and life-impacting things that you can do.
Spring Seals, NCTM, teaches 60 piano students ranging from age 3 to 70 in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as the Director of Certification for TMTA. She is passionate about helping teachers become more effective in their studios through professional development, new resources, and fresh ideas.