I have run my piano teacher training course for a while now. During the whole course, there is one session in which I ask my student teachers what they want to achieve and who they want to be in their teaching career. I still recall one student teacher asked me what kind of teacher I regarded myself to be – she actually asked me if I thought I was/wanted to be a star teacher. At that time I could not pinpoint who I exactly was as a piano teacher. I just thought I wanted to be the greatest teacher I could ever be for my students, that’s it.
But today I know who I am and want to be.
I am a mentor for piano teachers and piano students. And I want to be a top-notch one.
What does it mean to be a mentor?
I believe there are many fine qualities that a true mentor (and teacher : note, it’s not limited to “piano teacher” but “teacher” in essence) must possess. But I have discussed about them in many of my posts already, so I don’t want to repeat myself here again. Instead, I want to talk about four essential qualities a true mentor must possess: inform, encourage, empower and inspire.
Here I must stress that I deliberately use the word “inform” in lieu of “instruct”.
I personally believe in providing as much knowledge as my students (piano players and piano teachers) would need continually and gradually in wide varieties of topics and angles possible, with consistent support and guidance (again, instead of “instruction”), rather than spoon-feeding them and telling them that limited pool of knowledge would be all they need necessary to pass some exams or competitions or performance etc. There is certainly a structured framework and solid foundation I would provide and inform my students of their importance, yet there is also freedom and space for my students, even the young ones, to explore and discover for themselves in this music journey. In fact, it is exactly the essence of music learning: the spontaneity and creativity supported by a solid foundation and knowledge via a mastery of polished tools available for use anytime.
A lot of parents and teacher believe that in order to help students improve they must scold the kids and be mean and strict with them , or else there would be no or not enough progress. I beg to differ.
Personally I always believe in positive reinforcement and help in students to build an internal self-sufficient system that the students are the one to motivate themselves to work hard and diligently because they want to do it for themselves but not for others or to get out of blame, ridicule or punishment. Instead, the students are in for improving, progressing and achieving their own goals because they want it so bad they won’t do it otherwise. My role therefore is there to encourage them to keep doing it even when there is failure and obstacle. I am there to guide them and give them some guidance and solutions (or rather, help them to create their own solutions) so they know what to do on their own even when I am not around. They must know deep inside that they can do it because they have the ability, the willpower, and the drive to make it and to succeed, and I am there for them always.
(To Continue: The Four Qualities of a Great Mentor (Part II) )