Category: The Unashamed Piano Teacher 無愧的鋼琴老師

Please don’t “teach” piano

I can’t start writing this post without talking about my own learning experience.

I wish I had better teachers right from the start. I do. But I didn’t – that’s why I always wanted to be the best teacher for my students, but that’s another story.

Now, being a “teacher” is different from an “instructor” – those who “instruct” give you “instructions” to follow. It implies that you as a student do not have to think about what to do but just to do it regardless. It’s the rule: how can you not do it when your “teacher” tells you to? (I really mean “instructor”)

To teach means something rather different. The word “teach” means the following:

To impart knowledge to someone
To cause (someone) to learn or understand something by example or experience.

Although the word “teach” also means to instruct, it means so much more than giving directions just to be followed strictly. I would focus more on the “knowledge” part.

To have a knowledge in a topic is very meaningful and powerful. I don’t know if you know anyone whom you would refer to as someone very “knowledgeable” in a field/topic (think about it now), how would you describe that person when s/he talks about that field/topic? Isn’t it like s/he knows every single thing in that topic, the details, the questions, the answers, the problems, the solutions, and s/he is genuinely interested in conversing with you about it, and is eager to show you what’s there?

That’s the power of knowledge. And you can find it in any topics, any skills, and any fields. In case of this piano thing, a teacher is there to “impart knowledge” in a student, and that would require first of all that teacher knows that knowledge (at least a lot of it) before s/he can deliver that knowledge to the student.

Knowledge is not fixed however. And it should always be growing. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. That’s knowledge. And for me, that’s exciting news, because it’s always interesting to be more knowledgeable in a topic I enjoy learning about.

People think that it’s easy to be those who are talented and famous, because they are talented and famous. But do you know how much time and effort they put into honing their skills in whatever fields they are in? I am not saying everyone wants and needs to be that in one field in particular, certainly not in piano playing or teaching! What I mean is, it requires effort and skills. And if you learn smart and efficient, you will have better skills in shorter time.

I always tell my students, “start thinking!”, “start reading!”, “start creating!”, and “start training!”. You can waste one more day to not hone that skill that belongs to you, but why?

Teresa Wong

P.S. Oh, I seemed to have derailed from my topic. Well, people, don’t teach if you don’t want to teach. Don’t teach if you don’t know how to teach. If you dont’ know how to teach well, please learn more to improve your teaching skills and have more knowledge in music and piano and playing, you owe this to your students, you really do. The last thing I hate is to see another student ruined by a so-called “teacher”.

P.P.S. Hey “students”, you are there to learn from your teachers.If you have a found a great teacher, please do not waste his/her time. Tell her/him you can’t have lessons anymore because you are “lazy, “don’t have time for lessons and/ practice, “don’t have money for lessons/a decent piano”, “too busy at school/work/sleepover/parties/travel/celebration/family gatherings/holidays/valentine’s day/dragon boat festival” etc etc. Just make up an excuse to leave. Thank you very much.

Please don’t “play” the piano

I am going to be as candid as I can ever be in this post, and from now onwards.

It’s not that I wasn’t being truthful or honest before. I was trying to be “kind” and “nice”.

There’s nothing wrong with being kind and nice, but when I was being “too kind” and “too nice”, I found out students became lazy and started to rely on me, meaning they always looked at me for directions, instead of thinking for themselves how to do it.

Playing the piano and perfecting the skills required needs a lot of brainwork, and to that I mean A LOT.

It’s not for those who don’t like thinking and analysing to the deepest.

It is also not for someone who don’t want to move their bodies.

What does that mean? There has ben a stereotype that playing the piano is to “tame” the kids’ temper, like it’s some sort of circus moves. Actually, it sounds more like the teacher is the animal trainer and the students being… you know.
Only I hope your teacher doesn’t have a wipe to hold on to..

First, let me tell you what playing the piano is not:
It’s NOT just for GIRLS
It’s NOT to train boys to sit still
It’s NOT for ANYONE to sit still and NOT move their bodies
It’s NOT just a finger movement

Now, let me tell you what playing the piano is about:
IT IS an activity that requires MIND, BODY, EMOTION , and SPIRIT. (Yes, it is that kind of activity.)
It is an ACTIVE activity, like a SPORT.
It requires BRAIN WORK. – LOTS OF IT.
It requires BODY COORDINATION – hands, feet, eye, torso (upper and lower, even when you are sitting) and oh yeah, brain again, you guess it.
It requires FEELING – yes it does, because it’s ART, an EXPRESSION of EMOTION – otherwise go do maths or play video games. I can’t imagine anyone filling in forms and studying tests with PASSION, that would be weird.
It requires not only feeling for music, but also feeling for your own body, that’s the ultimate way to transform your technique forever. So it requires the player to be in touch with themselves.
It takes FOCUS, DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE, HARD WORK, RESILIENCE, STRUCTURE, SKILLS, TIME, and PATIENCE. – I think there’s more I am missing…oh maybe, PASSION?
It requires FAST RESPONSE. REALLY FAST – so if you like slow motion, go do tai chi in the park with old ladies and men, no offence.
It requires A LOT OF THINKING -it needs a lot of rationalization and analysis, and is therefore NOT for anyone who prefers spoon fed everything or everything shuffled down their throats – or did I mention this point already?
It is NOT cost effective.
It requires PRACTICE, ON YOUR OWN.
It requires REFLECTION, ON YOUR OWN.
IT REQUIRES THINKING, ON YOUR OWN – oh I think I am getting dementia or something, here I am repeating myself again.

So I hope I have told you what it takes to be really great at the piano. Of course, if you just want to be mediocre, keep telling yourself “it’s too hard”, “I don’t have time (for lessons and/practice)”, and “the teacher should tell me everything I need to know!”

Anything great in life requires hard work, resilience, time and patience, and A LOT OF THINKING.

Next post, I might start bashing on “teachers” who think they are teaching, but they are really not!

“I Wish I Could Play Better Piano!”

I am going to be quite blunt from now on, and also slightly more philosophical and spiritual with my writing than before.  I feel I am running out of time here..

I find that most people like the idea of playing the piano but not exactly the action of it. 

Why do I say that?

Have you ever heard your friends say, “I wish I could lose some weight”, then they would add, “if I had time to go exercise”, and “but it’s too hard, and I love eating!” etc etc.

Or, “I would love to go ______ (put any sports or hobbies there: e.g. golfing, fishing, hiking, reading, travelling, cooking…) “, BUT, “I don’t have time”. 

IF they are some of those really lucky people in this planet that have TIME, and even when they take action to go do these activities, they actually find that it’s quite an exhausting task to fulfil. 

AND if they so do decide and manage to keep this hobby going, they would find they don’t actually like it that much as they thought they really would before they started doing it. Usually it’s because it’s too HARD, and take too much TIME. 

But now they are STUCK.. Why? Because they have already started doing this thing they have been wanting to do so long, and they have INVESTED TIME, MONEY and maybe some EFFORT, and also THEY TOLD EVERYONE THEY ARE DOING THIS! THEY CANNOT BACK DOWN CAN THEY NOW?? 

“CAN I ?!?!?!?”  (I think that’s the voice screaming inside the back of your head)

Well, my answer to you is, “YES YOU CAN.”

YES YOU REALLY CAN!!! (I want to scream at that voice inside the back of your head too, if I have to. But no, I want to be gentle.)

Because I have been there.

It may not be playing piano (or music in general), because I realise “he” (I have to put a male gender just to be “politically correct” here) is the LOVE OF MY LIFE. I shall never abandon him.

It might not be teaching (piano), as I thought I have loved it for so long and changed my career for him, and devoted hours and hours developing skills for him and in him; although recently I did find my love for him has not been the same anymore and might need to shake things up and change directions in the most dramatic way…

But I do understand, yes I can and I have been there.

For instance, I tried to teach the way everyone was doing here: focus on training in the shortest time frame possible for the highest grade ever in a youngest student in the whole planet, having students competing in every single competition one can find and making them play some horrible music that would not help them to grow just so they could fulfil some exam/competition/performance/school requirements. Ok, I never have done most of them at all. I couldn’t bring myself even close to just do the first one. They did happen only because I focused on what really mattered to me: instil in students their love for music, inspire them to create music, to enjoy and play the piano, provide them with knowledge necessary to understand and enjoy music, all in the long run and for the long run. Again, I am not saying whatever others do is wrong. They are right for their own accord and in their own terms, as long as they are happy with what they want. But I know that was not what I wanted and it will never be what I want and who as a teacher I want to be.

So, I struggled, I moved on, I struggled more, I moved on again, I stumbled, I sat, I paused, I stood up and started walking again, I splinted, I jogged, I was exhausted, I rested. 

Now, I am sitting still whenever I can.

My newest hobby is “chillaxing”. 

I always understand I cannot make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. But I did not ACCEPT that fact completely. I still thought from time to time, “if I just TRIED HARDER…”

No, I realise it’s not about trying harder. 

Everyone has their own journey and their time to grow or not grow.

Everyone has their own rate of growth and progress. 

No one can push them. No one ever did. 

The real reason for those would truly grow and progress much faster than anyone else is because THEY THEMSELVES WANT TO GROW AND PROGRESS THAT FAST, AND THEY DID A LOT OF WORK TO GET THERE.

Even if they fall.

Even if they struggle.

Even when they just want to sit there and cry and feel all this pain inside them and that voice saying “I don’t want to do this anymore, why are you forcing me to do this, are you insane???” 

They sit there and start asking themselves, “do I want to do this anymore? Do I want to stop now?”

They might not have the answer they want to hear. Instead, they might hear, “I don’t know. It’s too hard. I don’t know how to continue.”

If they tell themselves instead, “Ok, I am not doing this anymore.” And then they feel pain, they feel sadness, that voice inside them whisper, “I don’t want to stop actually. I still want to do this.”

Then they realise, they do want to do it. 

But they must also ask themselves, “HOW can I do this better in the future to have less failure and hardship? How can I do it better to have more success and happiness in this journey?”

Caws6CAWEAAN8fCThey must TRY HARDER.

They must BELIEVE, in themselves and whatever this is that they are doing.

They must also have OTHER PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN THEM.

They might need different and better guidance.

They need HELP.

They must REACH OUT.

They must find SOLUTION.

A solution that is different from all those solutions that they tried before and didn’t work for them.

If they decide to continue.

But I would also emphasise again, “You don’t have to do this.”

Don’t do this because everyone is doing it.

Don’t do this because you have already invested all this time and effort and energy and emotion.

Don’t do this for anyone else, not your family, your friends, your peers, your partner, your parents, or your teacher.

YOU CAN STOP NOW. 

TODAY IS THE DAY TO SET YOURSELF FREE.

DO EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING FOR YOURSELF. IT’S YOUR DECISION TO CONTINUE OR STOP.

PLAY THE PIANO FOR YOURSELF AND NOT FOR ANYONE ELSE.

TEACH PIANO BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO IT.

Peace,

Teresa Wong

P.S. I love this post. One line says, “Mastery is an awesome thing to have, but it comes at great price. The idea of having mastery, without the price, is deeply deeply appealing. ‘I wish I had learned is saying ‘I wish I didn’t have to pay the price- I wish it was already paid back in the days that are already behind me’.”

To that I would sum up with one simple 8-word idiom, “There is no free lunch in the jungle.”

(中文) 兒童鋼琴學習的障礙

(中文) 兒童鋼琴學習的障礙

為什麼小孩子好像常常不想練習,又或者不想去上課呢?

其實,小孩子是需要很多鼓勵和支持的。

(中文) 講故仔時間

Sorry, this entry is only available in 中文.