Today I’d like to introduce you to Anita Kohli who teaches in Mumbai, India and writes for us about a topic that readers will appreciate is very close to my own heart: teaching boys. Teenagers of either gender can be a challenge to motivate at times and Anita gives some great tips for dealing with difficult students. TT.
Consider the musically-talented teenage boy who is learning the piano because he loves to play. He’s enthusiastic, but there’s just one problem. He does not want to practise daily, and has little or no interest in anything that leads up to good playing: note reading, theory, practice techniques, piano technique or interpretation. All he has going for him is raw talent.
He has a lot to learn, and it’s all new to him, so he often has difficulty remembering all of the finer details that are taught in piano class. He’s at an age where he’s slowly growing into his own personality and has not yet learned how to be responsible for himself.
At times, piano class risks becoming a battle of wills. He attends class regularly without practising, knowing that practise is compulsory, and routinely gets scolded for this. This makes him feel disheartened and he slowly loses interest.
If you talk to his parents, you’ll may find that he’s driving them crazy at home, because he won’t do anything he’s supposed to – practice, study, tidy his things, pack his school bag or leave for school on time. They understand that they need to let go, and let him stumble a little, in order for him to grow up. It’s that ‘waiting for it to happen’ that often leaves them frazzled.
I’ve had some experience teaching students who have definite ideas of their own. They changed over to me from other teachers, and were very clear to tell me in the first few lessons that they did not want to learn what was being taught, as they did not understand the relevance.
For example, practise techniques and piano technique did not interest them at all. They could not hear the difference this made, and felt they could play perfectly well without it, and just wanted me to ‘get on’ with the rest of class. The parents of these children had different opinions.
The large school classroom size in Indian schools (usually 50 students a class) often puts teachers under pressure to get students to accept what they say, without questions. The result is many many Mumbai kids are hesitant to ask questions.
Children who are overflowing with ideas often get into trouble at school. I think it’s a combination of 3 things. Some school teachers see the idea of questioning a teacher as a sign of disrespect, they often simply lack the ability to cope with questions in large classes and the students don’t know how to ask questions and express contrary opinions while still being respectful of the teacher’s authority.
I had some young boys who argued a lot in piano class, and were constantly in trouble at school for questioning authority and I made a choice to allow them the freedom to say what they wanted to me in piano class. I used this as an opportunity to teach them to be assertive and respectful, over time.
I learned all of the techniques mentioned below after struggling to find something that worked with these particular students. I now use them regularly with many of my students.
My students and parents are quite comfortable with all the measures mentioned below. They see them as part of a teaching approach that is understanding and sympathetic towards students. They understand that it’s an approach that enforces discipline in a pleasant way, eliminating the need to lecture and shout.
One student, who I was exceptionally strict with, actually told me that I was very understanding and nice.
So, without further ado, here’s what piano teachers can do to help teenage boys focus and start practising.
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This worked with my teenage boys, as well as with some younger boys. I use some of these techniques for students of any age or level, when practise does not meet achievement levels that are necessary for progress.
I would love to know your thoughts on this post and what you do to get your teenage students practising. Leave your comment below.