I’m teaching more little ones this year. Mostly it’s been great, however there are days when I feel like the energy is sucked right out of me.
Last week, one of my young students, we’ll call him “Michael,” came into the room for his lesson. Oh, God, I’m thinking, here it goes again. Michael proceeds to smash away at the piano while I’m trying to give him instruction. “Michael, can you play your C major scale for me?” So he does, but he gives me the Michael version, which is playing the first five notes perfectly, then smashing away at the remaining notes.It takes me three or four tries to finally get him to play it properly. The kid knows how to play it properly – and perfectly – he just chooses not to.
Then it’s time for Star Wars: Michael knows how to count properly. I’m letting him get away with changing the rhythm for this song only, because a)he’s stubborn and I’ve given up b) he knows how to count but chooses not to for this song and c) it’s good to let him be creative: not everything has to be played exactly as written on the sheet music, and the last thing I want is to make a robot out of a gifted student. So he’s playing Star Wars in his own little way, and, as predicted, he starts smashing away halfway through the song. “Michael, don’t play so loud. You want to learn how to play really really fast, right?” He shows a wide grin and nods his head while giggling. “Okay, so don’t smash away on the piano, okay?” So he heaves a big sigh and does as he’s told. When we’ve finished with the Star Wars, he takes his Star Wars music book, throws it on the floor and starts stomping on it!
I often wonder if he ever takes in any of the information I give to him: he never appears to be listening and is determined to spend lesson time being as destructive as possible. So I’m always amazed every week when he comes back having practiced his guts out, having practiced ten times more than I asked him to, and having everything I asked for perfected. He is one gifted 6-year-old boy reading at a grade 2 level and for those of you who have never taken piano, that is a pretty amazing feat. Teaching him is definitely bittersweet.