I have a confession to make.
I miss teaching piano.
I miss teaching my students how to play ornaments, singing with them, telling them to ‘bring out the melody’, forcing them to perform in concerts, telling them to sit on the piano stool ‘like a princess’, and sharing funny stories with them. I also miss their lame excuses such as, “I can’t practice because I forgot to”, “I don’t know which piece you want me to practice”, I had a lot of home works and tests”. I have always been a strict teacher. Not only that I have sent some of my students home when they did not practice, but I am pretty sure all of them had been yelled at by me at some point. My favorite lines are, “I am not a babysitter. I don’t want your mom to pay me just to sit here and watch you practice, something that you can do alone at home.”
As a matter of fact, I have a role model for being a strict teacher. She is Mrs. Y, who taught me for ten years. Ten years full of unpleasant piano lessons. A lot of her students cried after lessons, but I was never afraid of her. During a lesson, she was really mad at 8 year-old me because I could not play well. She shouted, “You did not practice, did you? I do not want to teach you anymore, I am going home now.” She went out of the room but I saw that she did not even bring her pencil case and handbag with her so I knew that she would be back anytime soon. Five minutes later, she came into the room and I said, “You’re back!” with a big smile on my face. I also remember that she used to ask me to practice after lesson in a room next to her teaching space and if I did not make any sound she would go to my practice room and yelled, “I thought I told you to practice?! I could not hear anything!” Ten years or hundreds of Classical pieces later, on the night after my recital last year, I’ve got a message from her.
“Thank you for the beautiful concert. I know that you have worked really hard, you have improved so much and I really enjoyed every piece you played. Congratulations, I am very proud of you.”
I did not understand why she was really strict to me.
I did not understand her until I became a better pianist.
I did not understand her until I finally became a teacher.
I also did not understand why I could be such a forgiving little girl even though there are some points of my life when I hated piano because I hated her. Then, I realized that some students need someone to tell them right in front of their faces that they are capable. It came up to me when I talked to one of my students’ parents. I said to her, “I am sorry (I am actually not), I yelled at her a lot.” She replied,
“Nes, I knew you yelled at her last week, but waking her up for piano lesson today was really easy compared to waking her up for school. She is always excited to meet you. As a teacher myself, I can say that if you are mad at very young children, they would forget about it and forgive you straight away. They will thank you later.”
Well, my students do not have to thank me later. Although I admit that message from a parent saying “she practices a lot now. I think it is because she likes the way you teach her” made my day. My main goal is: I want them to succeed. Like Mrs. Y, I want to message them or even tell them in person that I am very proud of them. It does not mean that they have to be professional musicians, but I want them to understand that they can achieve anything they want in life as long as they work hard and stop making excuses. Even though it means that I needed to face a student and shout, “I have told you before! Use your third finger, not your fourth finger!” and got replied by a ten year-old boy with, “AH! I know, it is the finger you use to say f*ck, right?” Oh, dear.