You may well
accuse me of bribery, and you would be right.
In the course
of being a piano teacher, I discovered Tic Tacs, a tiny breath
mint that was effective against mouth odor.
honest. A piano teacher is often less than a foot away from a
student, sitting on the bench beside them, or on a chair next to
their bench. The last thing you need is a kid saying, "
you smell like cheese and fish."
So I quickly
became sensitive to having a good smell, and thus adopted Tic
Tacs, which work well.
But the kids
noticed me having a Tic Tac, and many asked, "Can I have
This brings up
several issues. Do the parents allow the child to eat sweets? Do
they want me to reward with candy? Are their health issues, like
allergies, which may be present?
childhood relationship with candy? As an adult, I'm a
health-conscious consumer of organic foods, but as a child I
craved sweets, just as my students do.
presence of sweets raises a child's mood, instantly.
realized that a simple game could be devised using a small
innocuous candy such as Tic Tacs.
Let me preface
this by saying that I don't use it on all kids, because there
are many kids who don't want or have been trained not to
accept, candy. And it won't work on older children, who
obviously are bored with mere candy.
But, when the
child asks for a Tic Tac, I become a game show host who awards a
treat to the contestant who plays a significant portion of a
song, or some other task they need to learn.
I might start
by giving them a treat, and then say,
"And there's more behind door number five if you
can play STAR WARS memorized,"
or whatever song they might be able to play.
Now you will
witness a scramble of mad concentration as they try to learn the
task to win the prize. I make it fun and lenient, but they have
to show me some skill to win. They expect the prize to withheld
if they fail, and try harder because of it.
I find that
skills presented in this way have a much quicker reception,
mostly because it has been made into a "sweet" game.
And it is no
problem to withdraw the game and say, "No treats today, the
Tic Ti factory was closed." Just knowing that a teacher
appreciates their candy enthusiasm helps motivate them at times
when they are apparently or actually unavailable.
The real reason
for this bribery is this: it doesn't matter how you get the
child to sample and master the simple skill involved in the
game. What matters
is that they have the idea of what the skill is, and are willing
to compete and try to learn more skills that build on the first
Once you get
them started acquiring piano skills, the desire for candy starts
to lessen, and approaches a reasonable rate. And by that time,
the child has the skills you have pleasantly taught them.
beginning, you will think it is a candy lesson, not a piano
lesson, but if you handle it intelligently, you'll find that
the child learns the skills needed, and is thus more able to
Piano is like a
pyramid, with each layer above more difficult, and only
approachable from the layer below.
Thus resolve to
get the children climbing up these levels as fast as is
comfortable, through any means that prove successful and
candy, games, or any means will work for a child and their
willing and seemingly childish instructor.