I once had a
person comment in our forum that "Patient piano teachers are
just controlling their anger."
I think the
person making the comment was being impatient with my constant
call for creativity and slow, fun work.
hate to have my kid study piano with the person who made that
But what if
they are right? What if patience is just controlled anger?
Are we doing
something wrong when we decide not to give in to our instinctive
impatience and anger with childishness? What about our
detractors who say we are too lenient?
explode and get mad, like the old piano teachers who rapped your
knuckles for every mistake? By the way, there are still piano
teachers out there that do that, since I get emails and letters
all the time from people who experience it.
In many ways, I
AM exploding when kids are fumbling and learning. This is
because the thing I want from them I mastered long ago, and
seems so easy to me. But there it is, the phrase, "...seems to
YOUR point of
view doesn't matter. You had better pay attention to every
movement and nuance of the CHILD attempting to master the
aforementioned skill. Your anger is completely irrelevant to the
child's piano learning process, unless you inject anger into
it, in which case you destroy the learning process instantly and
make the child into a penitent.
But here is the
difference: I do let my impatience secretly drive me to stay
several steps ahead of the child, devising ways of getting them
So I am
impatient, but with myself.
I am impatient
with myself when I have not found a way to unlock a certain
skill, or have not found the underlying reason for a child's
difficulty with it.
This is also
because I am not lost in their current failure, which is
inevitable, but rather, sitting further away, I am looking for
the cause of the failure or refining their attempt. Many piano
teachers get lost in the child's fumblings, rather than seeing
what the fumblings must mean.
fumbling with fingering may mean many things other than a
child's failure to grasp fingering. Let's take fingering as
an example, since it is often a subject that causes initial
frustration for many children.
If a child is
fumbling with fingering, there may be hidden underlying causes
that the piano teacher should treat first:
the child able to conceive of moving the fingers as a group,
outside of the piano and music? The younger the child, the
more you will have to work on this before you attempt
fingering in any serious manner.
the child's fingers very weak? Almost all kids have very
weak finger muscles. You'll have to play games in which
the fingers are raised before you expect them to raise their
fingers in the realm of fingering.
they understand up and down at the piano, different at the
piano than in the world?
they understand left and right?
So if I watch a
child fumble at fingering, my mind is actually running through
the above list, seeing if we can improve the underlying skills,
mental or physical, that will lead to success at our task.
To answer the
comment that "Patience is controlled anger," I suppose in a
way they are right.
actually too busy watching the child to feel anything approaching anger.
to start instantly looking through my mental index of underlying
causes and skills to find the correct course.