What Will Help Me Be the Best Teacher I Can Be?

IMG_0547 Recently, I received a lovely comment from Leia, yes Leia, pronounced "Laya". Spelled just like my name Leila (pronounced Leela) minus the "L". This has sparked a number of email exchanges between the two of us and thus a new corner at 88pianokeys.me. Click here to read more of how this corner came to be.

Leia wrote a very gracious email complementing my site. Although I confess her generous complements initially caught my eye, what became intriguing to me was her statement: "I enjoyed your newsletter…Absolutely brimming with interesting and helpful information - especially useful for a teacher like myself who has just started a private studio! I'm constantly trying to be the best teacher I can possibly be."

This made me think back to my early teaching days. How did I start out and who provided me with "helpful information"? Here's my list of 8 (since I'm fond of the number 8) key people , places and things that aided in my ongoing development as "the best teacher I can possibly be" (in a terribly abridged form):

1) Writing a thesis on Lynn Freeman Olson instilled this habit: Every concept must be introduced to all budding musicians by this method:

  • Hear it first: I play things such as intervals without students looking at my hands or the keyboard and they must play it back
  • Play and experience it: after the concept is introduced by ear, students play the interval  (or whatever) a number of times across the keyboard and create with it
  • Assign a symbol to it: once the new concept is ingrained, a name--such as an interval of a 4th--is provided and memorized (eventually)

2) Visiting studios of prominent teachers in the area exposed me to teaching in groups and adding a lab to my studio. Read here for more details about this technological addition that has set my studio apart for years.

3) Joining a professional music teachers association immersed me into the world of piano teachers, festivals and competitions and jolted me into leadership positions (I believe before I was ready). These experiences have taught me a great deal about myself but I'll save that for another blog.

4) Attending local workshops of well-known clinicians and composers.


5) Reacting to my past teachers and the style of education I experienced as a child through graduate school. (I won't unload right now…later).

6) Performing on a regular basis for a well-paying church position. Nothing has built up my "chops", confidence and flexibility more than having to get up EVERY Sunday morning and "perform."

7) Reading books that encouraged me to step out of the box and believe in myself. One author in particular: Philip Johnston. Look for the online book club at 88pianokeys.me featuring my favorite PJ quotes and discussion.


8) Attending national conferences such as MTNA and NCKP. At first I was threatened by attending a national event. Now, these are always a highlight of my profession. The exposure to so many fine experts in the field, applying a newly acquired "nugget" to the lesson routine and joining in conversation with other teachers across the states (world) always invigorates my teaching. At my first NCKP conference, I met Bradley Sowash and  it's been exciting to see how attending one of his sessions, has now--years later--morphed into a business partnership with him called Creative Keys.

There are many other contributors as it's been awhile since I first set up shop.  To various degrees, they have all served me well and shaped me as a professional in the field of piano teaching.  Yes, this IS a profession! In case you are wondering, I still feel I'm not even close to being the best teacher I can be. There is always room for improvement.

So now its your turn. Can you name 8 key people or events or things that influenced you and encouraged you at the onset of your career as a teacher--to be the best teacher you can possibly be? Is there ultimately one key that Leia should make sure to add to her list? to my list?

leia12Congratulations to Leia as her studio has been recently remodeled! Click here to see her new and improved space.

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