So, this last blog in the series 'The Lazy Piano Teacher', will focus on giving some strategies for managing the behaviour of pupils. As I pointed out in my previous posts about self-esteem and motivation, the words and the language we use are key in this.
For many teachers behaviour issues with pupils will probably appear to be quite minor. Typical problems, for example , might be continuing to play whilst the teacher is trying to explain a point or appearing to completely ignore what the teacher wants them to do. Occasionally more extreme behaviour might need to be addressed - I have heard of pupils who disappear under the piano (grand of course) in the middle of a lesson!
So when struggling with the behaviour of a pupil in a lesson here are a few things you should avoid saying:
- 'Pull yourself together'.
- 'I didn't think you were as childish as this'.
- 'Sally, this is the worst playing I have ever heard from you!'
- 'You are worse than your sister, Adam!'
The secret to managing bad behaviour is to blame the behaviour rather than the person. Here are a few phrases you could try:
- 'Wendy, this behaviour isn't like you. I am surprised to see you doing it'.
- 'Jack, what is the issue here? What can we do to change it?'
- 'Okay Charlotte, you have a choice. You have to listen carefully now otherwise we won't have time to learn a new piece before the end of the lesson'.
If these types of phrases are accompanied by non-verbal communication (open-hand movements, giving the student some space) and delivered in a calm voice they can go a long way to diffusing any tension that builds up in a lesson.
Exhibiting a sense of surprise and disappointment, as in the first statement, shows pupils that this isn't normal behaviour for them and that the teacher understands that they could be having a bad day.
The second statement offers a way out - there's a problem, let's discuss some solutions together.
In a similar way, the student is implicitly given a choice in the final statement and is told what the consequences of the choice will be.
I know that many of you have found these last three posts about being a Lazy Piano Teacher useful! It does take some thought and adjusting to in lessons but from my experience, it is well worth the effort. As I said at the start, my inspiration for this has been The Lazy Teacher's Handbook by Jim Smith and I would recommend it as the next step to continue reading and develop these ideas.
A final thought is that we should all try recording (in either audio or visual format) the occasional lesson - it is quite a scary eye-opener and really brings home the power of our words and how we need to choose them and use them wisely!