Remembering to Show our Students We Care

It’s easy to get wrapped up in teaching the material and forget to check in with your students and find on what’s going in their lives. But getting to know your students is an important part of teaching, especially when you’re giving one-to-one lessons.

We all have our own busy lives and our own things to deal with. And by the time your week’s 30th or 40th lesson rolls around, it’s completely understandable that we sometimes forget to care. But once we start going through the motions, we lose that connection with our students. And that connection is so important to being a good teacher, whether that’s teaching piano or teaching math and science.

Why Caring Matters

For a start, kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like. When kids feel like you care about them, and that you’re interested in their lives, they’ll listen to you, they’ll work harder for you, and they’ll enjoy your lessons.

It’s also about trust. And any time we work with kids, it’s important to build trust. Because we’re not just there to teach piano. We’re there to be a friend and a role model to our students. To enrich their lives through music.

And if you make the effort to make a connection, you’ll enjoy teaching more too! Because spending an hour with a child who is shy and quiet around you isn’t half as fun as spending that hour with a kid who trusts you enough to be open, and playful, and silly.

Finally, building that connection is also about making you a better teacher. Because if you know what makes your students tick, and what they’re passionate about (or not so passionate about) you can tailor your lessons so that they’re more meaningful to your students.

Remembering to Care

It’s all well and good knowing that caring is important. But when we’re tired, or we have a lot going on in our own lives, how exactly are we going to remember to care?

I realized that I needed to build some structure into my teaching format to help me remember to care. To remind me to check in with them at some point during the lesson and find out what was going on in their lives. And that’s when I came up with the HEADLINE.

What’s the headline?

Back when in-person piano lessons were still a thing I came up with the idea of asking the kids, “What are you excited about this week?” Whatever they told me, I would write in big bubble letters at the top of their piano assignment book for that week. That’s the week’s headline.

Over the course of our weeks together, we’d have headlines about birthdays, sleepovers, favorite foods, grandmas visiting, new pets arriving… It became a journal of sorts, and it personalized our lessons together. We could flip back through that notebook and say, “Oh remember when we learned Jingle Bells and you had your first sled ride!” Or “remember two years ago when you got Jackson the puppy and you were just learning how to read music…. Now, look at how good you read and how big Jackson is!” 

And having that space for the headline at the top of the page meant I couldn’t forget to care. Because when it came to the end of the lesson and I went to write down their homework assignment, that glaring big space on the page at the end of the lesson was a visual reminder that I had forgotten to ask them about their lives.

What can we learn from the headline?

It’s not really about finding out that Gracie is having a sleepover next weekend. It’s about showing that we care and, at the same time, gaining an insight into our students’ lives.

Say you have a kid that you notice has stopped practicing. If that kid also struggles to find something they’re excited about for the headline, it might suggest that they’re having a hard time or that they’re sad. With that in mind, you can show empathy and try asking your student what’s wrong, instead of chastising them for not practicing.

Alternatively, if that same kid can’t pick between the 20+ things they’re excited about for the headline, it suggests a very different reason for why they’re not practicing.  

Caring Over Zoom

Now that our piano lessons are done over zoom, it’s more important than ever to show our students that we care. To build that connection with our students.

Each week, as I fill out their homework on our shared document, it’s a real delight to find out what their headline is and enjoy being a part of their journey through life. 

Looking for piano lessons for you child? Or for yourself?

Our lessons cover piano levels one to four, for kids and big kids. We’re based in Berkeley but we also offer virtual lessons, so wherever you’re based we’d love to hear from you.

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