Back when I was a teenager, my piano teacher gave her advanced (and interested) high school students opportunity to help out in group theory classes, or at her summer camps (for composition, music history, theory, and the like).  She firmly believed that you never actually knew something until you were comfortable enough to show it to someone else in a way that was knowledgeable and easy to understand.

This is called teaching.

And these opportunities are what initially sparked my interest in piano pedagogy. They are what fostered the joy of teaching for me.  So, since my teacher helped me to find the path toward pursuing a career in music education — what can I do to make sure that path is available for my own students who may be interested in pedagogy?  I feel like this is an important question for music teachers everywhere, since I truly don’t believe I would have considered a career in music if it weren’t for the opportunities and encouragement given me by my own private music teacher. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and put together what I’ll call: Fostering the Joy of Teaching. Hopefully it will give other teachers something to think about, and give some ideas on how we can share the joy of teaching with our students.

Oh, and one caveat before I begin:  I’m not saying that everyone should teach music lessons, either privately or in a public setting.  There. I said it. But I don’t think you have to make teaching a profession to glean some of the benefits of teaching. The joy you can gain by helping someone learn something new, and the joy that the receiver will gain by learning something new — it’s indescribable.  And wonderful.

Fostering the Joy of Teaching

  • Show Joy!
This should be a given for anyone who is actually teaching…. but the very best way to foster the joy of teaching in someone else is to actually manifest the joy as you teach!  Be excited to share a new concept or skill. Be genuinely glad to see your students each week — whether they’ve practiced or not! — and look for fun and interesting ways to help them learn. This will speak volumes to your students… whether they ever say anything or not!
  • Give Opportunity!

Students should be given opportunity to share what they know. After all, isn’t that why we become musicians in the first place, to share what we have with others?

Here is an example:

– Schedule group classes with several different ages and levels in attendance.  Let the older/more advanced students team up with the younger ones/beginners during theory games/exercises/etc. Encourage the beginners to ask their group partner questions.

– The above can also work for performance classes, ensemble, theory test prep, music history class, composition, etc.

Foster the joy!

Of course, as a teacher, you have to be willing to oversee all of these efforts, but I believe it’s well worth it to pass on a skill that will serve as all for a life-time…. and if none of my piano students ever go on to be music teachers themselves, I will still have the assurance that they have been given the skills necessary to share what they have (joyfully!) with those around them.  And that makes it all worthwhile!

How do your foster the joy?