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Musical Motivations

I attended my first Iowa Music Teachers Association (Des Moines Chapter) meeting last Friday, and I had a wonderful time connecting with fellow like-minded piano instructors.

The presentation after our business meeting was brought to us by a local music professor, and her topic was on motivation. How do we, as teachers, stay motivated in the midst of teaching, and how do we pass our motivation on to our students?

This specific topic, motivation, has been on my mind for a while, but it finally came to the forefront of my attention this past week, thanks to this presentation. I don't have all the answers yet, but I'm really enjoying the thought journey that I have been traveling through thus far.

My motivation for teaching, I've come to realize, comes from my entrepreneurship spirit. I love being a small business owner. I love putting together my own schedule and hours. I love finding ways to make piano lessons, and music in general, interesting for my students. And I especially love the fact that every week both my students and I learn something new.

Knowing that my students are continually learning and growing in their studies on a weekly basis is the most redeeming and rewarding part of my role. Progress is being made in one shape or another, whether it is progress in hand position or progress on a very difficult piece. From there, my students and I take time to revel in the fact that they conquered another part of the piano performance process, usually involving a loud cheer by me and a high five. I guess you could say that cheers and words of encouragement is my first approach to motivating my students.

From there, I've been trying this fall to make a significant effort in helping my students stay motivated by meeting them where they are at in a given week or day. Some days, I have students bursting into my house with excitement over how much they loved practicing their song for the week, and how they want to play more songs like it. So I work to find similar piece to keep them motivated. Other times, a student has had a bad day at school and just needs a few minutes to share their day with me before touching the keys.

I've printed off music I never thought I would ever teach in order to motivate students to practice. I've shown YouTube video clips of Home Improvement to encourage my students to play with "MORE POWER." I've played the piano for my students to help them calm down from a rough day. In each way, I'm trying to be as flexible with each student as I possibly can, while ensuring that they are able to leave each lesson with a new skill and a new motivated attitude.

I'm certainly far from perfect when it comes to each lesson, but I am making strides to help each student where they are at, instead of entering each lesson with a checklist to complete.

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