Teaching is about relationships. That’s doubly true for one-on-one piano teaching. So how can you create the rapport with your piano students that you need to have a great relationship?
Follow these very simple rules and you’re sure to have better rapport with your piano students. Relationship building honestly doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s just about consistency.
Rule 1: Ask
Consider this scenario:
*student walks in the door*
Teacher: “Hey student! How are you? Let’s get started with some scales. Try G major windmill style.”
This is SO tempting. As the teacher, we can get swept up in all that has to happen in the lesson.
But your student is a person.
I know we all know this, but do we act as if we do?
When we ask “how are you” and then immediately give a task to do…are we really asking?
One of my piano teachers used to greet me with a one word “hihowareyou” every week. It was just the way she said hello. But as a tween I honestly had no idea what to do with it.
The how are you question isn’t really the point though. The point is we need to start each lesson with a genuine inquiry into that person’s life.
Some of my favourites that get real answers are:
- Did anything unusual or exciting happen this week?
- What weird and wonderful things have happened since I last saw you?
But even better than that is a question that shows you’re listening.
Rule 2: Follow-up
More important than asking real questions is doing something with the answers.
You may not have time to go into enormous detail about their unicorn cake they’re planning for mum’s birthday there and then…you do have to teach them piano too. What you can do though is ask them next week about how the unicorn cake went over.
Following up is the number one way to build rapport with your piano students. (I would’ve put it first if it didn’t, you know, have to follow from something.)
If you have a lot of students this can be hard – so don’t rely on your memory.
Keep a little notebook on your teaching desk and jot down a couple of words to help you remember, after the student has left or when they’re not looking.
A simple “Steve unicorn cake” should be enough and it will make the world of difference to your relationship with Steve if you keep this up over the long-term.
Don’t worry if all they ever tell you about is something that seems small or insignificant. Follow-up about trips to the beach, new video games, a film they wanted to see.
It shows you’re listening.
Rule 3: Align & Explain
Now to one of my favourite topics: goals.
If you want to foster rapport with your piano students, you need to know what their goals are for their music lessons. Do you have these conversations with your students?
It’s especially important for teens and up, but even younger students can surprise you. They might have an assumption about where piano lessons lead (often based on a friend or sibling) and may not be aware that they’re not necessarily on the same path.
So make sure you regularly check-in with your piano students to see where they want to go, and to realign their goals with your own when necessary.
Once your goals are aligned (and realigned, and realigned…) you still have one more step: your students need to know that you are leading them down the correct path – and that’s not always self-evident.
Sure, it’s obvious to you that you’re doing those chord drills so that your student can get ready for the jazz piece they want to learn.
But it’s not obvious to them.
Make sure you’re explicit when you introduce new pieces, exercises and theory work. Why should they do this? Why is it cool? How does it align with their goals?
Do that and you’ll be well on your way to creating rapport with your piano students and having a wonderful relationship for years to come.
Have you neglected any of these relationship-building areas?
I know I have from time to time and it’s something I think will always be a work in progress.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with creating great student-teacher relationships. Just leave a comment below or come find me in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.