Opportunities

What a complex year 2016 has been!

For so many people around me, 2016 has been the year of THE NEW. Whether it meant new decisions, new changes, new challenges, new people, 2016 simultaneously brought a new shift for everyone.

Some of these changes are just what we dreamed of and some are just hard to accept, but as Rick Warren says: “Every temptation is an opportunity to do good.”

Every step of the way we have the opportunity to choose the attitude with which we receive the change and the opportunity to act upon it with grace and love, in a manner that won’t alter our character and our integrity…

Character & integrity… these two traits seem to be more and more precious.

Having this said, 2017 will probably be the year to build on these new changes, to direct the growth of these changes in a direction that will truly benefit us all and maybe even be more open to changes.

So I say: dare to have a vision! Dare to imagine your new life into reality. Be more aware of your thoughts and your words, cultivate true and meaningful relationships with the people around you, be your very best self whatever you are doing, set an example and be an inspiration.

Stay healthy and happy!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Christmas Ideas for Your Piano Studio

These short winter days and the cold weather can suck the life out of anyone. I can’t imagine being excited about practicing for the piano recital while dreaming of a white Christmas far far away from scales and chords, only with presents, cookies and the sweet pillow.

That’s why I came up with a few ideas to keep my students’ interest up on this heavy winter journey and I’m sharing them with you.

  1. The Christmas Calendar – In my previous post I showed you the cute calendars I found on Pinterest, you can still find them HERE. I am counting my days until Christmas, I bet kids like to count them as well.
  2. The Christmas Photo Booth – Save the last 5 minutes of your piano class to take some funny pictures and selfies with cute Christmas disguises like Santa, elves, reindeer. Kids will love it! 15320299_10157786324765612_832551274_n
  3. Christmas Carols – Save the last 5 minutes to sing together their favourite Christmas carols while accompanying them. You want to add the Christmas atmosphere to your piano class not extract it with mean exercises for fingers. You can use this time to also add rhythmic clapping games and have some fun with it.
  4. Gingerbread – Serve gingerbread and talk about the letter they sent to Santa and their Christmas wishes. Laugh and share funny stories. Sugar always brings people together.
  5. Presents – Reward their hard work for the Christmas recital with a little something, depending on how much you can afford. It can be a cute Christmas diploma, it can be a Musical Christmas card they can keep on their night stand. Kids love even specific school supplies, like a piano shaped eraser, a cool pen or just a personalised journal. It can be a toy, a Christmas decoration or even small musical instruments, like clave sticks. Get creative!

Whatever you decide, have fun with your students, let them know you care, use this time to get to know them even more while implementing life long habits of discipline. If anything, you’ll also be able to enjoy the classes more.

Hang in there, the holiday is just around the corner!

1 Year of Blogging

One year ago I wrote my first post: If teaching meant only to teach, things would be so much easier.

Music Teacher Lifestyle

#MusicTeacherLifestyle

I started writing in an effort to clear my mind, find myself again, reach out to communities of teachers, musicians and parents. I wasn’t very content with where my professional life was headed. It is that time when you know you’ve done everything in your power to adjust and you realise you’re the only one trying and a bigger step is in order to make the change that you want.

Because it is true. You can’t change people, you can’t change entire institutions, you can change yourself. And you do that, up to a point where the change could mean changing your priorities, your principles, your vision and even your character.

So I started to remind myself who I am and what I do best. What are my strengths and my weaknesses. What is it that I want and clearly define what I don’t want.

And this is how I landed the best job I could wish for, working with people that love me, trust me and appreciate me; people that I love, respect and honour. A work that helps me grow as a teacher and as a musician more that I would’ve expected.

Thank you all for connecting with me, for your insights, for your friendship and kindness. I’ve received so much encouragement and even confirmation here. I get inspired by your lives and your stories, I get to laugh a lot and I’m learning from each of you. This is a sweet, sweet community!

Have a great week! ❤

 

Piano practice & Time

It’s very hard for me to be open minded and creative about piano practice time, because when I was small, practice was not measured in time, but in achieving a goal you set for yourself, like lightly reading a passage without mistakes and interruptions. Sometimes it took 5 minutes, sometimes an hour, tears and angry fists on the keys. Such a magical time!

Nowadays, I understand all my students are different, they all have a different process when working on something, they all have different schedules…I have to improvise and compromise to get a little lovin’ for piano.

There’s the kid who is diligent and practices everyday and you can see palpable evolution from one week to another, you are amazed and you thank your lucky star that he’s your student. You even have to prepare extra work, because there’s not much to work on, since everything is perfect. You didn’t even know you could do so many things in 1 hour.

There’s the kid who practices occasionally and is doing his best, but somehow, the homework is not completed. The task is not completely finished, you still have to work on it when you meet and maybe also a few errors occur? Frustrating, but still, he practices, so at least he’s got alone time with himself and the piano, trying to work it out, finding solutions on his own and establishing a healthy habit.

There’s the kid who is very talented and very quick to learn, he sits down for 10 minutes, covers all his repertoire and he’s done. That’s all he needs. 10 minutes. Who knew? Sometimes if he’s really paying attention in class and remembers everything he learned, if he doesn’t practice at all…you wouldn’t know it.

But then there’s also a kid who is very smart, talented even, that doesn’t practice and, unfortunately, he doesn’t remember what we worked on, especially if it’s new material and I have to teach the same lesson again, without having the guarantee he’ll remember it or practice in between classes.

Some kids will need to review their homework just once a day on a daily basis to refresh and improve their skills. And it can take (depending on his level) anywhere from 10 minutes to 30.

Other kids will need to spend more time on each piece to improve it. Anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes (for beginners).

But they ALL need to fight their daily moods and get the job done, however long it takes for each one.

When do you let your child give up on piano lessons?

There are many reasons why a child would think about quitting piano lessons.

One of the reasons should be the difficulty.

One other reason could be the fact that his parents have allowed him to think that quitting is an option. Ever.

I am, myself, a very picky teacher. That’s not the best trait, I know, I should be available to work with ALL sorts of kids, but I’m not. 

I can work with a talented kid who’s a little lazy, but I won’t work with him/her if he/she’s rude. I’ve got 60 minutes and I just won’t spend them educating him/her.

I can work with an intelligent kid who isn’t that talented, but I won’t work with him/her if they’ve got disciplinary issues.

I will work with a slow learner or with the hyper active one, just as long as they keep a good attitude towards the piano class and me. 

So if the piano teacher doesn’t seem any close to quitting on your child, it means he can still learn, he can still grow and you shouldn’t encourage his lazy behind.

If indeed your lifestyle, schedule, financial situation, doesn’t help the growth in that direction and you’re considering investing and focusing in some other activity, make sure the message you send out to your child is not that it’s alright to quit something because it’s hard.

I may not possess the writing skills to express exactly the philosophy of it, but life is hard all around. Math is hard, history is hard, being bullied is hard, society is hard, there are no easy passes.

At one point the child must learn to find solutions for difficulties and power through, persevere, fight, try his best and own his victories. That’s what success is made of. That’s what happiness is made of.

 

Ratio

Happy Teachers' Day!

What’s the correct ratio: 70% the teacher – 30% the parent? Or is it 50-50?

What’s the ratio you practice or would practice?

I’m having a dilemma.

Parents don’t want you to be harsh on their kids, you know, you gotta be fun, entertain, keep them interested, keep it light, WHILE also implementing discipline. I know it’s doable, but I don’t think it works on small children. If you break out THE FUN, they take your whole hand.

There’s a magical kind of balance that parents expect from teachers sometimes and they prefer not to interfere with that magic. They let you do all the work.

Be fun and convince the kid to practice for each piano lesson. I know so many great pianists and music teachers in general. They all hated to practice. And at that time they were probably all better than I was, they were more disciplined and practiced more, and still hated it…while having almost 10 music subjects a week in school.

How to convince a kid to practice the piano? A kid you see 1 hour a week.

Should I start a “practice app” and send parents texts reminding them to remind the kid to practice? Ding-ding-ding! PIANO!

All jokes aside, piano being optional for so many today, few parents are actually committed to make piano an important subject, it’s hard to request such commitment from a kid without being even a little afraid he’ll want to quit as soon as things get rough.

And things always get rough. If you’re not backed up by a parent’s authority, you’ve got nothing!

 

Meditation

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When I think of MEDITATION I think of FOCUS. For me, meditating isn’t as much about not thinking about anything as it is about focusing on one thing only.

Piano practice is a sort of meditation. I didn’t realise it until now. When we practice we can’t think about other problems, we can’t get distracted very easily, because the practice requires the brain’s attention so much, it is all we can do. So in a way we should encourage piano practice as a way of releasing the brain from other worries and have it meditate on songs.

Lately I realised that even teaching is a little bit like meditation. Of course, I am not completely myself when I’m teaching, I have to act a little and bring excitement where there is none, but the activity is so overwhelming, I can’t think of anything else while teaching. The moment I leave my classes I notice my brain getting back to it’s usual activity: who was I supposed to call today? what will I cook for dinner? what should I buy as a present? oh, no, I was supposed to pay the bills today! laundry.

That’s why I consider work is good. Keeping the mind busy with anything besides worries and, let’s be honest, even gossip :), is just good for us.

This also should be taught in school. Or in piano classes.

Meet & Greet – September Edition

Looking for a Meet&Greet this weekend! Check out Niki’s Thoughts. That’s the place to be!

A Texan's View of Upstate New York

Meet and Greet

The day is here! So here are a few rules/tips to get the most out of the Meet & Greet this weekend:

  • Leave a link to your blog, or a specific post.  Write a little something explaining what your blog tends to be about.
  • If you have a link of someone else’s blog or post, feel free to share that in the comment as well.
  • And share this post! Re-blog, tweet, pin, whatever you feel like doing! The more visitors there are, the more participation there will be, and the more exposure there is to all of these great bloggers.
  • And last, but not least, check out these great posts from fellow bloggers!

  1. Fall Folly

  2. Blended Family Life At It’s Finest: Originally Posted on The Next Family

  3. 10 Things I Miss About Living in Thailand

  4. 9/11

  5. If We Were Having Coffee // A Somber Sunday

  6. 5 Successful People Who Struggled in Their Twenties Too

  7. Things…

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I HAVE A DREAM

No one ever taught me about the importance/influence/power of thoughts. No one ever instructed me on how to use it, but I’ve been doing it since I was little to create for myself a world where everything I want is possible and it’s brought to life…in my dreams.

It took a lot of “coincidences” for me to realise that they were more than coincidences, they were actually my dreams coming true.

It has nothing to do with weird beliefs, it’s just something I noticed. I am actually very spiritual and I will credit all of this to God and the way He created us. We are the only creatures on Earth to use words as a speech. Just like He does. And just like He created everything. He said it and it came to life. And we have the same gift. So powerful! If we could just manage our speech and our thoughts…

So last week one of my students tries to explain to me all the reasons why she didn’t exercise for her piano class. Same reasons as all my students have, same reasons every week…I gotta say, they always blame it on their parents and their schedule. 🙂

So anyway, she says: “But I did think about the song a lot before I went to bed and I played it in my head, and now it seems as if I exercised it…it feels so easy to play it.” I know for a fact she’s telling the truth, that happens to me a lot, I was just so excited that she got there on her own.

There’s got to be some type of mechanism behind this. Somewhere in your thoughts God gets the opportunity to plant a seed of your future and you get to water it until it bears fruits. Just like everything else.

They should teach this in school. Or in piano classes.