Has a parent ever got in touch with you about signing up for lessons and said something like:
“I don’t want him to be a concert pianist or anything like that.
I just want him to have fun!”
Many teachers baulk at this, and I get why. As teachers, our minds are swimming…
- This parent is not going to get their kid to practice.
- They don’t value the work that goes into learning an instrument.
- They don’t see this as real education.
In short, we’re a bit put-off.
But think again. If we put our magic parent translator headphones on, perhaps what they’re saying is:
“I was a bit miserable in my own lessons growing up.
I want my son to have a better experience.”
Or, maybe they’ve never experienced lessons themselves, but they have a vision in their head of the stuffy, strict and uncompromising classical teacher. Maybe they just want their child to love music.
Are you a Funist or a Funophobe?
It’s that serious (and yes, slightly stuck-up) classical tradition that has led us teachers to be prejudiced against fun.
Irish dancing used to give people this impression too (albeit in a very different way). People saw the stiff arms & costumes, precise and finicky steps, and thought it looked…a bit uptight.
But that was turned around when Riverdance came on the scene. People saw a whole new modern side to Irish dancing. It could tell a story, and it could be given some freedom along the way.
Just as arm movement and flowing skirts can have their place in Irish dancing, so too can fun be brought into your studio.
Games and gamification can provide you with a whole new way to connect your students to music.
The Point of FUN
Fun isn’t just about fun.
We’re teachers, first and foremost, and I am in no way suggesting that you set aside or water down what your teaching. What I want you to do is make it better.
You see, if your lessons are engaging (and maybe even entertaining) your students will learn more thoroughly.
They’ll make faster progress because learning will be easier and piano lessons won’t feel like “more school”.
And faster progress means they’ll get to play more interesting music earlier on in their studies – which is energising and motivating for them and for YOU.
Planning lessons with fun at the heart is also more fulfilling for you as a teacher. It means you have more variety in your day, repeat yourself less often, and get to giggle regularly.
It also makes for happier parents which means your student retention rates will skyrocket.
But I don’t have enough TIME!
So, perhaps I’ve convinced you that fun is important. Maybe you didn’t start reading this as a “funist” or a “funophobe” in the first place.
But, maybe (or very likely) you’re thinking right now:
“Yeah, great Nicola. That all sounds wonderful, and I get what you’re saying – but I don’t have time for this frivolity! How can I fit this in?”
This is the wrong question. If you’re asking how to cram fun into your lessons – then I haven’t been clear enough yet.
This is not an element of your lesson plan, or an off-bench activity, or a 5-minute exercise in laughter. This is a way of approaching all your teaching.
If you do it right – you won’t just make your lessons more fun. You’ll also make your teaching more efficient and effective.
This isn’t about putting aside the work. It’s all about making that work more digestible and easier for students.
Have I converted you from a funist to a fun-fanatic?
Let me know what you think of my approach to planning effective theory teaching in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook or in the comments.