The mother of one of my piano students came to me last week and asked if we might start her six-year old boy on lessons on a trial basis. We’d do a fifteen-minute lesson and see how he took to it. After all, he’d been asking for lessons and copying his sister for weeks now.
So, after his sister’s lesson I sat down with him at the piano and we started. All we do at the first lesson is touch every key and name it, spell some words on the keys like DAD and CAB, and then I usually do some silly quizzes about which hand is which and which finger is which. It gives us a chance to get to know one another and to introduce the piano, and it is easy.
In just fifteen minutes, I can decide whether the student is ready and able to take lessons. For instance, this little boy stayed focused and engaged with the process the whole time. He didn’t get frustrated, and he did know which hand was which. It’s hard to teach kids piano if they are unsure which is the left hand or if they keep looking back at their mom to see if they are getting the right answers. But he was willing to trust in the process and allowed a fifteen-minute relationship with me all for the sake of learning piano. They say first impressions are real so I am counting on it, and I feel this guy is ready.
The crazy thing about this experience is what he did next because it is a reminder that kids are just as capable as adults of sizing up the situation. His first impression is valid, too. After we were finished and I told him he’d done a good job, he ran right over to his mother. I got a perfect look at his back as he spoke to her. In a clear and loud voice, as if I couldn’t hear him he told her, “I want piano lessons.”
Kids are great. They know how they feel. And there is such a short line between how they feel and what they say without a lot of smoke and distraction in-between, that if the adults in their lives are good stewards of that we can trust them to be honest with us for a long time.