The Best Way to Start the New Year

It’s not a new game. It’s not a new piece of music. It’s not a new gadget or office supply (though you know I would have loved that)! It’s a return to a basic concept of learning.

Parents Want Learning to Be Easy…Hmmmm

As you may have noticed, many parents these days want lessons to be easy. They want their kids to have fun while learning to play the piano. They want them to get great experiences in the arts. They want them to always be perfect at their recital. They push for them to get highest honors in piano exams. And all of this comes at the expense of struggle. The struggle of learning. The difficulty of practice. The discipline of consistent practice.

I know because I am a parent. I see both sides now. I don’t want my kids to get a bad grade, forget some of their lines in a play, have a memory glitch at the recital. I want to shelter them from that. But I was so encouraged as a parent and a teacher by this video and I think you will be too.

Have you gotten flack for pushing your students?

Have parents ever criticized you for their child’s lack of perfection? Have they ever asked you give them a piece too difficult so that they can play a crowd pleasing piece even though you know they don’t have the technique for it?

Well, this video is your encouragement for the year. Brene Brown, an amazing research professor in social work, talks about such an experience she and a colleague had when coaching swimming.

Watch this video starting at 8:30. It’s worth your time (and don’t quit until you’ve at least heard her swimming story). And if you get distracted and miss the point…remember that the “struggle” is good. This difficult experiences, when combined with nurturing teaching and encouragement, produce produce hope – one of the cornerstones to whole-hearted living.

Keep the main thing [good teaching] the main thing

Don’t put all your games, motivational programs, and handy teaching tricks in the closet just yet. Just keep them in the context of good teaching. Push your students to learn. Help them through the struggle. You are one of the few people in their lives that will be at their side for those formative childhood years.



About the Author:

Come find me on Google+ or Facebook or Twitter


  1. Barbara January 6, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Thank you so much for finding and sharing this Wendy. I think I’ll share it with my piano-parents. Not to mention that it’s a good reminder for ME that everything about piano teaching isn’t suppose to be easy:)

  2. Anna Fagan January 7, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I love this Wendy, and shared it on my Facebook page. I think everyone can benefit from this — not just music teachers/parents! I watched the whole thing.

  3. Karen Lander January 7, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Thanks Wendy. Until now I never knew what I always knew! Great way to start the New Year of teaching.

  4. Jennifer Foxx January 7, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Excellent! Thanks for sharing! Will be sharing on my studio FB page.

  5. Karen Koch January 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I have a life-long belief (from my parents and frequently quoted to children and students) that the harder one works toward a goal, the greater the reward when it is accomplished. This video supports that belief, and I so appreciate your sharing it. I am sharing it on our Facebook page as well. It is positive, encouraging, and realistic!

  6. Bev Conway January 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Wow! Just what I needed to hear. It will be shared with my piano parents and I hope I can communicate it half as well as Brene did.

  7. Fei Min January 7, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I love Brene Brown! Thank you so much for sharing this.

    On a very similar strain, I watched this Ted Talk about the power of “struggling” at the beginning of my year and it has inspired and informed my teaching. It’s such a powerful reminder to teach our students the value of a good challenge.

  8. Diann January 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing Wendy! Great things to remember all year round!

  9. Jolene January 7, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I love Brene Brown! Thanks for sharing this. It’s encouraging!

  10. Emily January 7, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    What beautiful thoughts. Thanks so much for sharing!!! I watched it twice.

  11. Steve Rosenfeld January 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks so much, Wendy, for sharing this video. It’s a REALLY good one on the benefits of challenge and facing “hard” work. I think that the presenter is so right that we want to make things easy for our children – whether they are our kids or our students. I think this is seriously debunked in this video clip. It should be required viewing for any piano teacher, I feel.

  12. John Viljoen January 7, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Failure, hope, struggle, success — the best kind of inspiration. Thank you, Wendy.

  13. Caroline Hess January 8, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Thank you for sharing this Wendy – ‘we can do difficult things’ will be on my wall today! I love the idea that hope is a ‘function of struggle’. How often do we hear, “I can’t!”? Change it to ‘can’t –yet!’

  14. Dan Severino January 8, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    A definite THUMBS UP for this video.

  15. Sally Eppert January 9, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I’ve always believed that doing the hard thing is fun and makes me a better person. Loved her “word board.” I think this would be a great activity for ourselves and our students, to create a word board. She gave us a great start! I plan to share this with many students and all parents.

  16. Laurel January 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    At Wheaton College I heard over and over that “all truth is God’s truth”. This is a great example. In Romans 5:3-4 it says “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”

    Thanks for the reminder!

  17. Shirley Hubalek September 4, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Wendy…The absolute best video I have ever heard about hope! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  18. Wendy Stevens September 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    I agree, Shirley! It’s riveting the illustration she gives. I’m happy to share it and am super glad it’s helpful!

  19. Donna Murray January 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for resharing this video Wendy. It really does define hope in such a clear way. I have shared this with teaching friends and will also send this to my parents as a good start to 2017
    zMany thanks

  20. Wendy Stevens January 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Sure thing, Donna! I’m glad you thought it was helpful. I know I need to watch this frequently as a mom, so I’m sure your piano parents will appreciate it! Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. Karen Monroe January 3, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Wendy this is so spot on! I totally related! I love this way of looking at struggle. As I try to teach my students how to evaluate their practicing and think about goals, I revamped my assignment sheets a few years ago and before the year even started a parent asked that the column for “no practice” not be the unhappy face. So I changed it to a flat looking face. Almost 100% of my students/families avoid that column even after explaining is just the way it is sometimes. I’m approaching my goal related assignment sheets now as a result of this challenge. Parents want the feel good approach all-the-time. Thanks for sharing this!

  22. Karen Thomasson January 3, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    I have been looking for this but did not even know it! haha
    Perfect inspiration for the 2018 year

  23. Robin Steinweg August 28, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Wendy, this is excellent, and it is a truth we need to remember. Thank you for sharing it!

Leave A Comment

By using this Site you agree to the Privacy, Terms & Conditions, which explain how we use information you submit.