The Return of the Blackboard



When I moved into the current studio space, one of the things I wanted to do with the space was to make it interactive, creative and changing. I decided that one of the elements is going to be a blackboard. I could’ve settled on a whiteboard but I insisted that it be a blackboard because a whiteboard reminds me too much of a business meeting or college classroom. Also, I remembered hearing from someone that something about the sensation of writing with chalk on the chalkboard is good for the brain.

Every couple of weeks, I put a question on the blackboard that everyone is invited to participate. I had a question asking, “What does LEGATO tastes, smells and feels like?” And couple of weeks later, I asked the same question about STACCATO. I love seeing what the students come up with–for example, STACCATOS tasting like “vanilla cream soda.”

I’ve put questions like, “What are some good excuses and bad excuses for not practicing?” and “What advice do you have for other students on how to practice?” These questions allow me to have a little peak into what students are really thinking. A student came up to me the other day asking if she could put a question up on the board because she’s curious to know what others think. Now I’m going to have a little envelope where everyone can contribute a question for the blackboard.

The blackboard allows the studio space to be more than just about piano lessons; they’re invited to be creative and invited to contribute. Sometimes, it’s a way of giving a small break students need to refresh or reset when they’re overwhelmed or distracted. In those times, I may just ask them to go to the blackboard and draw a flower or a treble clef or write their name. My favorite thing about the blackboard thought is that it creates a sense of community. Students love seeing what the other students contributed to the questions and for piano students who can often feel like they’re all alone, it allows them to feel that they belong to something bigger than them.

Oh, and sometimes I use it to make a small threat like, “1 excuse=10 push-ups.” Surprisingly, it works.