In 1886, the “Child Pianist” series of books, with its accompanying “Teachers Guide” was published in England. The author was inspired by the work that had been done by her father-in-law, John Curwen, for the teacher of singing classes. The series became very popular with teachers and those who used the Mrs. Curwen’s Pianoforte Method undertook special training. As well, an association was created to facilitate bringing teachers of like mind together.

My copy of the Curwen Method is dated 1913 and was the 21st edition which indicates that the Method was constantly being revised. What has always intrigued me is contemporary thinking reflected in her “Educational Maxims”. Similar ideas can be found in the chapter entitled “Advice to Teachers” from “For All Piano Teachers” by Cora Ahrens and G.D. Atkins (no longer available). The following
Maxims remind us that principles of good teaching are time-tested and universal.

1. Teach the easy before the difficult.
2. Teach the thing before the sight.
3. Teach one fact at a time, and the commonest fact first.
4. Leave out all exceptions and anomalies until the general rule is understood.
5. In training the mind, teach the concrete before the abstract.
6. In developing physical skill, teach the elemental before the compound, and do one thing at a time.
7. Proceed from the known to the unknown.
8. Let each lesson, as far as possible, rise out of that which goes before and lead up to that which follows.
9. Call in the understanding to help the skill at every step.
10. Let the first impression be a correct one, leave no room for misunderstanding.
11. Never tell a pupil anything that you can help him to discover for himself.
12. Let the pupil, as soon as possible, derive some pleasure from his knowledge. Interest can only be kept up by a sense of growth in independent power.

Mary Tickner, Coordinator