When I started teaching full time back in the 1990s, the best known teacher in my neighbourhood was Sidney Pope, a venerable older gentleman who tuned pianos by day and taught the local children once the schools turned out in the afternoon. Sidney continued teaching until his health finally gave out, and was a much loved and very able teacher.
I was a tuning client of Sidney’s, and when he learnt that I was entering the fray as a teacher he couldn’t have been more encouraging, referring pupils he couldn’t personally fit into his busy schedule, and generously sharing a lifetime’s advice.
This perplexingly included his list of rules for student conduct; rules which were certainly very thorough…
Teachers today tend to provide contracts that for the most part relate to parental behaviour – paying on time, not cancelling at the eleventh hour, and so on. Sidney’s rules pertained to the children themselves, outlining his expectations of practice, attitude in lessons, and even the clothing they wore.
In this regard, Sidney’s demands were crystal clear: boys’ shirts must be tucked in, and dresses or skirts were compulsory for the girls – no trousers!
Why, I wondered in my professional naivety, should girls not be allowed to wear trousers to their piano lessons in 1992?
Sidney patiently explained that piano lessons must be regarded as a special occasion, and that students benefitted from making an effort to dress up accordingly…