Growing up, I never did realize the impact my childhood piano teacher had on my upbringing. Other than immediate family, who I saw everyday, and the classroom teacher -five days a week, but changing every year, my piano teacher was a constant once a week mentor who supported me as an individual being from about the age of 4 until 19.
She was a traditional piano teacher, training students through the high standard, vigorous Royal Conservatory curriculum. While I do now appreciate her strictness, and having successfully achieved my Performers Diploma from the RCM under her mentorship, I as a teacher nowadays realize that this path is not for every student entering piano lessons.
With this in mind, I have had over five years to reflect on my own experiences as a music educator, and have come to the conclusion that while there are those who are cut out for the examination path, others are also gifted but in another way: I teach one young girl who has a wonderful ear, and mind-blowing memory and she's really into Broadway musicals. We still work on basic music theory, but I put a greater emphasis on integrating her passion by working on Broadway pieces that she can play on the keyboard. This year, we will be working on playing and singing at the same time. :)
Another student has been classified as LD, but over the past four years of working with him, he is capable of anything I assign, he works in his own way to achieve the same outcome as anyone else. We work on classical pieces, technique, as well as popular pieces like Star Wars.
I also am blessed to work with a very gifted girl who just started high school. Her work ethic is immense and her program consists of classical pieces, original compositions integrating intermediate music theory, self-study project pop pieces, and advanced technique. She almost always come back with a new composition or self-learned pop piece of her choice every single week. It amazes me each time, she's come a long long way, from zero to sight-reading music and composing her own pieces inspired by other music of interest.
So, I view my role as a piano teacher as a supporting role to my students to meet their personal goals. Yes, I uphold my side by providing a sound musical foundation with basic music theory, hoping students will become decent sight-readers, but at the same time respecting the student's interests, and parents expectations.
There is no 'one way' of teaching, because every single person is different. I believe that the best teachers are the most flexible, while adhering to guidelines to provide structure and keep students responsible, independent, and motivated.