As a piano teacher, I completely understand the struggles of teaching music, especially to those who are just starting out in musical studies. It is especially then that our students wonder why they cannot play expert-level music.
Throughout the years, I have come to tell them that it is the same as in math. If you tried to learn multiplication before addition, it would be extremely difficult. It would be the same trying division before multiplication. In fact, it is much faster to learn addition then subtraction then multiplication then division. The effort is almost not worth it unless done in the correct order. The same is true in music.
Thus said, it is important that we not give up on having our students learn the basics. Because they are so important, let me give you a few things (after learning basic notes) that should never be overlooked.
Note values and rest values are not to be taken lightly. I have had many students argue that they were only off by a beat or two when playing a song. Whether the value lost or gained was in a note or a rest, it does not matter. If correct timing is overlooked early on in the learning process, it will be harder to correct later on. It is important now to make sure that your student plays everything with the correct value.
Major scales are a MUST! So many people, including teachers, fail to see the importance of learning major scales. I do not understand this! EVERYTHING is built off the major scales. Major chords are built off these scales. In fact, the minor scales are also built off major scales; therefore, EVERY chord ever played is built off the major scales. Key signatures are built off major scales; therefore, your student will be able to play in multiple keys with ease simply by learning their major scales. I cannot iterate enough the importance of major scales!
Dynamics deserve much more credit than given. Too often, we overlook the lack of dynamics because we don't want to feel like a nag. We think back to how annoyed we were when our teachers stressed that we should observe the dynamic markings, but most of us would have quit because music would have become boring to us. Our music would have seemed boring because it would have sounded boring. Our nagging teachers saved our piano careers.
If our students are to continue in music, it will depend on us being those "nags." I can honestly tell you that I did not enjoy my teacher making me learn my major scales backward and forward (literally,) but I will tell you that it made my life, especially in college as a music major, so much easier. I did not enjoy being told to play with more dynamics, but I will say that I am never bored playing the piano.
I want to give my students the same chances that I had. I want them to become better than I could ever be. I hope you want that for your students, also. Remember the importance of these "basic" skills and do not overlook them in your teaching.