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#1429467 - 05/04/10 10:04 AM Seeking advice from more experienced teachers
NWL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 83

I guess I'm fairly young as far as piano teachers go. I'm in my mid-twenties, and I'm employed at a community music school with a good reputation and a long history of great music making. I myself have been teaching since I was fourteen--starting with neighbors' kids, branching out to family friends, often for free. When I moved to the City for conservatory, I taught at various inner-city schools and commuted to one suburban school before being hired for my current position.

I feel like I am well-equipped to provide good training for all of my students. I have my undergraduate degree from Conservatory (going to grad school in the fall after two years off!), and have studied pedagogy in many applications, and have experimented with all sorts of teaching methods and materials. Although I am always learning, I am fairly confident in my methodology. My only hang-up is with the parents: I feel like since some of them are old enough to be MY parents, they don't take me seriously as a teacher. Many don't do much at all to supervise home practice, most don't respond to (very polite and respectful) emails or phone calls about the lessons or their student's progress. Since it is a community music school, I haven't even met some parents, as often children come to lessons unsupervised or with a babysitter.

I'm not looking to change policy or anything at the end of this semester, but can you give me some tips as to how I can prepare for a more successful time of it this fall? I know that with a little more parental involvement, most students could easily soar higher in their music making, and enjoy it more!

I'm looking forward to your responses. Thanks in advance!

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#1429472 - 05/04/10 10:13 AM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: NWL]
Nikolas Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 6491
Loc: UK
While I can't claim of being more experienced than you, rather the opposite here are my 2 cents.

You are right that parental involvement in their kids learning and studying and practising could help enormously! Problem is not with you, I think, but with the parents themselves. And there's only so much you can do.

I don't know how you word your concerns over e-mail, but over the phone (you mean you call them, right?) it seems a bit odd to not get a direct reply or concern. It could be that you are too young, but it could also be that you're the new teacher and need some strong proof that you are good! Some times communities work like that.

In the end, it's very honourable that you want to do the best teaching possible, but sometimes, there's nothing else you can do.

An idea could be a 'workbook', where you write down all the practice that the student has to do (Czerny No. 24 x20 times per day, for example), or a weekly program, or maybe something that needs signing by the parents (although as a parent I would feel a little weird having my son coming every week with a paper that needs signing, so ... maybe not).

Either way these are some semi-random thoughts.

#1429521 - 05/04/10 11:57 AM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: NWL]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: NWL
My only hang-up is with the parents....

I've been teaching 30 years and my major hangup is with the parents. In teaching class yesterday (yes, I'm still doing continuing education at age 66.99), the primary problem facing the various teachers were the students' parents.

If only babies came with a guide book on how to be great parents (and they used it), the job of classroom and private teachers would be a pleasure!

Learning how to educate parents while teaching their children is indeed a great challenge. I'll let you know when I figure it out.


Okay, all humor aside, parental education is a must, which is greatly helped by having been a parent yourself. Can you put yourself in your parents place and see what they did right and what they might have come up short on. Also that of your friends? This may give you some ideas on how to cope with various situations as they arise.

Slowly, you need to establish yourself in a manner that taking lessons with you, studying music with you, is a great privilege, not a right, and families as well as students need to measure up.

Additionally, I take every opportunity to educate parents. In my studio's waiting area, I have books on pianos which parents can peruse. I also have books and magazines on musicians for them.

I usually include a page in the recital booklet on the history of the piano and the importance of regular maintenance and upkeep.

I do spell out practice expectations to parents. They are invited to sit in on lessons, but I think the reason many don't is because they pick up rather quickly that they are being taught at the same time as their student, and they've already had enough of formal education!

I have a monthly newsletter which goes out with the statement (called Quick Notes and for a watermark, I have the first page of the Fantasie-Impromptu!). Most months, I devote one paragraph to general education themes.

These are just a few ideas. I'll scribble some more as time permits.
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#1429556 - 05/04/10 01:38 PM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
When I was a young teacher, here are some of the things that worked for me:

1. Dress professionally
2. Be involved in your local professional organization
3. Make sure each parent has your business card. Make sure it is not cutesy.
4. Keep phone messages short and direct. Find out what the best time is to call someone and mark that in the student's file.
5. Have them sign a contract that you read to them at the interview, then make sure you each keep a copy of the signed contract.
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

#1429651 - 05/04/10 05:28 PM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 5462
Loc: South Florida
The day I can expect reasonable cooperation and support from most parents will be the same day I go ice-skating in a certain very hot place.

The only thing that works for me, when anything works, is to "hook" the students on what we are doing. If I get cooperation from kids, of any age, I have a chance of building something. Other than that, it's back to "Personal Piano Trainer".
Piano Teacher

#1429724 - 05/04/10 07:47 PM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: Gary D.]
Smallpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/10
Posts: 270
Loc: California
I remember when I was in my mid-20s, I faced the same problems too. Parents doesn't seem to respect me much during that time. However, as I grow older, I learn from my experience.
1. Reinforce studio policy: I learned from my experience that if I reinforce my written policy, I will gain respect from parents. If I just "let go" for some of the issues (usually with make up), then next time the same issues will come again.
2. "Educate" and "inspire" the parents. I send out monthly newsletter together with invoice. The newsletter include various topic such as how to buy a piano, how to hire a piano tuner, how is the Certificate of Merit test works, what does it contains, how to encourage your child to practice piano, studio news about who won the recent competition. I also send out my reading summary about piano education books etc.
3. Parents sit in: 90% of the parents sit in 100% of the time during the lesson, and I have no problem with this at all. Benefits that I receive is that parents will not complaint that I teach too little, as they can see the whole process of my teaching. Parents will learn how to help their child at home. If student is not well-behave during lesson, parents will know it and they will discipline the child instead of me discipline the child. If the student happened to be a 'slow" student, with parents sit in, they will also understand that why we learn only 2 new songs while other students able to learn 5 new songs in the same 30 minutes lesson. There is a lot of benefits of having parents sitting in during lesson time.
Just my humble suggestions, hope will help
Take Care!
Small Piano
English is my 4th languages, please excuse my grammar. Thanks

#1429748 - 05/04/10 08:57 PM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: Smallpiano]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Here you are trying to look older, and I'm trying to look younger as I share the same 66.10 with John. LOL!

I think having a professional picture - friendly but mature - along with your credentials on your business card and website if you have one, would be a reminder to your clients and students that you have achieved a lot in your young lifetime.

If you want to check my "youth" out go to this site and see my photo which was taken in 2007. A young adult student of mine was joking with me about my age being "39" about 2 weeks ago. He made my day!


Betty Patnude

Edited by Betty Patnude (05/04/10 08:59 PM)

#1429749 - 05/04/10 09:02 PM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: Betty Patnude]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Easy answer. Teach adults. smile
Play New Age Piano

#1429789 - 05/04/10 11:05 PM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: eweiss]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 15482
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Hehe, your comment about the parents not taking you seriously because you're young reminded me of the same thing that happened to my voice teacher. He's young, but he's the best teacher I've ever had. Yet, when a new student (adult) came to take voice lessons from him, he said, "How can you teach me anything? You're so young!" He sang a loud high G in his face and the guy said, "OK, I guess you have a lot to teach me." (My teacher's voice registers about 120 decibels - I kid you not!) laugh

You might need to do something a bit more to "prove" yourself in front of the parents. Perhaps have a piece or two that you can just whip out and start playing as you wait for the student to arrive, so that they hear you "practicing" when they come in. Or, if you're ambitious, some teachers perform at the student's recitals or put together their own recital. It's unfortunate, but sometimes that's the only way to earn validity in their eyes.

Also, don't be afraid to toot your student's horn to other parents. Let them know with a sign on your door congratulating a student on winning such and such award or competition.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1429812 - 05/05/10 01:07 AM Re: Seeking advice from more experienced teachers [Re: Morodiene]
NWL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 83
Thanks all for the excellent advice!


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