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have doubts about teacher
#1628569 02/26/11 02:14 PM
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I wrote here before about doubts I had concerning my son's teacher back in October....no method books, no lesson plan, no communication to me.....I spoke to her, thought maybe we came to an understanding.

But now after listening to my son, speaking to other parents who had complaints about her, and seeing the results of her teaching, I really am skeptical.

My son started out in the Alfred's children's book 1 I gave him (not her idea) and which she is using. He started out playing the piece 'the magic man' back then. Now we are moving into March. He is still playing the same piece. Not that I think myself an expert, but I think he has played it fairly well and to tempo since November. He still makes some mistakes. She says he shouldn't move on until it is perfect. Fortunately he plays other things at home to keep him interested. Otherwise, after a years worth of lessons, he would have only one piece in his repertoire if I let things continue her way......

She apparently uses this approach for the other students too. I am hearing one of the other boys has complained he finds piano boring and wants to quit because he only plays one piece over and over, after nearly 5 months. The mother complained and she moved him onto a new piece a few weeks ago.

She has been consistently coming late to lessons (at the school) by up to half an hour. I get the impression from the kids that she isn't that interested in doing the lessons. I think she is kind of bored with teaching. She looks fairly young, maybe 20 something, so maybe this was just a way to earn a bit of money rather than building a career.

She neglected to even show up this last week. She had my email and phone number, but never said a word. My son showed up for the lesson only to find out it was cancelled.

I paid a lump sum for lessons through May but there doesn't seem to be much teaching happening. It's a shame, because the lessons are so conveniently located at the school. But I wonder whether I should just inquire if I can get some money back and find an instructor outside of the school. Any thoughts? Am I being too hard on the poor girl?

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Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628576 02/26/11 02:25 PM
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No you are not!

Sounds awful. Get out of the situation as soon as possible.


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Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628609 02/26/11 03:15 PM
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I looked back at your Oct. post, and I actually thought what the teacher did was excellent, that is, to have him make up a tune for his very first lesson. This was apparently to give him the idea of playing by ear on his own, which is the whole point in piano--that's how you really learn about the instrument and what you can do on it, which you will never get by just playing through Alfred's. And he's now playing things on his own, which is excellent. That's the whole point in piano. You don't just play your assignments in Alfred's and then close the book and say you're done. You play the piano on your own; that's how you really learn.

As for staying on one piece until it's perfect. I think this is a quite good idea. The standard in classical piano is note perfect: the most-difficult-to-play note in a piece has to be played just as well as the easiest one to play. The most difficult bar in a piece has to be played just as well as the easiest. So it makes sense to get this idea in his mind right now; if you're going to play classical piano, it's got to be note perfect.

This sounds like an excellent teacher that you should hold on to for dear life. Oh, you can find a teacher that will cater to every feel-good fad of the moment and just go through the motions and make the student feel happy, but is that all you want?


Re: have doubts about teacher
Gyro #1628625 02/26/11 03:33 PM
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^ I think there's a middle ground between "The Tiger Mother" approach and the "Feel Good" approach.

The teacher sounds like a nightmare.


Last edited by widmerpool; 02/26/11 03:34 PM.
Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628633 02/26/11 03:44 PM
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After my last teacher, i decided to learn all by myself. Maybe one day i'll move to europe and take lessons again.

Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628641 02/26/11 03:52 PM
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There doesn't seem to be any teaching nor any learning. Do I understand you correctly that he's just working on 1 piece? In a method book? For four months? That's just tragic.

This isn't teaching, and it will probably poison your son against piano for the rest of his life. Cut your losses and get out now. Don't worry about missing the remaining lessons, because she's teaching him nothing.

I would ask for a refund on unused tuition, but don't be surprised if none is forthcoming.

And begin your search for a real piano teacher.


"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
Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628686 02/26/11 04:44 PM
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I would change teacher immediately and maybe even file a complaint to the school. If whether her teaching has merit is still up for debate, not showing up for class or being late frequently is very unprofessional.

Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628818 02/26/11 08:56 PM
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I think the teacher seems very unprofessional, too... half hour late, not showing up, no phone call or email, etc... She doesn't seem too worried about her reputation.

She may have a few good intentions with her teaching, but it doesn't sound like she has a clear objective for each lesson. IMHO, review is good, polishing or refining a piece is good, but in order for progress to be made there should be an objective for each lesson... Preferably a new objective. Sure we've all had weeks where a student didn't practice and needs to repeat something - it happens. She should be teaching your child how to progress and if one way or method doesn't work then she should be trying another, and another, and another, etc... All students learn differently, and if she is out of ideas, then she needs to convey the problem to you, the parent. I think that is what makes it worse - that there hasn't been any communication to you about progress (or lack thereof) being made and that's just frustrating.

I would change teachers - regardless of convenience - refund or not. Staying with this teacher could really take its toll on your child's whole outlook of piano lessons. Find a qualified teacher that clicks with both you and your child and you will never regret it.

Last edited by chickeringplayer; 02/26/11 09:31 PM.

Playing a rebuilt and refinished 1905 Chickering 6'6" and loving it.
New addition to the family... Roland HP508.

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Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628835 02/26/11 09:34 PM
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Sounds like piano malpractice. Time for a new teacher.


"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP
Re: have doubts about teacher
jazzyprof #1628839 02/26/11 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jazzyprof
Sounds like piano malpractice. Time for a new teacher.


Piano malpractice..... That's a good one.... I'll have to remember that!


Playing a rebuilt and refinished 1905 Chickering 6'6" and loving it.
New addition to the family... Roland HP508.

Bachelor's - Music/piano pedagogy emphasis
Master's - Education
Re: have doubts about teacher
Gyro #1628865 02/26/11 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Gyro
I looked back at your Oct. post, and I actually thought what the teacher did was excellent, that is, to have him make up a tune for his very first lesson. This was apparently to give him the idea of playing by ear on his own, which is the whole point in piano--that's how you really learn about the instrument and what you can do on it, which you will never get by just playing through Alfred's. And he's now playing things on his own, which is excellent. That's the whole point in piano. You don't just play your assignments in Alfred's and then close the book and say you're done. You play the piano on your own; that's how you really learn.

As for staying on one piece until it's perfect. I think this is a quite good idea. The standard in classical piano is note perfect: the most-difficult-to-play note in a piece has to be played just as well as the easiest one to play. The most difficult bar in a piece has to be played just as well as the easiest. So it makes sense to get this idea in his mind right now; if you're going to play classical piano, it's got to be note perfect.

This sounds like an excellent teacher that you should hold on to for dear life. Oh, you can find a teacher that will cater to every feel-good fad of the moment and just go through the motions and make the student feel happy, but is that all you want?



I really hope you are just being facetious here... eek

Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628953 02/27/11 02:11 AM
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Thanks chickeringplayer, that pretty much sums it up. Fortunately my son still enjoys the piano, if not the teacher.

And Gyro, I am not the type to seek the feel good approach. My experience is that new pieces can sometimes improve your technique on the old pieces, so that lingering on the old pieces until perfection might actually slow the learning process down. Of course that is just my amateur view of it.

Re: have doubts about teacher
tnew #1628967 02/27/11 02:36 AM
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Usually I tend to lean towards giving the benefit of the doubt, but based on your explanation, I have almost no hesitation in saying, as a young teacher myself, that her behavior is totally unprofessional and I'm really surprised that you have doubts about it.

Things happen, of course, and being late and cancelling lessons are sometimes inevitable, but if not a word of apology and/or explanation follows, there is no excuse for them. I can't think of any profession/job where such a thing would be justified.

As some of the others have said, spending so many months on one short piece from a children's book is unheard of. Even when a teacher does keep a piece for months--and there are plenty of times when there are good reasons for it--they always assign at least one or two other pieces to be worked on at the same time. This should be self-evident. After all, when a child has a problem with a concept in school, all other work in a subject or class is not stopped to focus on that one thing for months. The focus on that concept should be intensified, of course, until the child masters it, but other learning still goes on!

The only explanations I would have for such a situation would be that either the child is not practicing, which doesn't seem to be the case; or that the child has a learning disability that causes him to learn very slowly, which also doesn't seem to be the case either; or that the teacher is simply not serious about teaching. For the sake of everyone involved, I would really hope I'm missing something here, but it's hard to imagine.

Last edited by scherzetto; 02/27/11 03:49 AM.

"Where words fail, music speaks." --Hans Christian Andersen

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