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#2040185 - 02/27/13 03:07 PM dead beats  
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Barb860 Offline
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Well that might be a little strong, but let's just call them "students who owe you $ and leave without paying". My fault, didn't see it coming.
Now I learn that this family is shopping for a new piano teacher. An acquaintance of mine told me that she received a call from them and will agree to an interview.
I don't know this teacher well. Neither of us is a member of the MTNA, which I understand has a policy on teachers informing each other of such activity.
MTNA members, may I ask you what the policy is, exactly? All teachers: How much information do you share regarding former students' bill paying delinquency?
I feel that I should inform this new teacher of my situation but want to keep things professional. Thanks everyone for replies.


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#2040187 - 02/27/13 03:09 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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adak Offline
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I would just tell the other teacher about your experience and have this teacher make them pay upfront. Don't let bureaucracy stand in the way of justice.


Casio Privia PX-150

#2040191 - 02/27/13 03:14 PM Re: dead beats [Re: adak]  
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pianoSD Offline
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Originally Posted by adak
Don't let bureaucracy stand in the way of justice.

Agreed!

#2040229 - 02/27/13 04:03 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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This is the official MTNA Code of Ethics. The last bullet under Commitment to Colleagues discusses teacher to teacher communications when a student transfers. It's very broad and not specific.

Personally, I would have no problem informing a new teacher that the family in question had problems making payments as agreed to. The new teacher can then make a judgement and proceed as they feel best. Getting payments in advance does eliminate most of the payment problems.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#2040254 - 02/27/13 04:41 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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If the other teacher asks about the family, I'd be honest about everything - practicing, punctuality, payment, materials, learning style, etc...

If the other teacher doesn't ask, I wouldn't feel obligated to give any opinions. They might just want a fresh start without any preconceived notions, so I'd respect that if that was their choice.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2040284 - 02/27/13 05:33 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Kreisler]  
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
If the other teacher asks about the family, I'd be honest about everything - practicing, punctuality, payment, materials, learning style, etc...

If the other teacher doesn't ask, I wouldn't feel obligated to give any opinions. They might just want a fresh start without any preconceived notions, so I'd respect that if that was their choice.


Tell them any ways even if they don't ask. Too many people with the attitude "If they don't ask I won't tell". Let the teacher know and let her make her own decision, she deserves to go into this teacher-student relationship knowing all the facts, especially if there is money and time involved, which she stands to lose if something goes wrong.


Casio Privia PX-150

#2040286 - 02/27/13 05:37 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Barb, it's unclear to me why you want the new teacher involved. I suppose you would like her to say to this family, "Listen here, knuckleheads, you can't join my studio until you square up with Barb." But that's making Gladys act as your bill collector, which isn't very nice to Gladys.

Seems to me this issue is between you and the family, and it's a simple money issue. Just send them a note about what they owe you. Or phone them. Or email them. You might not collect, but you should try. If it's enough money and you feel you are clearly in the right, there's always Small Claims Court. Otherwise just write it off as minor blemish.

I'm with Kreisler, but it's up to you. This isn't a music teacher organization issue to me.

#2040300 - 02/27/13 06:03 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Peter K. Mose]  
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Barb860 Offline
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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
Barb, it's unclear to me why you want the new teacher involved. I suppose you would like her to say to this family, "Listen here, knuckleheads, you can't join my studio until you square up with Barb." But that's making Gladys act as your bill collector, which isn't very nice to Gladys.

Seems to me this issue is between you and the family, and it's a simple money issue. Just send them a note about what they owe you. Or phone them. Or email them. You might not collect, but you should try. If it's enough money and you feel you are clearly in the right, there's always Small Claims Court. Otherwise just write it off as minor blemish.

I'm with Kreisler, but it's up to you. This isn't a music teacher organization issue to me.


Peter, honestly at this point I really don't want any further involvement with the family and wouldn't want their new teacher to be involved with asking them to pay their bill to me. I am in the process of trying to collect. But I appreciate what you have to say. Just wanted to warn the new teacher. Perhaps that's not any of my business though.


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#2040304 - 02/27/13 06:08 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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As the new teacher, I would want to know. I wouldn't want another teacher suffering loss and I'd keep an eye on payments from the new family. I always ask the family to respect the termination policies of the previous teacher and tell them I will follow up to help make the transition smooth.


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#2040422 - 02/27/13 11:15 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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My first instinct is to say I'm with Minniemay. If I'm the new teacher, I'd want to know if the family skipped out on paying what they owed. Someone wanting a fresh start is different than someone owing money.

However, I do always take things with a grain of salt, knowing there's more than one side to a story as well. If I have a bad feeling about the family and I find out they owed lesson money and left, then I may decline to teach them. Or if I feel fine with the family and hear this, then I will disregard it but perhaps be a little more wary and clear about payment terms. But really either way I'm listening to my gut feeling or I'm giving them a chance, so in the end what the previous teacher has to say has little bearing.

I guess it looks better as the "previous" teacher not to offer any information that isn't asked, if only for your own reputation's sake. It could perhaps look poorly on you to say bad things about a potential student for another teacher, and I'm not really sure what good it would do in the long run. In the end, I have faith that if someone did wrong to me, ultimately they are the ones who pay for it.


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#2040506 - 02/28/13 03:00 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Originally Posted by Barb860
Just wanted to warn the new teacher. Perhaps that's not any of my business though.

I think you will be doing the next teacher a great service.

A couple of years ago I took on a pair of siblings from another MTAC teacher in my branch. I was not terribly familiar with this other teacher, but I thought I should be courteous to a colleague and notify her of the transfer.

This teacher was kind enough to inform me that the family comes with some major baggage--and she was right! It was one headache after another dealing with this family of featherbrained delinquents. By the time they were ready to jump ship, I said, "Good riddance!"


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#2040509 - 02/28/13 03:05 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Sometimes people don't pay because they don't think they have received value.

For example, if you buy a piano on payments that turns out to be defective, a consumer might withhold payment until the seller cures the defect. Someone who hires a lawyer that makes a mistake and forgets to file for a court appearance might refuse to pay the bill of a lawyer.

A parent who feels that a piano teacher is not doing a good job teaching their child might also decide not to make final payments, especially if the final payments are connected to onerous, one-sided terms and conditions made up by the piano teacher.

Not saying any of this is applicable to your situation, however, it is food for thought.

If they were really happy with what you were doing they wouldn't be shopping for another piano teacher.

Rather than get all bent out of shape about this one, particular instance of money, perhaps it would be smarter and in your longer term interest to look at yourself objectively in the mirror and ask yourself why they don't value your instruction and why they are jumping ship. This could make you more money in the long run than anything else.

#2040516 - 02/28/13 03:32 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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While the point may be relevant (not saying it is), if you're to be respected and to get others to respect the industry in which you earn a living wage, you must receive funds for services that have been provided, whether they were enjoyed or not. No teachers provide pro-rated refunds on their services if it turns out the student isn't receptive to the teaching being provided - this is on the student [to decide who they want to teach them in the first place].


"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."
#2040522 - 02/28/13 03:59 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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I don't disagree with you. However, in this day and age of enshrining the "consumer" rather than the "responsible citizen" you ignore how people think and act at risk of your own peril.

I agree that not paying is a sign of dis-respect. It may by 100% and exclusively a reflection of this family and they may in fact deserve the eptithet thrown at them by the OP of being deadbeats.

On the other hand, it might also be true that when a teacher looks at themselves dispassionately in the mirror and asks the questions:

"What could I have done more or differently to achieve better results with this student?"

"What could I have done more or differently to build a long-term, constructive, mutually-respecting relationship with this parent?"

"What could I have done more or differently to have picked up signals earlier that my teaching was not being valued?"

that this might throw light on the non-payment issue as being merely a symptom of a much more important underlying problem.

What better way to give a clear and unambiguous message to a teacher that they were worth less than what they were charging than to withhold partial payment? After all, teachers are not exempt from the practices of the world around them.

Being willing to consider oneself as fallible and being open to learning and growing tends to be better for everyone concerned -- especially the teacher themselves -- than to simply place responsibility and blame elsewhere and to go whinging on bulletin boards, to fellow teachers and to teachers' unions.

By all means go after this debt as aggressively as you feel is appropriate and in line with the kind of image you want to have when people talk about you behind your back, but it would be a pity not to take the time and turn it into a learning experience that likely goes beyond legalistic considerations or accounts receivables and credit management.

You owe it to yourself and you also owe it to your future students.

#2040730 - 02/28/13 12:36 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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I would tell the other teacher. All of my parents and students sign my studio policy and 99% of them honor my 30 days notice or payment for month is expected. Recently had student quit with no notice. Grandmother signed policy, and was paying for lessons. Totally blew me out of the water when grandmother quit the lessons via txt msg the middle of December. Sent her copy of agreement with December invoice. Only received partial payment. Finally decided to take the high road and let it drop because I did not want to get into a big confrontation with her which is what would happen. There is also such a thing as karma.

If I heard student was going elsewhere, I would let the other teacher know if I knew the teacher or was asked. I have a little suspicion that it has happened before but not certain.


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#2040758 - 02/28/13 01:53 PM Re: dead beats [Re: theJourney]  
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Originally Posted by theJourney
teachers' unions.

An association of independent music teachers is very different from a union of public employees working for local school districts. An association has very limited power to do anything. A union can be quite powerful, depending on its size, membership, and number of lawyers hired.

Please don't get the two mixed together.


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#2040764 - 02/28/13 02:05 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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When I first started teaching it was standard operating procedure for a teacher to be certain that any transfer students had settled their tuition payments with the previous teacher before they could begin lessons. I believe it was part of the music teacher association guidelines. Somehow that seems to have slipped away as I rarely even hear of a teacher speaking with the previous teacher, much less making certain that they were paid.

#2040793 - 02/28/13 02:51 PM Re: dead beats [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by theJourney
teachers' unions.

An association of independent music teachers is very different from a union of public employees working for local school districts. An association has very limited power to do anything. A union can be quite powerful, depending on its size, membership, and number of lawyers hired.

Please don't get the two mixed together.

Quote

un·ion
/ˈyo͞onyən/
Noun
The action or fact of joining together or being joined together, esp. in a political context.
A state of harmony or agreement: "they live in perfect union".
Synonyms
association - alliance - league - combination


Who is confused here?

After decades of insidious far-right propaganda, the word "union" tends to be seen uni-dimensionally and as a dirty word in the US -- paralleling the unprecedented impoverishing of the American working and middle class -- whereas in the rest of the world it tends to be associated with good things and with ensuring a level playing field in markets.

There are many definitions of the word "union", including "association". Not every teachers' union is made up of " public employees working for a local school district."

Not every union in the sense you are thinking of is even remotely powerful, and not every association is powerless.

For example, the Associated Boards of Royal Schools of Music is a non-profit association which has an enormous impact in the world grading more than 600.000 exams per year and enabling students in many countries in the world to use their ABRSM exam and diploma credentials as one criteria for admittance to top universities or other credits while providing important credentialling of piano teachers through the diploma program.

#2040808 - 02/28/13 03:07 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Is Associated Boards of Royal Schools of Music union or association?

Sorry, does it sounds like a stupid question?

Last edited by ezpiano.org; 02/28/13 03:21 PM.

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#2040816 - 02/28/13 03:33 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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What's in a name?

You decide:

http://us.abrsm.org/en/home


#2040830 - 02/28/13 03:56 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Absolutely tell the new teacher. I disagree with Journey. You do not have to do a bunch of soul-searching. You're being paid for effort and sometimes, to be present at a lesson time when the clients choose non-attendance. You are not being paid for results. If the customer is unsatisfied, they must point out to you what needs changing at their earliest convenience. Then you can choose to end the association if you can't meet their needs. Barring this conversation, you can assume that your effort as a bona fide piano teacher is sufficient.

And I WOULD ask the new teacher to help me collect the money. Piano teachers need to stand together against destroyers of our livelihood. You would do the same for her.

#2040838 - 02/28/13 04:07 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Candywoman]  
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Originally Posted by Candywoman
Piano teachers need to stand together against destroyers of our livelihood. You would do the same for her.

We need more piano teachers like you!


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#2041402 - 03/01/13 03:52 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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I think this is another strong reason to ask for lesson fees to be paid in advance. If not there are always going to be people who take advantage.

Reading between the lines I don't agree that this family are withholding payment because they were not satisfied with tuition. It's just that they don't want to pay for the lessons they have had and know that there is very little you can do about it.

If it were me I would warn the other teacher and write off the lost fees in the knowledge that you can now replace them with a more reliable student.


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#2041428 - 03/01/13 04:18 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Chris H.]  
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Originally Posted by Chris H.
I think this is another strong reason to ask for lesson fees to be paid in advance. If not there are always going to be people who take advantage.

Reading between the lines I don't agree that this family are withholding payment because they were not satisfied with tuition. It's just that they don't want to pay for the lessons they have had and know that there is very little you can do about it.

If it were me I would warn the other teacher and write off the lost fees in the knowledge that you can now replace them with a more reliable student.


Actually what happened is that they started no-showing, asking for rescheduling, and not practicing since the first of the year. Never had problems with them before (had the 2 siblings for 2 years) and the kids were progressing well. Rescheduling is something that I offer students, but when folks reschedule and then no-show a few times in a row, that doesn't work for me. They owed me $ for Feb., which was due at the beginning of the month. Parents suddenly started questioning my studio policy on no-shows and didn't want to pay. Looking for a new teacher for whatever reason? I would welcome that communication from the family.

Thanks for everyone's replies here, food for thought! I think no-showing and no-paying is not one of the 50 Ways to Leave Your Teacher.

Back to soul-searching.....

Last edited by Barb860; 03/01/13 04:21 PM.

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#2041644 - 03/02/13 12:36 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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"...I'd want to know if the family skipped out on paying what they owed. Someone wanting a fresh start is different..."

Yes, that kind of start is a little too fresh for me.

Do piano teachers never report this kind of thing to the credit bureaus? Some people are extremely sensitive regarding their credit score.

On the whole, a written policy including paying for the month's instruction in advance, is the easiest fail-safe. As our OP has said, you do not need a crystal ball to predict the future for some customers.


Clef

#2041679 - 03/02/13 03:03 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Reporting to a credit bureau involves establishing credentials with one of the reporting agencies. This can be expensive and difficult for a small time sole-proprietor. Collections can also be a rather expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

Charging up front for service solves a lot of problems, but you have to back it up by refusing to provide the service if it's not paid for.

This is also a good reason to join some kind of teachers' organization. Whether it be MTNA, a Federation club, MTAC - having a forum in which to meet and communicate with other teachers can be extremely helpful.

I would continue to send invoices to the family and consider hiring a collection agency if the amount is significant.

As regards contacting the other teacher, I still feel it's perhaps best to remain silent unless asked for an opinion. If a teacher I didn't know well called me to tell me a transfer student was one month late on payment, I'd have a hard time deciding whether they were just bitter and whining about it or if they did indeed have solid business practices and were truly jilted by their clients. (Honestly, one month late and an 8 week history of no-shows doesn't really sound that bad to me. It sounds like the family is going through a rough patch. Maybe it will continue, maybe there's a reason, maybe it won't, and maybe there's not.)

If I knew the teacher well, it would be a different story, because I'd be more familiar with their business practices, policies, and attitude towards this kind of thing.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2041683 - 03/02/13 03:21 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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Originally Posted by Barb860
Actually what happened is that they started no-showing, asking for rescheduling, and not practicing since the first of the year. Never had problems with them before (had the 2 siblings for 2 years) and the kids were progressing well. Rescheduling is something that I offer students, but when folks reschedule and then no-show a few times in a row, that doesn't work for me. They owed me $ for Feb., which was due at the beginning of the month. Parents suddenly started questioning my studio policy on no-shows and didn't want to pay. Looking for a new teacher for whatever reason? I would welcome that communication from the family.

Thanks for everyone's replies here, food for thought! I think no-showing and no-paying is not one of the 50 Ways to Leave Your Teacher.

Back to soul-searching.....


That is exactly what I suspected. The writing was on the wall and rather than trying to get closer to them and try to understand what the real problem was, you got all huffy and legalistic and self-righteous, thereby in effect pushing them away and causing them to leave or confirming the wisdom of their decision to leave.

It isn't that they didn't take lessons which they refuse to pay, but rather that they do not want to be held to an onerous, one-sided, studio policy of paying for lessons never taken. With their busy lives that allow them the luxury to pay piano lessons they obviously expected more pleasant and understanding interaction, more flexibility, involvement and empathy and a modern service mindset than you were able or willing to provide.

These inflexible consumer-unfriendly studio policies that stifle relationship-building communication and demand payments from parents without teachers rendering teaching services in return, where teachers want to receive something for nothing, lead in many more cases than yours to parents leaving and slamming the door shut hard as they go. Not only are you out some cash but they might tell six other parents to avoid your studio since you seem to be more interested in your contract than the specific real-world family circumstances of your long-term students.

This, in contrast to building PWR (Positive Working Relationships) with everyone that every passes through your studio leading to retaining students and getting enthusiastic referrals from others.

#2041799 - 03/02/13 11:35 AM Re: dead beats [Re: Barb860]  
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California
With regard to reporting to a credit bureau or collection agency....

I have reported a half dozen or so students over the years to our local collection agency. It's not difficult or time consuming. I brought them the parent's signed studio policy, gave them their contact info, and let them do the rest. They take 40% of what they can collect as their fee. And the delinquency stays on their credit report just as if you were a big department store or other business trying to collect.

If you are out one-month's fee you may or may not consider it worth your time. In my case, I also charge a late fee, which makes the amount owed over $100. If I can collect 60% I am happy.


Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild
#2041896 - 03/02/13 04:04 PM Re: dead beats [Re: dumdumdiddle]  
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,654
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Barb860  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,654
northern California
Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle
With regard to reporting to a credit bureau or collection agency....

I have reported a half dozen or so students over the years to our local collection agency. It's not difficult or time consuming. I brought them the parent's signed studio policy, gave them their contact info, and let them do the rest. They take 40% of what they can collect as their fee. And the delinquency stays on their credit report just as if you were a big department store or other business trying to collect.

If you are out one-month's fee you may or may not consider it worth your time. In my case, I also charge a late fee, which makes the amount owed over $100. If I can collect 60% I am happy.


Thanks for the info.
Kreisler, I agree with what you say and thank you for your insight.
Everyone, I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. I will stay silent unless their new teacher contacts me and asks for info.
Thank you!


Piano Teacher
#2042034 - 03/02/13 10:08 PM Re: dead beats [Re: Kreisler]  
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 7,096
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member
AZNpiano  Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 7,096
Orange County, CA
Originally Posted by Kreisler
As regards contacting the other teacher, I still feel it's perhaps best to remain silent unless asked for an opinion. If a teacher I didn't know well called me to tell me a transfer student was one month late on payment, I'd have a hard time deciding whether they were just bitter and whining about it or if they did indeed have solid business practices and were truly jilted by their clients.

I disagree with this view. Clients come and go, but colleagues more-or-less stay for the long haul. I think it is important to establish a good rapport with local colleagues and "team up," in a way, to combat problems that we share. It is especially true if the other teacher belongs to the same organization like MTAC (and in the same branch, no less).


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
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