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Adapted from "A Parent's Guide to Piano Lessons" by James W. Bastien, page 17-19

Your child will be working with a piano teacher for at least 30-minutes a week for 12 months each year! The piano teacher exerts considerable influence over your child, and you want to make sure the association is pleasant and beneficial. Considering this, you want the best teacher for your child, even if the child is a beginner!

Consideration #1 Music Degree
Is it important for a teacher to have a music degree? First, it is an indication that the individual has a competent musical background and should be qualified to teach. However, even a doctorate in music won't guarantee that a person is a good teacher. As a parent, you have witnesses good and bad teacher working with your child at school. These teacher usually are certified to teach, but there is a great variance in approaches and the results achieved. Realistically, some people are more adept at teaching than others. thus, although a degree or certification does indicate background and subject knowledge, any or all of these qualifications do not guarantee success in teacher.

Consideration #2 Active Performer
Is it important for a teacher to be a performer? Paradoxically, you can't judge a teacher by his ability to play the piano. This is particularly true for the teacher whose specialty is teaching beginners. For success in this area, patience, understanding, warmth in approach, and a familiarity with beginning teaching methods and techniques are most important. If a gifted teacher is working near you, you will hear of it from delighted parents of delighted children. If there is a subtle choice between teachers, put personality before performance, enthusiasm for music and love for children before credentials. Dreariness may mask itself with method, and dislike for teaching may hide behind a 'big name.'
A public performer does exhibit professionalism which can be assessed by fellow musicians and critics. Performance prowess gives you confidence that the person is a professional who knows his business. However, a public performer or concert artist is not necessarily a sympathetic teacher. In fact, he may not like teaching children at all, but he may have to teach to support himself. Bess Myerson wrote in her book that titled "My Mother, My Piano--And Me":
"Parents must choose teachers who can bring understanding and warmth to children. It is not enough that a teacher be a brilliant technician or a martinet who scowls at clinkers and thanks only God and himself when a passage is well played. That kind of teacher may 'preserve' his art and kill his students' love for music forever."

Consideration #3 Results from taking lessons
Once lessons have commenced you can evaluate your child's relationship with the teacher: Is he eager to go to lessons? Does he have a good attitude upon returning from lessons? Unfortunately, these factors cannot be assessed until lessons begin.

What elements make a good piano teacher?

pleasant personality
dedication
experience
teaching expertise



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When you say "Adapted," I'm not sure what this term means. Or what percentage of the above text belongs to the late Mr. Bastien. Is this something from your studio website or other promotional material?

Nonetheless, I tend to agree with the sentiments.

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I think the most important factor is to have the parent, the child, and the teacher to be on the same page: same goals, similar values, and compatible personalities.

There are MANY kinds of "good teachers" out there. It would be stupid to think otherwise.


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I don't really share values with my students. It's more like I adapt to what they want. Some students don't value practice; I have to work around that.

I don't believe in the good fit argument. I'm a very good teacher offering a service. The job of the student is to access my knowledge. I'm kind enough to make that possible.

When new parents ask to see me to see whether their child and I will click, I say,"I always click with my students. But you can see if your child will click with me."

All that means is that based on some whim of the child or the parent, they will indicate whether they want me as their teacher.

As for goals, there are really a limited number of goals when it comes to children. They all start off the same way with mostly method books and a few pop tunes. Then after a certain amount of time, they have more choice of music and I teach them that music. Again, I'm bending towards what they want but doing at least half of what I think should happen, but usually more.

For parents, the choice of teacher comes down to whether you're nice, whether they can get makeup lessons easily, whether you're close, and whether you're cheap.

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As an adult re-starter, an important attribute for me that is not on your list:

is the ability to explain/demonstrate skills and technical issues from a variety of perspectives until the student finds some way that works for them. In other words, great verbal and problem-solving skills.

I think (?) this is clear, but if not, I would be happy to furnish some examples.

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Originally Posted by Candywoman
I don't believe in the good fit argument.

So you would rather teach a studio full of misfits? I think compatibility is rather important in this line of work.


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Hi Dogperson!
I think I know what are you talking about.
See this http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/930276/Top_Ten_Things_to_Consider_Whe.html

I think your selection fall into "#3 - Can I Understand My Teacher?"

Maybe I am wrong, please correct me.


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Originally Posted by bzpiano
Hi Dogperson!
I think I know what are you talking about.
See this http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/930276/Top_Ten_Things_to_Consider_Whe.html

I think your selection fall into "#3 - Can I Understand My Teacher?"

Maybe I am wrong, please correct me.


No, I am not discussing cultural or language differences but this: If a student has a technical problem or doesn't understand the concept being taught, is the teacher able to be creative in explaining the concept in multiple ways until the student understands? If technique is not polished, can the teacher identify multiple approaches in how to practice or how to master the technique?

As a personal example, descending, rapid octaves with both hands was a real technique problem for me... various approaches for practice were suggested:

- visualize the hands connected by a stationary band so the arms are one unit
- Mentally make the left hand the leader
- Practice thumbs only with both hands
- Practice in an uneven rhythm pattern HT
- Check that hand position is close to the keybed

This gives you an idea of the problem-solving, creativity and strong verbal/demonstration skills needed to teach well. There is not just one approach.

If it a beginning student that is having a problem with understanding rhythm, can the teacher explain/demonstrate in more than one way?

This is, IMHO, what separates a performer from an excellent teacher: what does my student need? How can I explain it? If the first approach does not work, what is an alternative explanation?

Flexibility until the student 'gets it'.


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Might that be called "the ability to teach"?

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Originally Posted by keystring
Might that be called "the ability to teach"?


IMO, that is an over-simplification. The creativity, multiple approaches is what makes a teacher great vs. just a teacher.

This is the first teacher I have had who was able to approach a problem in as many different ways as needed. .. and I doubt seriously if I am the exception to this. I had a PhD teacher as a child who was not as creative and therefore not as effective.

It is 'teaching through the roadblock' skill.

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There is a really good chapter on what makes up a good piano teacher in this book. It really details the pros and cons of all types of teacher and personality. Have a look!
http://www.pianosupplies.com

Good luck! George S

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by keystring
Might that be called "the ability to teach"?


IMO, that is an over-simplification. The creativity, multiple approaches is what makes a teacher great vs. just a teacher.

This is the first teacher I have had who was able to approach a problem in as many different ways as needed. .. and I doubt seriously if I am the exception to this. I had a PhD teacher as a child who was not as creative and therefore not as effective.

It is 'teaching through the roadblock' skill.

I was being deliberately simplistic. wink However, I was also being serious. A lot of people carry the title of "teacher" and go through activities called "teaching" but that may not really be teaching. The ability to teach should encompass what you described. (I don't hold much with titles such as PhD to say much about teaching ability).

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I agree that being able to "teaching through the roadblock" is a major skill.

Many just go through the usual suspects of causes why there is no progress, like, "student did not practice enough" or "student did not concentrate". Few can go from there to "how to find out if the student did practice right?" or "how to find out what keeps the student from concentrating?".

If a teacher can teach a wide variety of characters through roadblocks, then they probably have all they need. They can really see the student and where he is struggling, can provide options, can motivate, ...

But to recognize such a teacher, that is hard! Example: in early Kindergarden times, we have had issues. We were told reasons that sounded good and valid. We needed months to figure out that they were not valid and probably not even good. I get it that it is not easy to really see a child if you have a 1:6 ratio, but they did not even try.


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Hendrik34
you are right, this skill is hard to recognize... particularly by a parent with no musical education background. But if a parent supervises practice, attends lessons with their child, shouldn't this skill be identifiable over time? (AZN's triangle of teacher, parent, student) These are 1:1 private lessons, which can be more in-depth and probing than a classroom. The parent can evaluate the child's understanding and the approaches. Of course, this is doomed without practice and the desire to learn by the student.

For a returning adult student, I think the skill identification is much quicker as there is a basis for comparison. At my first lesson with this teacher, I knew the skills were there... I played a little Mozart, a little Beethoven.. and the immediate feedback and plan given by this teacher was evident of different teaching skills than what I had seen. Ego-deflating? Absolutely. But I had no question that I would learn.

Just my two cents by a student.. and a non-teacher. I will bow out now, leaving the thought and discussion to the teachers.








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Originally Posted by dogperson


is the ability to explain/demonstrate skills and technical issues from a variety of perspectives until the student finds some way that works for them. In other words, great verbal and problem-solving skills.


Some great teachers get more results doing apparently the same things good teachers do.

I think the assumption that this is conscious and visible, and just needs the right strategy, is too limited.

Are you familiar with the concept of Fractional Anticipatory Goal Response? I think teachers do unaware nonverbal reinforcement of fractional elements, and that has much more to do with good teaching than is realized.

I heard three of Alessi's Julliard students play last weekend. They were like clones, I couldn't tell them apart if I closed my eyes. They also had awesome skills. How did he bring them to that level, using the same drills and repertoire everybody else does?


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Originally Posted by Hendrik42
Many just go through the usual suspects of causes why there is no progress, like, "student did not practice enough" or "student did not concentrate".

But those two ARE the major problems, 95% of the time. It's like why kids are failing school--duh, they don't do the homework, they don't turn in their assignments, they don't study, and they don't focus when they should be focusing.

Originally Posted by Hendrik42
Few can go from there to "how to find out if the student did practice right?"

Well, that's kind of obvious. If the student makes the same mistakes, week after week after week after week after week after week, then obviously the "practice" isn't happening.

Originally Posted by Hendrik42
"how to find out what keeps the student from concentrating?".
'
Gee, maybe they don't like piano very much? That's another no-brainer.

There's only so much a piano teacher can do when there is no intrinsic desire for piano lessons.


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It's like why kids are failing school--duh, they don't do the homework, they don't turn in their assignments, they don't study, and they don't focus when they should be focusing.

This is something that I do know something about - professionally. I'd get called to work with these "failing" kids one-on-one. In every case, there was something the student didn't understand, had mislearned, or didn't know how to do. You'd get something not taught properly in one of the supposed "unimportant" grades (1 or 2), creating trouble in grade 7. Or the student had never learned how to approach an assignment by examining it ahead of time, doing it strategically, and checking the work afterward. Teach that and you can get a jump in grades by 15 to 20%, which brings us from 60% to 80%.

Often these kids do get labeled as lazy or stupid, when they are neither. That is, if you are constantly struggling and doing poorly because of what you are missing, and don't know you're missing it, the motivation vanishes.

As a music student in my adult years the shoe was on the other foot. Week after week I played that F natural as almost F# ---- not because of not practising, not out of stupidity, not out of laziness - but because of how tightly I gripped the instrument and how my hand was angled. This goes STRAIGHT to Hendrik's and dogperson's idea of causes. Back then my timing of eighth and sixteenth notes was iffy, because I went by "feel" and did not really understand note values. And there was a period when that teacher gave up on me, assuming that I did not practice, but not telling me until he blurted it out one day when he was having a rough day. There were causes to those problems - and not practising wasn't it. Wrong practising was a cause, in the sense that every time I practised I did what I "knew", and what I thought I knew was wrong, and it was assumed that I would have that knowledge because of my age.

This last also goes to this:
Quote
If the student makes the same mistakes, week after week after week after week after week after week, then obviously the "practice" isn't happening.

The practice may very well BE happening. But what is happening during that practice?

I was always bothered by one of the books written for teachers and promoted here which had a section about "problem students" that you want to get rid of, and one example was where you have circled that F# every week, and every week it is played wrong. And I'm thinking: what kind of a strategy is it to do the same thing every week -- circling a wrong note, and nothing more? And how often might that happen?

Ok, a thing that I do agree with.
Quote
Gee, maybe they don't like piano very much? That's another no-brainer.

There's only so much a piano teacher can do when there is no intrinsic desire for piano lessons.

If indeed a student has been forced to take piano lessons and doesn't want to study piano - and/or if that student has been loaded up with extracurricular activities and is basically burning out (and loathing all those activities including piano) - sure - of course.

But other causes should not be dismissed. All round - all students of all teachers - I don't buy that 95%. But I can see that laziness, non-practice, etc. are handy explanations for anything that goes wrong, but that those conclusions can also be the wrong ones (which would push up those statistics falsely).

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Maybe OT, maybe not.

Yesterday I was at the local soccer field after work practicing my disc golf drive. It's a complicated motion requiring six alignments and six timings to be correct, and I can't seem to focus on more than one of the 12 at a time. So anyone in the area is at some risk of an errant throw.

The fields were empty when I got there but as kids trickled in I was bumped sequentially from 4 areas.

At any rate, to make a long story short, er, shorter, ALL those kids seemed to be having fun.

So the point is the kids may be burned out but they don't loathe everything.


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What I propose for a student learning to play the piano (not an advanced student looking to refine skills):

The teacher should have a firm grasp of how the instrument is played, the elementary technique and foundations behind it, and also have a good understanding of the instrument, of music, of anything that is a foundation. He should also know how to teach these things, and want to teach them. This in the least has to be there. I'm not convinced that it always is.

If that is there, the other things can fall into place. If he gets a student from the very beginning, then he can set up the foundations and build from there, which should prevent too many problems form arising. Obviously the student has to cooperate, and the parents should not interfere or undermine - but the topic here is the teacher. If problems do arise, then the teacher can look into his grab bag of knowledge for cause and effect, and various ways of solving them. If he doesn't have that first prerequisite, then he has nothing to draw on.

That's only in regards to the teacher, which is the topic of the thread. But other things can and do get in the way. There is parental attitude, student attitude, students who are overwhelmed by too many activities or who don't want to study piano (as pointed out by AZNpiano). There are mistaught transfer students. What if the good teacher carefully prepares his students, but another teacher or institution next door wows parents by how fast the kids can play choreographed flashy pieces - never mind that it leaves holes in their technique and an inability to read? And maybe here we also need some education of parents and older students about what is involved, so they don't get pulled in - to the detriment of decent teachers?

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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I think the most important factor is to have the parent, the child, and the teacher to be on the same page: same goals, similar values, and compatible personalities.

There are MANY kinds of "good teachers" out there. It would be stupid to think otherwise.


Having been a "Pianomom" for 3 years- I would say this is the best advice.


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