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There will always be students you can use as guinea pigs. Kids with parents who don't care too much about how fast young Sally progresses, and are looking for different qualities - youth, energy etc as someone else pointed out. I'm just saying that if someone were asking my advice, and wanted the best music education they could afford for their child, then I would suggest experience is important.

My brother is a lawyer and every job advertised says at least 2 years experience. That made his first 2 years out of uni quite stressful! Of course it's harder to get your foot in the door than to be experienced. I was talking from the parents point of view, not saying "you shouldn't start teaching until you have 5 years experience", because obviously that would be impossible. I don't regret starting when I did, and there was no path to where I am now but through!

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I started teaching at age 15 under the supervision of my piano teacher; I was playing Kuhlau, Bach Inventions, beginning Mozart sonatas...

I agree with a previous poster who listed enthusiasm for music and teaching as almost more important than the level of repertoire they can play. There are people with advanced degrees who are not good teachers.

One main quality I would look for in a teacher is this: Is he/she always in 'learning mode'? Did they stop learning once they attained that degree? Or do they keep up with the latest trends and info about methods, piano pedagogy, and learning styles? Do they attend music teacher conventions, master classes, lectures, workshops? Do they perform at their church or other venue? Are they excited about music and know how to convey that excitement to a child?


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Originally Posted by Beth_Frances
I was in my first year of a Bachelor of Music. I was atrocious, and I kept being atrocious for at least another 2 years. I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone send their kid to someone with less than 5 years experience, just because I think it takes that long to start getting a clue about what you're doing.

Then no one should have sent students to you, and you would not have learned to teach after five years.

Your logic is pretty flawed.

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Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle
I started teaching at age 15 under the supervision of my piano teacher; I was playing Kuhlau, Bach Inventions, beginning Mozart sonatas...

I agree with a previous poster who listed enthusiasm for music and teaching as almost more important than the level of repertoire they can play. There are people with advanced degrees who are not good teachers.

One main quality I would look for in a teacher is this: Is he/she always in 'learning mode'? Did they stop learning once they attained that degree? Or do they keep up with the latest trends and info about methods, piano pedagogy, and learning styles? Do they attend music teacher conventions, master classes, lectures, workshops? Do they perform at their church or other venue? Are they excited about music and know how to convey that excitement to a child?

There are two sides to keeping up with trends and info, because at any given time there are always "Piano in a Flash" guys out there, hawking their flim-flam as if they are presenting wonderful new ideas instead of gimmicks.

Most new ideas - not all of them - are recycled old ideas that never worked in the first place.

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It's about whether there is something the young and inexperienced (the two don't always go together, but often do) teacher can offer. For example, they might charge a lower fee; they might be willing to travel to students' houses; they might be willing to teach at a more flexible schedule, etc. One of the parents I know hired a young teacher who goes to her house to teach her kids piano AND Chinese...

And there is also the matter of market. In an area saturated with piano teachers, young and inexperienced teachers will have a very hard time establishing themselves. In an area that has very few teachers, they probably won't have any problem getting students.

This is not just for piano teaching. It's the same for almost everything. It's about the market, and about what you can offer/whether you can find your niche.

Parents hardly ever send children to piano lessons because they want to help train the young teachers. So the young teachers need to think about what they can offer to help parents meet their goals.

There are also other ways to gain experience before starting formal teaching: teaching under an establised teacher's supervision; teaching group lessons in a music school, etc., etc.

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Exactly childofparadise. In my first 5 years I had to teach from a "music school", from two primary schools, drive to people's houses etc to get that experience.

Gary, we are talking about 2 different things. Getting your first 5 years experience, and what parents should look for. In my eyes not particularly compatible topics, but there we have it.

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Beth, I appreciate your honesty.

What kind of things that a starting teacher are often lacking in the early years of teaching?

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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle
I started teaching at age 15 under the supervision of my piano teacher; I was playing Kuhlau, Bach Inventions, beginning Mozart sonatas...

I agree with a previous poster who listed enthusiasm for music and teaching as almost more important than the level of repertoire they can play. There are people with advanced degrees who are not good teachers.

One main quality I would look for in a teacher is this: Is he/she always in 'learning mode'? Did they stop learning once they attained that degree? Or do they keep up with the latest trends and info about methods, piano pedagogy, and learning styles? Do they attend music teacher conventions, master classes, lectures, workshops? Do they perform at their church or other venue? Are they excited about music and know how to convey that excitement to a child?

There are two sides to keeping up with trends and info, because at any given time there are always "Piano in a Flash" guys out there, hawking their flim-flam as if they are presenting wonderful new ideas instead of gimmicks.

Most new ideas - not all of them - are recycled old ideas that never worked in the first place.


I have no idea what you mean by 'piano in a flash guys'... sounds like something I'd see on an infomercial, which is not at all what I was talking about.


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Well...I'm guessing it would be different for everyone, but for me:

* Knowledge of repertoire and how it relates to learning new skills
* Working out how fast to move through the levels for different levels of ability
* Little *tricks* that help kids learn faster i.e. a story to show where the notes are on the piano rather than just saying this is A through to G memorise where they all are please
* Knowing what words to use to get desired results
* Behaviour management skills
* Parent management skills (ha!)
* learning to diagnose issues in technique - what to look for etc
* learning how to use different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to teach concepts
* learning how to add "games" to lessons to mix things up
* learning how to teach theory so it makes sense to a small child

I'm sure there is loads more.

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Originally Posted by Beth_Frances
Exactly childofparadise. In my first 5 years I had to teach from a "music school", from two primary schools, drive to people's houses etc to get that experience.

Gary, we are talking about 2 different things. Getting your first 5 years experience, and what parents should look for. In my eyes not particularly compatible topics, but there we have it.

I am pushing back against the assumption that five years are needed to be a good teacher, and that credentials are anything more than one factor - at most.

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Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle
Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle
I started teaching at age 15 under the supervision of my piano teacher; I was playing Kuhlau, Bach Inventions, beginning Mozart sonatas...

I agree with a previous poster who listed enthusiasm for music and teaching as almost more important than the level of repertoire they can play. There are people with advanced degrees who are not good teachers.

One main quality I would look for in a teacher is this: Is he/she always in 'learning mode'? Did they stop learning once they attained that degree? Or do they keep up with the latest trends and info about methods, piano pedagogy, and learning styles? Do they attend music teacher conventions, master classes, lectures, workshops? Do they perform at their church or other venue? Are they excited about music and know how to convey that excitement to a child?

There are two sides to keeping up with trends and info, because at any given time there are always "Piano in a Flash" guys out there, hawking their flim-flam as if they are presenting wonderful new ideas instead of gimmicks.

Most new ideas - not all of them - are recycled old ideas that never worked in the first place.


I have no idea what you mean by 'piano in a flash guys'... sounds like something I'd see on an infomercial, which is not at all what I was talking about.

http://www.amazon.com/Play-Piano-Flash-Full-Video/dp/B00009A8ZX

Check it out, then maybe you will get what I was talking about. This guy was and is peddling nothing new, but I'm sure he makes as much money as all of us here combined multiplied by some huge factor.

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I learned to teach in a heavily supervised training program with lectures and teaching demonstrations from a master teacher every week. He would teach a group lesson, then a private lesson with a child from the group (Monday group, Wednesday private). On Thursday and Friday, we taught the private lessons for the rest of the children in the group. He either sat in on the lessons or reviewed a tape of the lesson. We had to turn in lesson plans and lesson reports weekly and he commented on each.

By the time I graduated, I had been teaching for four years and had gone from teaching two students the first year to 12 students and a group my 4th year. That program laid the foundation for the teacher I am today. Too bad not everyone has that opportunity. I am eternally grateful for it.

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Wow, that sounds amazing!!! My uni pedagogy courses weren't ANYTHING like that. They didn't see me teach even one lesson. All they did was talk, and the ideas they were spouting were pretty outdated. I would have loved a pedagogy course like that.

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Minnie, that sounds like a splendid apprenticeship program: you are a rare teacher to have had such training. I'm curious to know whether you are running your own studio in similar twice-a-week-lessons format (one day group lesson and another day private lesson)?

It's a tough sell for most families.

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My current student enrollment is too broad in level to have a group lesson that serves as the main lesson. I do have group lessons once a month and that seems to work well.


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I started teaching the piano and clarinet when I was 14 and wanted money to take dancing classes. I taught some of my friends and a few children of family friends and I think I only charged about $8 a lesson. I was at a late intermediate stage of playing. I'm sure if I were able to watch my 14 years old self teaching I would be absolutely appalled! But I can't have got it all wrong because a few of my students took exams and did well, getting As and Bs (Distinctions and Merits). Would I ever send my own children to a teacher like 14 year old me? No way. But I'm glad that someone did, because without that I wouldn't have reached the point where I am now where I can confidently say, after many more years of experience, that I'm a good teacher.


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[quote=Gary D.)I am pushing back against the assumption that five years are needed to be a good teacher, and that credentials are anything more than one factor - at most. [/quote]

Can you explain more about your thoughts towards credentials. I have my own philosophy towards that as well!

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In college, we had to teach a non-music student (another college student) and mine was a theatre major so lots of drama and no-shows.
But then we were given students that were kids, under age 10, and two or three times a semester, we observed each other giving a lesson, and took notes.

That was wonderful!

One comment my teacher made in my highly organized binder was, "I wish you could play as well as you can explain!"

(This was on rather advanced stuff, and I did take more lessons later as a married mom, to play catch-up, and prepare to be a teacher for reals)

I accompanied a lot, and got my break subbing for a teacher at a school on maternity leave. I was also playing for chapel, and now consider myself a teacher who shares piano.

Because the school arranges everything, parents have yet to ask for my resume. I accompanied violin students last year, and often play duets/accompaniments with my students.

But, as my sig says, I am "learning as I teach."

Finding this forum was a blessing.

I have yet to start a year without a new idea- whether it is a parent info sheet, new articles to share, a cool way to add music history, watching example videos of lesson teaching (hearkening back to watching my classmates back then on Saturday mornings) making up my own worksheets, arranging simple pieces by request for a few students, visiting music stores and estate sales for musical discoveries...
basically, the year I have nothing new to learn and give will be the year I need a sabbatical.

My son is high school level all-state jazz band member, and somehow that gives me street cred.

I know a a guy with a doctorate in music who lives and breathes a certain composer, and teaches only to make money to travel to his performances. He is a phenomenal pianist, but is not a good teacher until a student has proved they are dedicated- can write and play scales, understand chord structure, sight reads well, etc...

He does NOT use an assignment notebook and bans parents from lessons. he walks around with a cup of coffee in his hand and mutters to the student. He expects them to WORK during lessons, and lets them make the marks and remember on their what to work on.

But a beginner with this "Billy Goat Gruff?" No way. And he admits it.

Me? I give stickers and we march out rhythms and I allow parents in. I use colored pencils and provide extra pages, including music games, and I get hugs in the hallway.

Each teacher has their own methods, even if using the same books.

I have two advanced boys that I have to play it more serious with. One had a previous teacher that let him speed up for the harder passages, so he thought playing faster meant better. I have had him work in "Super Slo Mode" and he is learning that he still has stuff to learn!

He was great at memorizing, and had a good repertoire, but could not tell me WHY he was doing something, or WHAT it is called. So I have pulled out old unused theory books found at sales and we have been working. He enjoys the challenge, and is eagerly working now on just this week assigned "The Charlie Brown Christmas song"- NOT a simplified version.

But what is MY level? I sight read the Christmas song. I can hand write the circle of fifths, and explain it. I accompanied a college choir. I am still learning, but I am not signed up for any competitions. I have retained several students. They are happy, progressing, and enjoying learning.

That is not so concrete a thing to measure.

Anyway, it is almost my bedtime and I have rambled on way way too much.

Thanks for your time!

Good night!








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Hi Rimshot, I'm in my third year and I have not yet attained my formal qualifications... but to be totally objective, I would send my children to an undergraduate providing that they are good teachers.

Let me give a you a few case studies - my first singing teacher wasn't any good and he was doing a music degree (same institution that I go to), he never prepared for lessons, he always ran out of things to teach, he knew nothing about classical repertoire (when I was majorly interested in classical repertoire) and he never really cared for the holistic musician (theory and musicianship were aspects that were never touched on in his lessons).

My first piano teacher - she had a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Piano Performance at the same institution that I go to (I go to a place that is known to be extremely elite). She was terrible.

My third singing teacher - had a B Mus Ed, Dip Mus, MCA and PhD, all in music and singing and piano - also a bad teacher, bad teacher with lots of degrees tacked on his name!

Degrees don't mean everything. I know a great teacher who has not yet attained her formal piano qualifications but she reads about pedagogy in her spare time, she really, really cares about her students, she gives them extra time and she is very dedicated. I know another guy, double major in Music and Engineering, he has not yet gotten his formal qualifications but he is a great teacher, he is very upfront and honest with his students and he does a lot of reading and preparing in his spare time.

My former boss - did an arts degree with a major in music and English... and after she did her degree, she didn't upgrade her qualifications, she just stopped there.

I'm working towards a degree... I'm in my third year so I am 3/4 through my music degree. I have about four years of experience under my belt and I know that there is a lot more that I could learn. I am aware that there are so many different ways to learn, so many different approaches, so many different aspects that I still need to learn and apply to my own work. I spend a lot of time reading about learning and music education, and I take courses on technique and music education. I go and listen to music lectures in my own time, I read and prepare and plan for lessons ... and most of all, I have my piano teacher's backing - he's there to help me, to answer my questions, to give me advice or a second opinion. I've had my share of crappy qualified teachers and I don't want to repeat the same mistakes that they made.

I think sometimes that's the other problem with degrees - we stop learning after that, no professional development workshops, no conferences, no masterclasses, no piano lessons - I think a good teacher strives to apply what s/he learned every day, and to learn something new, to keep knowledge fresh and exciting.


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