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#1513363 - 09/11/10 01:22 PM Re: Polish teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: theJourney]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: theJourney

Is it appropriate for mentors to possessively "stake claim" to their mentees?


This is always a very fine line a piano teacher must tread. What's the difference between having a teacher-student relationship - where the teacher cares about the student's overall well-being as well as their progress in the subject matter being taught/learned - and "staking a claim" on a student?

There have been times when I have felt that the best thing for a particular student is to quit lessons or go with another teacher. I also happen to agree that in most cases, having two teachers on the same subject matter at the same time is detrimental to the development of the student. I do not feel that this is "staking a claim" as if the student is property to be had or lost, but thinking solely of the welfare of the student. In which case, the OP should be glad that the student did make a choice as to who they wanted to study with, rather than trying to please two teachers who may have conflicting suggestions.
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#1513370 - 09/11/10 01:32 PM Re: Polish teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Elissa Milne]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne

Maybe these points have not been addressed in this thread because the better informed a parent (or student) is the less likely they will be 'lured' away, but rather they will seek their own new path. Admittedly, it is possible that the teacher who is being left behind might experience the change as 'poaching' or 'stealing' but from my experience I very much doubt it.

Parents and students who are well-informed and are making choices about musical education from knowledge rather than from hope (!) will tend to go about things in a different way. That is to say, the teacher will experience the change as being based on the needs of the students rather than the promises of another teacher.

Further, informed parents will not find teachers who make promises particularly convincing - good teachers simply cannot promise a specific result (they know that their good teaching is only one part of the equation), but good teachers can promise specific processes or approaches. If a parent tells the current teacher that they are transferring to a teacher who works in a different way then the current teacher will rarely feel that the student has been 'stolen' - the parent/student is genuinely seeking a new approach.


Thank you, Elissa, that is exactly what I was after.

An additional thought: At this stage, the teacher (or any professional) who says "I don't know." about something may in my eyes be much more knowledgeable than the one who says "I know everything and I can do everything."

If we, "the market" wink , lack knowledge and awareness, that skews "the market place". Teachers are then forced to show "results" when musicianship is actually a process - the virtuoso-seeming performance with its flashiness, high grades in exams which may not mean much, zipping through the grades. The teacher who seems to lag while building foundations so that the student will eventually have the makings of a musician is doing work that is largely invisible. Say a student is encouraged to come up with her own interpretation - it will not be as polished and impressive as what the teacher can patch together by rote. Or say the student is learning to read: does not show up in competitions. Teachers are forced to compete in this "marketplace" and we are "the market". If as a group we are uninformed, the whole system would be skewed I would think.


Edited by keystring (09/11/10 01:33 PM)
Edit Reason: got the wink to wink

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#1807786 - 12/17/11 06:58 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
music32 Offline
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#1807823 - 12/17/11 08:13 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5933
Loc: Down Under
Sorry, maybe I'm a bit slow - but what is this for? Is this an update on the OP's thread (quite old)? Is the blog the OP's? Or yours? Are you just drawing attention to your blog? (nothing necessarily wrong with that, but why dig up a whole very long, old thread to do it?) I'm not being critical, just a bit puzzled. I'm certainly not going to trawl through the whole original thread again! laugh
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#1807976 - 12/18/11 08:17 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: currawong]
music32 Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
Posts: 1197
Loc: Berkeley, California
I wanted this as a reference of other teachers who had experienced this problem and therefore linked to the URL of the thread.

I have seen this problem play out (not frequently) thank goodness in my own experience and that of others. And I wondered how teachers handled it.

In our Association, we have the Ethics Code, but it really doesn't address specific behaviors such as I described. In a lot of cases, the parent is the driving force not the outside pressure bearing teacher who wants the student.

I can only say that in these local competitions there could be teachers sniffing around. When students don't win, a very invested parent, often a stage mother (and I know this is a cliche) will feel a desperation about the loss, and think it's the teacher's fault. This launches into a discussion about judges at these events, and their decisions.. a slippery slope.
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#1808028 - 12/18/11 11:36 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
keystring Online   content
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M32, I read the excerpt in your blog, and would like to address the situation where a parent or student (if old enough) explores the possibility of changing teachers through an interview with (a) teacher/s. I intend this to be general, and not about anyone's particular student. This is not a simple thing that can be reduced to questions of loyalty.

First, there would have to be some kind of concern on the parent's part. If there are concerns, then the first step is to talk it out with the existing teacher. There may actually be a problem and in some ways parent & teacher work together anyway. Supposing the child is doing badly because he isn't practicing (like the blog child). Does the parent know this? Is there a reason that the parent knows about which the teacher is in the dark about? Or you could have the parent actually undermining the child without meaning to. Another scenario is where the parent has a wrong idea of "proper advancing", has been told wrong things by other parents. Or the piano's beside the t.v. which is always on, or the child has too many activities, or the family doesn't know how to organize time... Point is: If a problem is perceived, the first step is to go after it with the present teacher to see if there is cause and solution.

Supposing that a parent does go see other teachers because he is uneasy about something. Maybe he did talk to the existing teacher but didn't understand the answer. It may be that the other teacher(s) see signs of not practicing, or some underlying problem which they can word differently. It may be that the parent comes away with a different perspective which can lead to greater collaboration with the existing teacher. In any case, sometimes we need to get another perspective somehow. Working with a teacher when you have almost no knowledge is like looking down a narrow tube hoping that the rest of the picture makes sense. Getting the perspective of other teachers may broaden that picture.

It can also bring confusion. There are conflicting views, poorly understood advice, lack of knowledge that each teacher's view of a specific thing is in the context of a broad approach etc. Taking advice from different sides can create a mess. Changing teachers means that the student has to get used to a different way of doing things (which can be good), work with different material, get used to a different teaching style, and adjust to all that.

If a parent were contemplating teachers, he may still change his mind after interviewing a few. Telling the existing teacher that he is talking to other teachers could create a lot of anxiety and tension in the teacher, and hurt the atmosphere in lessons. It makes more sense to not say anything, quietly listen to what is said. Then if the parent does decide to change teachers, he must courteously inform the teacher way ahead in time, and hopefully thank that teacher.

Students/parents have a right to choose teachers and change teachers and consult teachers, with all the precautions written above that it may be unwise and create confusion. It is not a "betrayal". However the act of changing teachers is a serious step which can have consequences for the student. If there is a problem with the student not practicing or other negative attitudes, then it's running away from the problem and nothing gets fixed.

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#1808059 - 12/18/11 12:25 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: keystring]
music32 Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
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Loc: Berkeley, California
I appreciate your thoughtful and conscientious response. In my blog I was spotlighting two true to life situations that were to the extreme. A little insight about the first. That parent had abruptly left another teacher at the University, NOT informing him, came to the next teacher, who thought the student had informed the prior teacher that she had transferred, only learn to learn a year later that he was outraged by what happened and was ignorant. A pattern set in motion? The parent then did the same thing with the new teacher.. but I must say, the teacher who showed up at the competition knew how upset the parent was by the loss at the event. And capitalized on it. The parent laid blame on the teacher without rhyme or reason.
The former teacher, frankly was even in the dark for a number of MONTHS as to why the student left.. but as it played out this was a very inconsiderate mother with an enabling teacher. There are unethical behaviors by teachers, that cause many people a lot of duress, but yes, often the parents are participants.

In the second anecdote.. money was owed the former teacher.. and the manipulation of the prospective one was glaring. I happened to have been the teacher who did some investigating of the situation, and the former teacher was grateful to know what was going on.

The point being that everyone deserves respect and consideration on both sides of the spectrum..
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#1808074 - 12/18/11 12:51 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
music32 Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
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Loc: Berkeley, California
Just to add, that many music teachers experience bouts of disrespect not just from some parents, but from other teachers who might behave unethically. Most of this discussion is shared privately among colleagues and swept under the rug. The kind of duress it causes can be significant. I think it needs airing.

Transfers occur all the time, but the respect accorded the teacher being left should be taken seriously.

To diverge a bit, I had an experience where a student just didn't show up for her scheduled lesson. And time passed with no word from the parents. Meanwhile the next student had called, and asked if he could come earlier, which naturally could not be explored because of the up in the air situation with the prior student. One thing led to another and the day passed, with still no word from parent. This was not the first time such happened.

And I'm sure other teachers have experienced the same.
When I finally e mailed the parents, I was handed a flimsy excuse wrapped up with it's really no big deal. "We'll try to notify you next time."

Where's the respect for a teacher's time.

Now all this led to a conflict between myself and mom. Her solution was getting another teacher, despite the great progress the child had made, particularly in the past few months.

Come easy go easy.. just passing through.

Until and when there is more respect for what we do, these rifts are going to play out..

I haven't had this experience with my adult students or with mothers who are very involved with their children's studies and make it their business to have a positive dialog with the teacher.
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#1808249 - 12/18/11 05:40 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: music32

In the second anecdote.. money was owed the former teacher.. and the manipulation of the prospective one was glaring. I happened to have been the teacher who did some investigating of the situation, and the former teacher was grateful to know what was going on.

I took a look at your link and would have ignored it except for your writing style, which gave me a few chuckles.

Because of that, I got as far as someone owing $300, then "moving on" to a new teacher, who I assume was about to get "played".

The answer is, as you say, "respect on both sides". There usually is. As always it is a tiny minority of people who cause almost 99% of almost all the problems.
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#1808251 - 12/18/11 05:40 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: keystring]
music32 Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
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It's funny you should mention the issue of a parent or prospective student telling the teacher she is considering that there are other interviews in progress. A few years ago a beginning adult piano student made it a point, before she came for a consult with me, to tell me how many other teachers she was interviewing, and that she would ultimately let me know of her decision after we met and she compared all the other teachers. The obvious response from me was I was not interested. Imagine if the roles were reversed and we told a beginning student that we had a bunch of others to interview, yadda..
That's different than meeting with the student and making a decision to accept, etc.
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#1808253 - 12/18/11 05:45 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: music32
It's funny you should mention the issue of a parent or prospective student telling the teacher she is considering that there are other interviews in progress. A few years ago a beginning adult piano student made it a point, before she came for a consult with me, to tell me how many other teachers she was interviewing, and that she would ultimately let me know of her decision after we met and she compared all the other teachers. The obvious response from me was I was not interested.

When students think they are "trying me out", I explain to them that *I* am deciding whether or not *I* want to work with *them. laugh
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#1808279 - 12/18/11 06:34 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
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Loc: CA
I always assume that students that interview with me are also exploring other teachers. It has to be the right fit on both sides. When I conclude an interview and I think we would be a good fit, I tell them what times I have available, but then tell them to discuss it at home and contact me by a certain date to let me know if they would like to start lessons with me. That gives them private time to discuss any issues they might have.

However, if I perceive they wouldn't be a good fit, I say so then and there and give them the names of several other teachers if they don't already have them.
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#1808324 - 12/18/11 08:31 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
liszt85 Offline
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Registered: 08/26/08
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Originally Posted By: music32
It's funny you should mention the issue of a parent or prospective student telling the teacher she is considering that there are other interviews in progress. A few years ago a beginning adult piano student made it a point, before she came for a consult with me, to tell me how many other teachers she was interviewing, and that she would ultimately let me know of her decision after we met and she compared all the other teachers. The obvious response from me was I was not interested.


I don't understand the huge egos on display here. Just as much the teacher needs to have the right to decide whether or not to accept the student, the student has the same right to decide whether or not this teacher is a good fit (you're not offering to teach the student for free, are you? If so, I can understand the sentiment "beggars can't also be choosers" but that is most certainly not the case here, I would think). The only way that can be done is to take demo lessons with a certain number of teachers and then make the decision.
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#1808403 - 12/18/11 11:30 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: liszt85]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: liszt85

I don't understand the huge egos on display here.

Be specific. WHICH are the huge egos? If you have a bone to pick with a teacher, name the teacher. smile
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#1808445 - 12/19/11 12:59 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
However, if I perceive they wouldn't be a good fit, I say so then and there and give them the names of several other teachers if they don't already have them.

How quickly can you tell if the student is not a good fit? There are some students that I took within the past year who I thought would be perfectly matched with my teaching style. A couple of them didn't last a month! I think some subtle problems really don't surface until several months into lessons. And just recently I'm seeing more and more problems with bad parents (poor discipline, lack of organization, lack of punctuality) than bad students.
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#1808448 - 12/19/11 01:04 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
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Loc: CA
I score way off the deep end on personality tests in the category of intuition. I just have a sixth sense. It has much less to do with teaching style (that I can adapt) than with sheer personality. I've rarely misjudged it.
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#1808449 - 12/19/11 01:07 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: liszt85]
AZNpiano Offline
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: liszt85
I don't understand the huge egos on display here.

Really? I don't feel that way at all.

In my experience, these "teacher shoppers" are also "teacher hoppers." They are never satisfied with any teacher. When I interview a student and her parents tell me that they've gone through seven other teachers before reaching me, that would most definitely raise a red flag for me.

Either that, or steady students have become rare. Maybe I should be glad that I have students who have been studying with me for 7 or more years continuously.
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#1808515 - 12/19/11 08:39 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
Jeani-Martini Offline
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Registered: 11/20/11
Posts: 42
Loc: Land of Astro Turf, CA
If my student wants to study with someone else, they can go for it. If they don't wanna be there, I don't want 'em there.

Student has two teachers, me and another? Ok, then that student will still play by my rules while in my studio. Good luck juggling those two chain saws, lol


And I'm a big fan of resurrected threads. cool
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#1808526 - 12/19/11 08:58 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
keystring Online   content
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There was a specific scenario:
An adult beginner was preparing to take piano lessons for the first time. She wanted to meet with several teachers in order to decide who she would study with. She was honest and said this was her intention, and because of it she was denied an interview. If she was willing to pay each of the teachers for that interview, it seems both reasonable and prudent. Lessons involve a long term commitment, a fair amount of money over several years, and a close interaction with one professional weekly over that time. Furthermore, the student has to make a daily commitment. An hour of her time every single day is governed by what that teacher will have her do, and her success or failure is largely contingent on those instructions. That is quite an investment.

You don't throw yourself at things like that. Someone who steps into lessons with care, making a firm decision on who to work with which is based on something is also likely to commit because they know why they are there. Acting on impulse, or going with the first teacher that you see and then feeling obligated to go ahead with it because you had that one lesson, I don't see this as leading to as strong a commitment.

In any case I don't see anything unreasonable. If there was something in the tone of voice or manner over the phone that suggested that teachers are a commodity and the customer is king, that would be something else. But I also find that when lay people call me for my services, they can be pretty awkward. If you have never taken lessons before, and especially being an adult and maybe feeling weird about it, that us awkwardness-plus.

Do teachers here really feel it is wrong for a prospective student to want to see several teachers (paid interview / first lesson) before committing to lessons with one? I am not talking about taking lessons with several teachers at once, or "teacher hopping", but as part of the decision making process.

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#1808558 - 12/19/11 10:27 AM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
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Loc: CA
I think it's the smart thing to do. I actually don't charge for my interviews -- never occurred to me. I have taken single lessons from various teachers over the years (made it clear this was a one-time coaching thing), but I definitely know which one of those I would choose for a longer-term commitment.
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#1808613 - 12/19/11 12:40 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Gary D.]
music32 Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
Posts: 1197
Loc: Berkeley, California
thumbs up to that--
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#1808616 - 12/19/11 12:45 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: AZNpiano]
music32 Offline
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Registered: 01/07/07
Posts: 1197
Loc: Berkeley, California
Amen! In many instances the child is basically punished by the parent.. just as an example.. where he or she can't get the 8 or 9 year old to the lessons on time. . or the parent FORGETS there's a lesson at all. I have seen everything.


Edited by music32 (12/19/11 12:45 PM)
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#1808641 - 12/19/11 01:29 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Originally Posted By: music32
Amen! In many instances the child is basically punished by the parent.. just as an example.. where he or she can't get the 8 or 9 year old to the lessons on time. . or the parent FORGETS there's a lesson at all. I have seen everything.

It's a three-party proposition, and if any corner of the triangle is mooshy - student, parent, or teacher - then it can't hold its shape. smile

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#1808661 - 12/19/11 01:59 PM Re: Polish teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
D4v3 Offline
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Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 501
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Here's what I think happened. The Dad thought that the other teacher was as good as or better than you. If he thought they were better than you, then you need to do more about displaying your value. I had a piano teacher who had pictures of her performing with orchestras in the room she taught. Very effective. Im not talking about throwing it in their face every day but ... I hope you get my point.

If he thought you were equal to the other teacher then you could work more on creating more of a personal relationship with the parents and kids; more small talk, personal interest to make them sticky. Otherwise when someone they percieve to be the same value as you, has a more personal magnetic pull to them, you will be shown the door.

Also, if you have rules that parents think are really restrictive they may see taht as a detractor and go for someone of the same value who is more customer friendly.


Edited by D4v3 (12/19/11 02:02 PM)
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#1808675 - 12/19/11 02:27 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring

Do teachers here really feel it is wrong for a prospective student to want to see several teachers (paid interview / first lesson) before committing to lessons with one? I am not talking about taking lessons with several teachers at once, or "teacher hopping", but as part of the decision making process.

I think that any student should be free to pick me or not pick me as a teacher. I also think that I should have the right to decide not to work with a student.

However, where do we draw the line between who is and who is not a "teacher-hopper"?
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#1808695 - 12/19/11 02:43 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Gary D.]
D4v3 Offline
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Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 501
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: keystring

Do teachers here really feel it is wrong for a prospective student to want to see several teachers (paid interview / first lesson) before committing to lessons with one? I am not talking about taking lessons with several teachers at once, or "teacher hopping", but as part of the decision making process.

I think that any student should be free to pick me or not pick me as a teacher. I also think that I should have the right to decide not to work with a student.

However, where do we draw the line between who is and who is not a "teacher-hopper"?


I suspect that you may know what I will answer, but I say it anyway. Personal preference. For me it would be when I try to teach something and the child then counter's with what the other teacher is telling them to do and how it does not fit with your method. Then thats when I tell them they need to decide which method is best.
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#1808698 - 12/19/11 02:45 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Gary D.]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: liszt85

I don't understand the huge egos on display here.

Be specific. WHICH are the huge egos? If you have a bone to pick with a teacher, name the teacher. smile


I have no bone to pick with any teacher here. I'm only surprised at the opinion expressed here that students shouldn't interview many teachers and if they tell you that you are one of the many teachers they have been trying out, you immediately tell them that you aren't interested. This view is absurd to me! It really does reflect a huge ego problem. Maybe I understood you guys wrong? If so, please clarify if this is not what you meant.

PS: I am not talking about maintaining two teachers simultaneously without telling either teacher. I don't agree with that. However, I absolutely think that the student has the right to shop for teachers just as much right the teacher has to accept/reject the student based on perceived fit.


Edited by liszt85 (12/19/11 02:46 PM)
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#1808708 - 12/19/11 02:58 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: music32]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1489
Originally Posted By: music32
A few years ago a beginning adult piano student made it a point, before she came for a consult with me, to tell me how many other teachers she was interviewing, and that she would ultimately let me know of her decision after we met and she compared all the other teachers. The obvious response from me was I was not interested.


I don't really understand this attitude. I think it is absolutely essential to meet with a variety of teachers and take your pick amongst them. Music study is a very precarious thing, and you are putting your artistic growth in the hands of one individual, so you had better take care to be meticulous in your screening process. So what if another teacher happens to be more compatible with the student than you? How would they have know that unless they played for both you you? At Juilliard, for instance, students are usually assigned TWO teachers, and there is a "trial" period at the beginning of each semester for students to have lessons with several teachers. As a matter of fact, I would go as far to say that I would be more skeptical of the student who was *not* considering several teachers. It sounds like the adult student was just being honest about it.

This is, of course, completely different from playing for other people after you have already started studying with somebody behind their back...


Edited by Opus_Maximus (12/19/11 02:59 PM)

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#1808717 - 12/19/11 03:09 PM Re: Polish teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: D4v3]
music32 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/07/07
Posts: 1197
Loc: Berkeley, California
I wish I could agree with these statements, but it does not always follow that having CDs, videos, concert performances, pics on stage, will impress parents. If you teach in a less cosmopolitan area, some of the parents are more interested in whether you can give the flavor of the week piece to their kids, like rock, popular, you name it. In some cases it's a social connection. The friends have this or that teacher.. so let's get in with the network. Some teachers with 50 wall to wall students may not be nearly as skilled as players or even teachers as someone with the fancy credentials. Sad, but true.
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#1808720 - 12/19/11 03:10 PM Re: Teacher stealing my student - UPDATE [Re: Dark Dragon]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
I think folks are confusing the issues here. The OP is talking about a beginner who is shopping for a piano teacher. This is very different than a Juilliard student picking a better match for a professor. The Juilliard student would be in a much better position to know which teacher is a better fit for him/her. The beginner student would just go with the intangibles like "I like her better" or "he looks mean" or "she sounds too strict."
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