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#1685741 - 05/27/11 09:37 PM Warming up or going for coffee?
polyphasicpianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
About a year ago my piano instructor started giving me 10 minutes (and sometimes a bit more) to warm up before she actually started the lesson. My lessons are at 4:00 and last 1 hour. So what happens is I enter the room at 4:00 and she leaves and returns 10 or 15 minutes minutes later, but the lesson still ends at 5:00. Because she started this so casually and I don't wear a watch, I did not notice at first. Then when I did notice it, it took a couple weeks for me to figure out why she was always so tardy.

Now, before every lesson I am in the practice rooms of the conservatory for about 2 hours, sometimes more, practising. So I don't need time to warm up my hands. The idea of telling her that I wanted to start the lessons on time seemed a little embarrassing, so instead I figured I would just sit quietly at the piano and upon not hearing me play she would get the message, but she didn't. One day she walked in and said "I give you this time so you can warm up your hands." I replied that I knew that but that I always practice before the lesson. I thought, "okay, everything is solved now." Wrong. She did it again at the next lesson, and then the one after that. Finally I told her I want to start the lessons on time from now on (not in a mean way), and, oddly, she seemed a little peeved at this.

My question is: as a instructor, is it appropriate for her to allocate this 10 minutes of warm up as part of my 60min lesson? Lessons are not cheap, and she knows I have a difficult time with money on account of university. It just seems like I am paying for her to take a 10 minute coffee break. And how necessary is the warm-up really when the first thing she has her students do during the actual lesson is go through the various exercises (scales, arpeggios, etc.) she has assigned?

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#1685745 - 05/27/11 09:42 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
She is behaving inappropriately. You have every right to expect your full 60 minutes. If she needs a coffee break, she should schedule it in.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1685751 - 05/27/11 10:10 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3498
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
I've been noticing a lot of threads lately about teachers who take lots of personal liberties while teaching. Let's just make something absolutely clear: The teacher should be 100% focussed on you and your lesson for the entire duration of the lesson. Unless they are choking, they shouldn't even be getting up for a glass of water. Some of these teachers lately...texting while teaching, having a sandwich, taking money while you "warm up" your hands... it's disgraceful. These are not real teachers, these are mercenaries who have eyes only for the money and not the craft and duty of educating. It's just a pity that so many people feel so anxious about confronting these unacceptable behaviours. These people really need to be set straight on what professional behaviour looks like.

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#1685786 - 05/27/11 11:26 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
survivordan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/09
Posts: 844
Loc: Ohio
I agree. Your teacher is wasting her time and yours if she gives you 10 minutes to do essentially nothing.
_________________________
Working On:

BACH: Invention No. 13 in a min.
GRIEG: Notturno Op. 54 No. 4
VILLA-LOBOS: O Polichinelo

Next Up:

BACH: Keyboard Concerto in f minor

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#1685961 - 05/28/11 09:28 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: ando]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ando
Unless they are choking, they shouldn't even be getting up for a glass of water.

Does this apply to the student as well? Does this mean if a student requests a glass of water, I should say no? (I've always gladly gotten them one in the past) or what if they request an urgent bathroom break?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1685967 - 05/28/11 09:38 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Brinestone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 350
I disagree about the glass of water. When I am teaching, I am talking so much that I often begin to lose my voice a bit, so I grab a glass of water very quickly. I've also had students ask for one, and I don't mind offering it. It takes *maybe* one minute away from the lesson. By "often," I mean I do this about once every two weeks, and not always with the same student.

I do try to hold it if I have to go to the bathroom, though, or wait for a late student.
_________________________
Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC

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#1685972 - 05/28/11 09:48 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3498
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Yes, I agree it's fine to have a glass of water, as long as the glass and a jug are in the room with you. I was talking about leaving the room to do such a thing. That costs valuable minutes from the lesson. Of course, if the student requests to go to the bathroom, that is a different matter. It's their lesson time to waste.

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#1685978 - 05/28/11 09:54 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: ando]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ando
Yes, I agree it's fine to have a glass of water, as long as the glass and a jug are in the room with you. I was talking about leaving the room to do such a thing. That costs valuable minutes from the lesson. Of course, if the student requests to go to the bathroom, that is a different matter. It's their lesson time to waste.

Not necessarily. The parents are paying for the lesson, not the kids. Fortunately, I don't have to leave the room to fulfill their wishes or to get myself a glass of water if my throat runs dry.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1685987 - 05/28/11 10:06 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3498
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: ando
Yes, I agree it's fine to have a glass of water, as long as the glass and a jug are in the room with you. I was talking about leaving the room to do such a thing. That costs valuable minutes from the lesson. Of course, if the student requests to go to the bathroom, that is a different matter. It's their lesson time to waste.

Not necessarily. The parents are paying for the lesson, not the kids. Fortunately, I don't have to leave the room to fulfill their wishes or to get myself a glass of water if my throat runs dry.


Not all students' lessons are paid for by parents. If a child is distracted by the need to go to the toilet, I'm not going to stop them. I will tell them to go beforehand next time.

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#1686046 - 05/28/11 12:21 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11550
Loc: Canada
All students invest their time and effort into lessons, regardless of who pays the money. It starts with practicing in preparation for the lesson. In the lesson a teacher both gives feedback on what has been practiced, and input on what will be practiced the next time round. Both past and future practice sessions are affected. The student is also investing his time by his physical presence and his attention. Money is only one investment, and it may be the lesser one.

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#1686079 - 05/28/11 01:25 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
All you can do is ask the teacher to give you the full 60 minutes. You obviously need to be quite clear with this. "I would like my piano lesson to include 60 minutes on instruction, not 50, since I come having already warmed-up." If they will not do that, the choice is up to you whether to leave or stay. You can't always change others, but you can change yourself.
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#1686088 - 05/28/11 01:39 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
My point, which may be too subtle for a forum, is that teachers don't need to constantly hover to be effective teachers. My ears work fine whether I'm standing next to the student looking intensely at their hands, or standing back, listening to the overall playing. I can pick up a glass of water without losing context of what the student is doing. In fact, by stepping back, I may pick up issues I might have missed close up.

But there's a larger point to be considered (and this is not to rationalize in anyway the boorish behavior of a teacher who leaves the room for ten minutes during lesson time, except for a bone fide emergency) and that point is that no one, whether a factory worker, a white collar worker plodding through stacks of paperwork at a desk, or any professional, can stay 100% focused 100% of the time. A teacher can give a 45 min lesson, but charge for a 55 min lesson, giving themselves a 10 min break, which, if they are truly focused, they will need periodically through the day.

In the end, the student must pay for more than just the teacher's teaching time, which includes items such as billing, planning, order materials, studio rent, instrument upkeep, utilities, etc., etc. The student must pay for the business' overall operation, of which the teaching time of the teacher is just a part.

FWIW, we've had major discussions on this topic over the years; I'm not sure how easy it is to find the previous discussions, but if you can, there are many valuable insights worth a review.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1686094 - 05/28/11 01:57 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3498
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I can pick up a glass of water without losing context of what the student is doing.


Come now, John, don't be obtuse. I already clarified the statement about the water. Unless you think you can leave the room for a while, locate a glass and pour water in the kitchen and be equally attentive....

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#1686098 - 05/28/11 02:09 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
That's not really my point at all. It's an unrealistic expectation to believe that a teacher can give you 100% for 60 minutes straight.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1686102 - 05/28/11 02:19 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3498
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
That's not really my point at all. It's an unrealistic expectation to believe that a teacher can give you 100% for 60 minutes straight.


Maybe not, but you should give it a red hot go!

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#1686106 - 05/28/11 02:29 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I have no idea what that means!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1686113 - 05/28/11 02:50 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
Ando, we can argue all day what a teacher "should" do. Whether the teacher does it is quite up to them. And whether or not you pay them as your teacher is up to you.
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#1686114 - 05/28/11 02:52 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11550
Loc: Canada
Any professional aims to give 100% and the actual output will vary. The bottom line is actually giving one's best. However, stating that a lesson is 60 minutes, and consistently giving 50 minutes by taking off for 10 is dishonest. Trust is necessary in a teaching situation. The fact is that if the university or college imposes back to back 60 minute lessons, then the teacher is in an impossible situation. Nobody can concentrate fully without a break at that level for so long. I'd wager that the 10 minute break actually allows her to put in her full concentration for the remaining 50. The real problem is that 50 minutes are being presented as 60 minutes. Does she have a choice?

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#1686123 - 05/28/11 03:15 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
That's correct and it's termed an "academic hour." You get 50 minutes of actual lesson time, but they are scheduled hourly. Many students get surprised as they first encounter this terminology. I know I was. I offer 50 min lessons and teach "full bore" for 50 min, but I schedule breaks in every two or three lessons. As I get older, my body is telling me that I need more breaks. Dang it.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1687013 - 05/30/11 10:14 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Ariette Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 30
Loc: South Carolina
Well, I must be "bad". I always have my students begin with scales, chord inversions, arpeggios, etc. for warm-up. I don't care if they "warmed up" before coming, I want to hear them. I have perfect-pitch, and I have actually gone a few steps outside of the studio for 2-3 minutes for a bottle of water. I can still hear every note played.
I don't think I'm cheating any students - I spend additional hours in the local music store selecting just the right pieces for each of their 10 piece Guild, festival, and MTA programs. I'm a counselor for 3 junior music clubs, of which they are all members, etc. Just finished preparing and attending 3 seniors for final recitals. I'm sure all of you who care enough to post here, have never cheated a student smile

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#1687039 - 05/30/11 10:43 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Michael Steen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 366
Loc: Sciota, Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
That's correct and it's termed an "academic hour." You get 50 minutes of actual lesson time, but they are scheduled hourly.


This is a very good point. It's been nearly 40 years since I was in college, but the academic hour is a time-honored tradition going back God knows how long.
I don't think the OP should really feel cheated unless the teacher is mentally absent or otherwise occupied during the actual time she's there. If he gets 50 good solid minutes of instruction and interaction, that's probably what to expect.
This might be differenct in a private home, but he mentioned the word "conservatory," which leads me to think this is a more academic setting, in which case the "academic hour" probably applies.
_________________________
I'm getting there--note by note.

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#1687211 - 05/30/11 04:17 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
scotpgot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/26/10
Posts: 128
I would like to say that I respectfully disagree. Granted, my experience in the academic setting is fairly limited, only having attended four years in a preparatory conservatory and then four years at University, but I've never heard of an "academic hour" in a lesson setting. In fact, my experience as a student suggests quite the opposite. MOST of my lessons ran over five, ten, sometimes even fifteen minutes, as professors can afford not to schedule lessons back-to-back-to-back. If we were still working on something, we kept on working. Now, perhaps it took me 75 minutes to learn something that normally could be taught in 50, but that is a separate discussion.

I also think it's false that an hour is "too long" to concentrate fully on a single task. For myself, practice sessions normally go at least twice that, not getting up for more than two or three minutes. Similarly, I've had numerous lessons, again as a student (though it was never the norm), that were scheduled for TWO full hours. Yes, we were both exhausted by the end, but it is certainly possible.

All that said, taking a minute to get a glass of water or arriving five minutes late letting the student "warm up", in my opinion, is not an issue. However, consistently taking 10-15 minutes off the front of an hour every lesson IS an issue.

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#1687218 - 05/30/11 04:38 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Hiraeth8 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 9
Loc: Uk
my lessons are always two hours and both myself and my teacher concentrate for the full time, sometimes longer smile

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#1687261 - 05/30/11 05:51 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Different strokes for different folks. I often grab something to drink in between students, but it takes no longer than the one student learving the studio and the other unpacking their materials and getting organized. There is always a little "dead space" between lessons. That's just the nature of things.

However, 10 minutes is way out of line.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1687433 - 05/30/11 10:48 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: scotpgot]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Could it be your institution has scuttled the "academic hour?" I've run into it more than once, at different institutions.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1687438 - 05/30/11 10:52 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: Hiraeth8]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: KatrinaM
my lessons are always two hours and both myself and my teacher concentrate for the full time, sometimes longer smile

And then your teacher teaches another student for another two hours right on your heels? Followed by another? And, with all due respect, how do you know what's going on in your teacher's mind?

Bear in mind, we're not justifying boorish behavior; if a teacher offers a lesson for an hour, a student has the right to expect the teacher to be present for the hour. We are offering the OP some ideas to consider about what may be happening. We often get just one side of a story here, and the other side is not able to defend itself or clarify their position.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1687469 - 05/30/11 11:44 PM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
polyphasicpianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
The comments are very insightful and thought provoking, I just thought I would mention and clarify some things.

First a clarification, my instructor gives me the 10-15 minutes of warm-up time, but when she comes back into the room she asks to hear my scales, arpeggios, ect, nonetheless. It is not as though she is listening while I warm-up. In fact I have frequently heard her conversing with other instructors during this time.

Second, I am her first student of the day so she can't be taking a break because of fatigue.

Third, if she is operating on this "academic hour" she has given no mention of it to me. In fact this is the first I have ever heard of such a thing.

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#1687598 - 05/31/11 07:29 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
I don't know how things are elsewhere in the world, but in the UK the expectation for private music lessons is that the instructor will be fully attentive for the entire period of time for which he or she is paid. OK, we all have to make allowances for calls of nature, but even then a student would not expect the instructor to be absent for more than a minute or two.

In schools the expectation is that an hour's lesson (in any subject) will be a bit shorter than the hour, but I've not seen a single instance (in the UK) of this tradition migrating into the private sector.

Of course one can, in principle, be fully attentive and not be in the same room as the student. But in such a case the student is entitled to an explanation from the instructor how instruction is being carried on.

I appreciate that conventions might be different elsewhere.

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#1687610 - 05/31/11 07:49 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
PPP is the lesson at a university, or a private music school? Do you know what job she comes from before your 4pm lesson? Maybe the institution/school needs to reconsider her starting time if she's in need of a break from another job? I'm just wondering really, it does sound strange!
_________________________

Composers manufacture a product that is universally deemed superfluous—at least until their music enters public consciousness, at which point people begin to say that they could not live without it.
Alex Ross.

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#1687631 - 05/31/11 08:36 AM Re: Warming up or going for coffee? [Re: polyphasicpianist]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: polyphasicpianist
The comments are very insightful and thought provoking, I just thought I would mention and clarify some things.

In fact I have frequently heard her conversing with other instructors during this time.

So, is this some kind of music school? Can you tell us more about the actual venue where you are studying?

From the limited information you've provided, I suspect the time has come to talk with owner/manager of music store/school about their policies, and if this is indeed their policy, you must decide whether to continue or to move on.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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