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#2026924 - 02/04/13 01:38 PM Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students"
P.M. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/27/11
Posts: 18
I have recently hung up posters around my neighborhood advertising my services as a piano teacher. I have included my phone number on there for people to call. Since I have never advertised before (all of it came by word of mouth) I have some questions. I teach young children in my apartment complex out of my apartment. I hung up posters to similar complexes around me and also had my mom hang up posters at her job since she works with many of the parents who live in our complex. I am basically expecting parents of young children to call me since that is who I was advertising to and young children are the majority of the students that I currently teach....but what if I get someone who does not have the best intentions? How can I weed out people who may be looking to harm me, etc? I do not want to invite some random stranger into my house and then have them hurt me in some way.

While this may sound paranoid, I am looking at this realistically and would really appreciate some advice on what to do if I get a call from someone who sounds suspicious.

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#2026951 - 02/04/13 02:24 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Toastie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/10/12
Posts: 210
Loc: UK
I think it's unlikely, as I genuinely doubt someone dangerous would be seeking out a piano teacher in order to go to their house to attack them. But the answer is you just don't know. There is an element of trust involved I guess. You could try having someone in the house with you when you meet students for the first time. Though it is your absolute right to turn away anyone who you don't feel comfortable with after you speak to them or meet them - you just need to have a few ready prepared excuses about your waiting list, or the fact you're only interested in teaching children currently or whatever. Practise them first.
_________________________
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#2026961 - 02/04/13 02:48 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5399
Loc: Orange County, CA
Do an extended phone interview before you let anyone into your home. The more specific your questions are, the more easily you can weed out the suspicious customers.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2026964 - 02/04/13 02:52 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
catpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/12
Posts: 55
This might be weird, but I google every single one of my students/students' parents before I contact them. I get most of my requests online so I have their name before speaking with them. I'm a bit paranoid about it too, but I'm a young woman going into people's houses and I just like to make sure people are who they say they are. (Usually nothing weird comes up, but there was one woman who came up in a very recent article about stealing $1,000 of clothes at a local high end clothing store - not someone I would want to work for.)

Even though 99.9% of the time people have good intentions, it's good to play it safe however you can. There is a bit of a risk involved for anyone working in people's homes/having people come into your home.

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#2027001 - 02/04/13 04:15 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Chris H. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2844
Loc: UK.
I think it's unlikely that anyone would come for a piano lesson with any other intention than learning the piano. If you are teaching children then anyone turning up is going to have a child with them surely?

Mind you I do sometimes turn away callers who I'm unsure about by telling them I have no space, which is often the case anyway. It's usually the ones who have no time, no instrument or intention to get one or those who sound like terminal teacher hoppers. Last week I had an enquiry from someone who started the conversation by pointing out that there were four other teachers in my area who charged less and also offered free consultations. Sorry, fully booked!
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2027025 - 02/04/13 05:10 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4413
Loc: San Jose, CA
Meet them at Starbucks instead of at your home.
_________________________
Clef


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#2027060 - 02/04/13 06:22 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: Jeff Clef]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
Meet them at Starbucks instead of at your home.


Jeff, you beat me to it. I was going to post the exact same thing.

I would never have the first meeting in my home.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#2027064 - 02/04/13 06:30 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Chris H. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2844
Loc: UK.
Really?

If someone calls to enquiry about lessons you wouldn't seriously expect them to meet you in Starbucks would you? I would think that this would raise suspicions on their part and they would be very unlikely to sign up.

I suppose there is a small element of risk involved but if you worried about things like this too much you would never leave your house. When you think about it there is more risk in taking your child to the home of someone who has put a leaflet up claiming to be a piano teacher. Just saying.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2027098 - 02/04/13 07:40 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: Chris H.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11512
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Chris H.

I suppose there is a small element of risk involved but if you worried about things like this too much you would never leave your house.

There is a difference between going out of the house, and letting people into your house. Even when going out, women have to be more careful than men - that is the sad reality. I think this has all be discussed before, and at the time there was a similar divide where many of the male teachers didn't see a problem - because obviously there isn't one for them. Male teachers have other problems.

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#2027113 - 02/04/13 08:24 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Chris H. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2844
Loc: UK.
Remember that we are talking about someone advertising lessons for children. If a large guy shows up with no child then don't let him in. Don't apartments have a spy hole so you can see who is there before you open the door?

Do you ever let people in to repair an appliance or deliver items or read a meter?

If you meet someone in Starbucks and they seem okay what's to stop them turning nasty once you let them into your house?

I mean, where do you draw the line?
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2027115 - 02/04/13 08:36 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: Chris H.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11512
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Chris H.

I mean, where do you draw the line?

Wherever you think it is safe to draw the line. That is a personal decisions that each of us has to make. In regards to delivery people etc., there is a protocol where they must present clear identification which is also borne out by the home company. Not so long ago a man came to my door claiming to be from the phone company. When I called, they said they had not sent anyone and the door was not opened for him. In this case it was some kind of sales scam, but still.

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#2027156 - 02/04/13 10:09 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
I am a guy, and had a young male student show up for lessons with whom I felt uncomfortable. I have learned to trust those feelings.

After the lesson I Googled him, and found that he had been arrested for a violent crime and was on parole.

On the second lesson (first lesson after Googling him), his hands shook real bad, so bad it was impossible to play the piano; A clear sign he was on speed, most likely meth.

You never know about people nowadays. Women have to be very careful, and men do too.

Originally Posted By: ChrisH
If a large guy shows up with no child then don't let him in.


FYI, some criminals are women, acting alone, or with partners.

By all means trust your feelings, and if you feel that you need to put up a screening barrier (such as holding your first meeting at Starbucks), then by all means do so. Don't be ashamed of being too careful.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#2027165 - 02/04/13 10:44 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
adak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/27/12
Posts: 282
Loc: Canada
Is the OP really small? If not, a normal or big person could always fight the student if they are dangerous. Don't be threatened, they should be scared of you instead of you being scared of them.


Edited by adak (02/04/13 10:45 PM)
_________________________
Casio Privia PX-150


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#2027167 - 02/04/13 10:51 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: rocket88]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5399
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: rocket88
he was on speed, most likely meth.

Wow, there's a first for everything.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2027172 - 02/04/13 11:04 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: AZNpiano]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5190
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: rocket88
he was on speed, most likely meth.

Wow, there's a first for everything.
Yikes! Indeed!

I don't get that... I do keep a low cautionary sense in my head, but rarely there's anything to worry about over here. Plus all my appointments are done out in the public, as a first meeting, thus most problems are eliminating.

This applies to most people, even professional musicians. My studio is a bit withdrawn from public means of transportation, so I usually offer to pick up my guests from the metro station. This means that the final screening is done on the road. If they don't feel comfortable they don't get in the car. If I don't feel comfortable I don't get them in the car.

Of course there's two things that seem to help out:
a. I'm BIG! I'm quite huge, so I don't get the random hassler problems.
b. My online profile is very complete, which helps for those who find me from the internet.
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2027173 - 02/04/13 11:07 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: adak]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5892
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: adak
Is the OP really small? If not, a normal or big person could always fight the student if they are dangerous.
Are you kidding? I don't know about anyone else, but I've never had a physical fight in my life. Who knows what I could do if my life were actually threatened, but to say that I "could always fight the student if they are dangerous" seems pretty far-fetched to me.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#2027191 - 02/04/13 11:38 PM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 464
If I was worried, I would not put up flyers or advertise. Word of mouth is safer. You sound like a young woman living at home with a parent, maybe alone often. I could be wrong, but that is the idea I'm getting. If anything, I'd not have strangers meet you at home for the first time and I would ask a friend to be at the coffee shop at a different table for the interview if you decide to advertise by flyer. You might also consider another person to be in the home for the first home lesson.

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#2027208 - 02/05/13 12:20 AM Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
Meet them at Starbucks instead of at your home.


Originally Posted By: rocket88
Jeff, you beat me to it. I was going to post the exact same thing.
I would never have the first meeting in my home.


Originally Posted By: Chris H.
Really?

If someone calls to enquiry about lessons you wouldn't seriously expect them to meet you in Starbucks would you?


I like the idea of Starbucks, or maybe even Chuck-E-Cheese. You could tell “him” that you wanted to get a good look at him in the daylight first.

Also warn him that you will be “Goggling” him, but only if things go well.

Make certain you use the standard dialog, as in you are looking for a “classical” relationship, but don’t want anything too serious. If he comes forward with something like, “But when do I get ‘to play’,” gently remind him that YOU are the teacher.

Be sure to close the conversation with the fact that you are not looking for a long commitment . . .

OOPS! Wrong Forum . . .
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#2027233 - 02/05/13 01:26 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11512
Loc: Canada
Yes, it is the wrong forum for making fun of people.

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#2027241 - 02/05/13 01:58 AM Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Not making fun of anyone, but the Starbucks idea did capture my imagination . . . and let us not forget Google . . .
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#2027247 - 02/05/13 02:23 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11512
Loc: Canada
Well, that's good to hear. smile

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#2027248 - 02/05/13 02:23 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: LoPresti]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5399
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Not making fun of anyone, but the Starbucks idea did capture my imagination . . . and let us not forget Google . . .

I've googled potential clients before. What's wrong with that? The last two students' parents googled me before they came to have lessons with me. Believe it or not, it is done, not as an invasion of privacy, but a matter of research.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2027265 - 02/05/13 04:03 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Chris H. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2844
Loc: UK.
Well I must say this is all completely new to me. I'm sorry but the idea that a psychopath who meant to harm someone would do so by booking a piano lesson just seems too far fetched. For a start you even have a contact number for them because you have spoken on the phone to begin with. There must be easier ways for them to go about this. Not to mention the fact that at some point you will have to let them into your home in order to start teaching them, what then?

The biggest problem I have with meeting in public is that I can't imagine doing a consultation lesson without having a piano to use. As far as I'm aware Starbucks don't have one.

I think it's very sad that people feel this way but if it really bothers you there are some practical steps you can take to minimise the risk. Not taking adult students is one of them. Like I said you can turn away anyone who shows up without a child for a start. You could set up CCTV and make your students aware that they are being watched. Tell your neighbour when you are teaching and ask them to listen out for anything out of the ordinary or maybe even be around for that first meeting. Also ask lots of questions on the phone, you can tell if someone is serious about lessons even at this stage. But you won't eliminate the risk altogether, I'm afraid it goes with the territory for teachers who work alone out of their own home.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2027294 - 02/05/13 06:44 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3335
Loc: Scotland
It's not a totally ridiculous idea - anyone who is a sociopath will use any excuse to find a victim - request to view a house and get the estate agent alone, etc, etc. For a new adult student I make sure my husband will be at home. PM, can you have a friend or neighbour around for the first lesson? After the first lesson, you have to trust your instincts. Either they are into piano, or they're not.
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#2027314 - 02/05/13 08:13 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: currawong]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3146
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: adak
Is the OP really small? If not, a normal or big person could always fight the student if they are dangerous.
Are you kidding? I don't know about anyone else, but I've never had a physical fight in my life. Who knows what I could do if my life were actually threatened, but to say that I "could always fight the student if they are dangerous" seems pretty far-fetched to me.


No problem. Spring loaded fallboard. Push a button and WHAM! then they're trapped while you call the cops.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2027323 - 02/05/13 08:34 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11353
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
There were times I wasn't sure about meeting a new male adult student. It is a concern for women. I did let my husband know, and made sure he was in the home when I met the new student. Could you possibly bring a male friend with you to the first lesson? They could wait out in the car and once you get in and see what things are like you can text them at an agreed-upon time to let them know all is OK. I would even go so far as to say, "I have my friend waiting for me in the car - you can never be to careful these days!" or something like that.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2027325 - 02/05/13 08:36 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1437
Loc: Australia
I go to teach in the homes of total strangers. Often on the back of nothing more than an email, or maybe a phone call. Never been a problem, nor do I anticipate it ever being one.

If I worried too much about things like that, I would probably never leave the house.

It is entirely possible, that more members of the public, have suffered at the hands of piano teachers, than the other way round laugh
_________________________
Rob

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#2027326 - 02/05/13 08:40 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: Chris H.]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11353
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
Well I must say this is all completely new to me. I'm sorry but the idea that a psychopath who meant to harm someone would do so by booking a piano lesson just seems too far fetched. For a start you even have a contact number for them because you have spoken on the phone to begin with. There must be easier ways for them to go about this. Not to mention the fact that at some point you will have to let them into your home in order to start teaching them, what then?

The biggest problem I have with meeting in public is that I can't imagine doing a consultation lesson without having a piano to use. As far as I'm aware Starbucks don't have one.

I think it's very sad that people feel this way but if it really bothers you there are some practical steps you can take to minimise the risk. Not taking adult students is one of them. Like I said you can turn away anyone who shows up without a child for a start. You could set up CCTV and make your students aware that they are being watched. Tell your neighbour when you are teaching and ask them to listen out for anything out of the ordinary or maybe even be around for that first meeting. Also ask lots of questions on the phone, you can tell if someone is serious about lessons even at this stage. But you won't eliminate the risk altogether, I'm afraid it goes with the territory for teachers who work alone out of their own home.


Perhaps because you are not a woman you can't relate to the fact that we do have something to fear. Most of us cannot defend ourselves nor appear threatening, and if we are trying to make a living at teaching, it's not easy to turn away prospective students. I have to be cautious walking from my studio which is locked form the outside at night to my car parked 50 feet away. I don't live in paranoia, but I do have to be cautious, because if I'm not the consequences could be deadly.

Yes, listen to your gut instincts on the phone interview, which should be somewhat extensive. If you have a weird feeling about the student, DO NOT set them up for a lesson. I've learned to listen to my instincts on this.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2027336 - 02/05/13 09:22 AM Re: Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: P.M.]
Chris H. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2844
Loc: UK.
Morodiene, I can fully relate to your fears. In the same way that I'm sure you can relate to the fact that male teachers might feel uncomfortable being left alone with female students and of course children. There is a slight risk, yes. But in the scheme of things piano teaching isn't up there on the list of risky occupations.

Besides, all the concerned so far have been about women teachers finding themselves alone with an unknown male student. I get that bit. But the OP specifically stated that they were advertising lessons for children so presumably they would never find themselves in that situation.

I would be interested to hear from the OP on the responses so far and whether or not they feel that there has been much practical advice given in this thread other than scaremongering and stories of students turning up on drugs. I would be surprised if they don't go and rip their posters down in fear.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2027352 - 02/05/13 10:04 AM Screening Suspicious Sounding "Students" [Re: AZNpiano]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Not making fun of anyone . . . and let us not forget Google . . .

I've googled potential clients before. What's wrong with that? The last two students' parents googled me before they came to have lessons with me. Believe it or not, it is done, not as an invasion of privacy, but a matter of research.

But -- but -- AZN,

The "research tool" is SEVERELY flawed! A close friend if mine, known for 30 years, shows up as owning and managing a corporation in the mid-West, as an individual designer of advanced heating systems, and as a professor of Macro-Economics at an Ivy League university. In fact, he is NONE of those things, nor has he ever been!

Why wouldn't an intelligent and thinking individual like you use personal references? They have worked well for a few thousand years.

Ed

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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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