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#400055 - 08/23/01 11:07 PM Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Mark L Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/01
Posts: 15
Loc: Ohio, USA
Hi All
My 6 1/2 year old daughter and I have been taking lessons for a year. My daughter is quite talented, and I want her to stay in piano for a long time. Therefore we want the lessons to be fun, and we don't overdue the practicing. We want her to enjoy the piano. We have become friends with our piano teacher who has been a good teacher. She teaches all day every day, and we have an evening time slot. She has always been a moody individual, but until lately has kept her moods in check during my daughter's lesson. Lately though she has been exhibiting a behavior during the lesson that actually has made my wife and I quite uncomfortable. She has been getting upset with my daughter if she makes mistakes. For example, this week my daughter forgot the middle part of a piece, and instead of helping her remember, our teacher just sat there staring at her, waiting for her to figure it out on her own. Now I can see waiting a minute or so, but this went on for 15 minutes literally! My daughter staring at the piano, with the teacher staring at my daughter, and my wife on the couch squirming it made her so uncomfortable (I was out of town that night). My wife called me and felt we needed to switch teachers, as this has happened apparently before when my wife accompanied her to the lesson. She has some personal issues, being a recovering alcoholic and living alone (not that that is necessarily bad, but she has some personal things that i believe bother her from time to time). I think she is burnt out from teaching. When she is good, she's good, but as I said, my daughter is a sensitive type and was quite bothered by the treatment. Is this normal behavior for a teacher and a 6 1/2 year old during lesson? I hve nothing to compare to. Any comments are appreciated. \:\)

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#400056 - 08/23/01 11:12 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Amy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/01
Posts: 433
Loc: Upstate New York
I started when I was that young and my teacher was great! I think that a childs 1st teacher really makes them love or hate the piano. A child that young is not going to be perfect or even near perfect so the teacher should know that. I think that if you daughter continues with that teacher she will not enjoy playing piano for much longer. I reccomend that you switch teachers soon.
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#400057 - 08/24/01 02:02 AM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Joe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/01
Posts: 86
Loc: New Jersey
It's very hard to give advice like that, but on the face of what you say, you can't continue to subject your daughter to that kind of situation. As you said, it's one thing to let a student struggle, they need to do that sometimes. But you have to know when to bail the student out, the struggle needs to be a positive one. It's certainly easy to misjudge the situation, and let the student go too long, but that seems excessive, and if it's recurring, that's bad for your daughter.

You say the Teacher now gets upset when your daughter makes mistakes. I wonder if that's due to influences outside the lesson, or is the teacher somehow dissatisfied (either justly or unjustly) with your daughter's practice or progress. Getting upset over mistakes isn't a great way to handle it, in that case she should be talking to you, the parents about it.

[ August 24, 2001: Message edited by: Joe ]

#400058 - 08/24/01 10:05 AM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
ZeldaHanson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/01
Posts: 276
Loc: Cape Cod, MA, USA
That teacher seems pretty scary...

Did her eyes turn red and her head grow horns during that 15 minutes?
Glenn Gould in regards to music:

The problem begins when one forgets the artificiality of it all, when one neglects to pay homage to those designations that to our minds-to our reflect senses, perhaps-make of music an analyzable commodity. The trouble begins when we start to become so impressed by the strategies of ours systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but a very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it.

#400059 - 08/24/01 12:46 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Allen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/01
Posts: 38
Loc: Detroit Michigan
What are you paying her for? Fifteen miniutes is like, (I do not know what she is chargeing you) but in this part of country it would be around $9 or $10 dollars! I think that is pretty expensive for just staring at a piano and nothing else.

#400060 - 08/24/01 01:23 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
N.P. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 32
Loc: Minnesota
Hi, Mark
From what you described I don't think that teacher has any business teaching anyone less a 6 and 1/2 years old. At that age, children are so impressionable, eager to please and vulnarable. It would be like torture to have to endure such silent treatment. You definitely need a new teacher, one who knows how to teach and guide with gentle but firm hand and not to humiliate. You wouldn't do that to your child. Why are you paying someone else to do it to her/him? I have three children, all of whom had music lessons when they were young. I can tell you that the treatment your child recieved is not normal.

[ August 24, 2001: Message edited by: N.P. ]

#400061 - 08/24/01 01:45 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Susan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 36
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
I agree totally with N.P.; this person has no business teaching, esp. children. Trust me, there are music teachers out there that actually love children, and will nurture their love of music, not make it a stomach-clenching nightmare. Just be grateful that you were able to witness this; if it only happened when you weren't present, you might never know why your child stopped wanting to go to lessons.(which I'm quite sure would happen)

(I'm a parent who has sat in on a lot of kid's music lessons; it should, and can be, absolute joy)

#400062 - 08/24/01 01:53 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
wghornsby Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 201
Loc: KY
That was a great answer, N.P.

I personally have no experience with acceptable teaching styles, but I do know that if I were in that situation, I would have been furious! It makes me mad just thinking about it. In my opinion, you absolutely do not want to have these kinds of negative emotions associated with your child's learning! At the very least I would meet with her and explain what you will and what you will not put up with.

Now I need to cool off........

Let us know how things develop.

#400063 - 08/25/01 06:08 AM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Rachelle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/01
Posts: 38
Loc: singapore
If you child is responding negatively to her teacher, I think that you ought to change immediately. I personally feel that children will associate teachers with piano pyschologically, and may cause her to hate attending lessons, piano and even music. Most of the children gave up learning because they cannot tolerate having such strict teachers, like yelling at them, and even beating. At this age, they should be happy and looking forward to attending lessons, or I can be certain that she will want to stop learning,as learning piano involves many years of hard work, it is diffcult to imagine that she can stick to her in the long run.

#400064 - 08/25/01 02:32 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Dan Offline

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 1031
Loc: Colorado
Hi Mark,

I'm not sure I agree with everyone else's advice on switching teachers. That may indeed be the right thing to do, however the FIRST thing you need to do is talk with your current teacher about what happened.

Perhaps the teacher felt that your daughter would gain confidence in her abilities if she were to "discover" that she could remember the section of the piece by herself? From your description of what happened, it certainly sounds like it ended up being a negative experience. What did your daughter have to say about it? Was there really 15 minutes of silence, or did it just *seem* like 15 minutes? Has this happened only once, or several times?

Even in a straight-forward business relationship with a piano teacher, I feel you should show the decency to talk the situation over with the teacher before making a decision to switch. Since you say this teacher has become a friend I'd say talking is even more important. Would you walk out on a friendship because something happened which you didn't understand? Or would you try to understand things first?

You owe it to yourself, the teacher and your daughter to try to understand what's going on, and why. You don't want to send your daughter the message that it's ok to walk out on people at the first sign of trouble or misunderstanding.

You, your wife and the teacher are the adults in this situation. Talk to one another and figure out what should be done. If switching is the right answer, it will be much better for your daughter to hear that from all 3 of you.


#400065 - 08/26/01 01:46 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Beth Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/21/01
Posts: 151
Loc: Atlanta Area
Bravo, Dan. Excellent response. I agree that a conversation about expectations should preceed any decision to change teachers.

#400066 - 08/27/01 07:36 AM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Samejame Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 808
Loc: NL, Canada

At the level your daughter is playing at right now, there is no excuse for your teacher to be chiding her during a lesson. Irregardless of whatever personal relationships you may have, and what personal baggage she is carrying into the lesson room, those aspects of your teacher's personality should have absolutely nothing to do with your daughter's lesson.

Yes it is OK for a teacher to get upset with a student, but perhaps at a teenage student who is preparing for an exam or recital and has not been practicing, or doesn't know his or her stuff. But a beginning six year old's lesson should be a positive reinforcing experience, and that's all. Dump her, and find a teacher with a recognized program for teaching young children. Don't even consider reconciliation. It should not have happened to start with, and you should remove every opportunity for it to happen again.

"A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" Oscar Wilde.

#400067 - 08/27/01 08:21 AM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
BruceD Offline

Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 20109
Loc: Victoria, BC
That this sort of treatment should be dealt to a 6-1/2 year old is almost child abuse. Whatever frustrations a teacher may have from time to time with expectations not met, nothing warrants this kind of torture to one so young and impressionable, and it is evident to me that this teacher should not be teaching children of this age. What kind of effect is such conduct going to have on the child's feeling towards music in general and the piano in particular?

I feel this breach of professional conduct doesn't even warrant discussion. If the child has not already been traumatized by this experience, what would guarantee that something of a similar nature would not happen again and end up turning the child away from music forever.

Please, respect and nurture your child's potential for a lifetime of music-loving and get a new teacher.

(With apologies for my heated candor; there is nothing that burns me more than unprofessional conduct.)

Keep us posted.

- - - - -
Estonia 190

#400068 - 08/27/01 12:29 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Mark L Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/01
Posts: 15
Loc: Ohio, USA
Thanks for the responses. I am going to discuss the incident with the teacher. I feel I owe her that. I will tell her that it made us and my daughter very uncomfortable. I also want to convey to her that we don't want to push our daughter beyond what she can handle practice-wise, no matter how good the teacher thinks she is. As I said we do want her to play for years to come. Over all the lessons have been good, but again I have nothing to compare to. The teacher does have good credentials, but she also misses 5 minutes every third lesson or so walking her dog... My daughter played 15 pieces for the Piano Guild auditions with a perfect score in the spring, and I think the teacher is pressing and expecting more from my daughter. This has only happened 3 times in the past year, but all in the last 2 months since the Piano Guild audition.

#400069 - 08/27/01 01:44 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Mark - You wrote: "She has always been a moody individual, but until lately has kept her moods in check during my daughter's lesson. Lately though she has been exhibiting a behavior during the lesson that actually has made my wife and I quite uncomfortable."

You have a six year old very impressionable child that you want to keep playing the piano - my advice is to switch teachers immediately. I know it will be difficult since this person is your friend, but you need to think of whats best for your daughter FIRST. My husband's teacher was an alchoholic, and she started spending more and more time in the kitchen drinking while he played his pieces for her. His mom didn't believe him when he told her. Needless to say, he quit taking lessons. You want someone who can keep their personal life separate from their professional life, and from your statement above, it doesn't sound like this teacher is capable of doing it. Just my $.02 Oh, and I agree - at 6 1/2, they need to ENJOY their lessons for the most part, not be frustrated. Good luck. Jodi

[ August 27, 2001: Message edited by: jodi ]

#400070 - 08/28/01 02:47 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Dan Offline

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 1031
Loc: Colorado
Yikes! Walking her dog? WALKING HER DOG?! I hope you mean that she's 5 minutes late for the start of the lesson, and that when she is late, the lesson runs 5 minutes extra to make up the time. Otherwise, I'm gonna change my "vote".

Your daughter is the number priority in this situation. I still believe that the adults talking the matter over is the right thing to do. BUT, if this teacher is leaving in the middle of a lesson to walk her dog I just moved out of the "talk it over" camp and into the "get out fast" camp.

You said in your 2nd post that you were going to talk things over with her. I'd go ahead with that, but I would also say if you don't come away from that chat with a high confidence that the problem is TRULY SOLVED, it's time to move on. Feeling that "I think we fixed the problem, let's try it for a few lessons" would not (repeat NOT) be enough for me to continue having my daughter take lessons with this teacher.

Sorry for waffling on this, but your comment about the dog just made my jaw drop! Not understanding why a teacher is doing some particular thing related to the lesson is one thing, and is worth talking about. Leaving in the middle of a lesson to walk the dog is just plain odd, and says to me "time to go."

I'd be real interested in hearing how the discussion went if you feel ok with sharing that.


#400071 - 08/28/01 03:00 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I just wanted to chime in with personal experience. I started taking piano lessons when I was five and continued to take them for another twenty two years. I had 3 piano teachers during that time. My teachers were stable, kind, encouraging, occassionally frustrated (I didn't like to practice), and always gave me my full lesson time if not more. I should also add that they were very, very good teachers. None of them ever practiced the kind of strange and objectionable behavior that I have read in this thread. I should add that one of them was going through a divorce during part of the time I was studying with him, but I never found that out from him and never even suspected it from his behavior. I found out about it through a mutual friend.

All that to say, there are "normal" people out there who teach piano, many of whom are probably good teachers. It might be time to shop around.


(Ok, so musians are often not completely "normal", but that doesn't mean that they can't be decent, kind, and sensitive).

[ August 28, 2001: Message edited by: ryan ]

#400072 - 08/29/01 09:07 PM Re: Does my 6 year old need a new teacher?
Joy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 550
Loc: Encinitas, CA
Your 6 1/2 year old's emotional well being must come first. There shouldn't be ANY bad music lesson experiences at this time. Kids are too impressionable. Get her out of there.

You should still have a discussion with the teacher in the meantime.

Nothing motivates a child's lessons more than a deeply rooted love of music. It starts young, and it must be nurtured to grow.

I'll always be grateful to my son's first piano teacher for instilling that love and enthusiasm. He carried it with him to his next teacher, and now he's looking fervently for a new piano instructor while attending classes at Berkeley.

My 2 cents.



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