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#948657 - 11/12/06 11:00 AM Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
I'm sorry if this post offends anyone, but I'm posting this to get some feedback from you teachers.

In my area, there is a teaching studio run by a lady that really is not qualified to teach! My former teacher, who studied and taught at New England Conservatory, receives these students all the time. These kids come in with a pile of music, and not one of them can read a note. If anything all they can do is barely play hands seperately, and never learned to put their hands together.

Given that in many cases the parents were paying a good chunk of change for these lessons, their hard earned money was taken as well. Appearently this person would just push the kids along into the advanced books without giving them any foundation in the first place.

What is sad about this too is the parents are miffed with my teacher when they are told their son/daugther has to start over again because in the three or more years they studied at the studio, they didn't learn one thing!

We talked about this for quite a long time yesterday. She's elderly, and doesn't have access to the Internet and wanted me to post this for opinions. She said she has never, in the nearly 60 years of teaching ever seen this problem before. She feels that these kids aren't dumb or ignorant; just badly taught.


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#948658 - 11/12/06 12:09 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Codetta Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/26/06
Posts: 134
Loc: Chino Hills, CA
This has happened to me a few times. In fact I took a student who was 'taught' by some guy in a music store but had only taken lseeons with him for almost a year. Let me tell you, the damage was HUGE! She could barely read notes and couldn't count - she had no idea what a quarter note did or how it differed from an eighth note. Fortunately for me and her, the mom listened and believed my assessment. However, it is now 4 years later and I'm STILL undoing the damage done by this underqualified shister. My student is doing remarkably well (given her shaky beginning)but she'll never rise to her full potential because of the lousy foundation she was given. She still struggles with rhythm and wants to gloss over details but I stand firm and fortunately for me, he mom stands behind me.

It's interesting: people put more research into buying a car than they do in finding a qualified and reputable teacher. No one wants to be told or realize that they wasted their money on a lousy teacher and that, in essence, they fell waaaaay short in doing the best for their child, so they're probably embarrassed BIG TIME and are made to face the fact that in the process they also wasted some valuable years. BUT if the parents are truly wanting the best for their child are determined to get their child the best education, then they will listen to the advice from such an expert.

Encourage your teacher-friend to be lovingly honest and remind her that she interviews and assesses THEM - they are not interviewing and assessing HER. It's the same idea when going to the doctor: even though the first doctor misdiagnoses the illness doesn't negate the fact that the patient has the illness. It means that the consequences are more severe due to his neglect. When you get down to it, facts are facts and you can disagree all you want - but that doesn't change the truth. So it begs the question: what are you going to do about it and are you going to be proactive in trying to solve the problem?

What's so sad about all this is that the kids are the ones that ultimately suffer and who knows, a wonderful musician may be lost forever. Teaching is an awesome responsibility, not to be taken lightly, and we hold the future of a child in our hands each time we open our mouth. The qualified person understands this, the unqualified NEVER GET IT!

Tell your friend she's not alone and to stand firm with her principles - the parents who are truly interested in doing what is right will believe her.
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Berthold Auerbach

Private Piano Teacher
Member: Music Teachers' Association of California
Evaluator: Certificate of Merit
Organist/Pianist: Christ Lutheran Church, West Covina

#948659 - 11/12/06 01:01 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Unfortunately I think this is a common problem. In our suburban area, there are a few people who got to intermediate piano (around RCM Grade 7 or 8) and teach as a way to earn extra money. It is unfortunately very sad and frusterating for the students, and it kind of gives music teachers a bad name. Tell your friend to stand her ground and do what she ultimately thinks is best for the students. Most parents will appreciate the honesty even if they are frusterated at first.
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

#948660 - 11/12/06 01:33 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia

I hear you and the frustration. I've always felt that there is a three way partnership in the beginning of piano lessons between teacher, student and parent. A miffed parent (re:restarting) should be miffed at themeselves for being out of touch. On the other hand, I don't think teachers spend much time discussing the appropriate role of the parent and therefore parents don't know what to do/expect? Why not have parent/teacher conferences as standard operating procedure like in school?

I say all this realizing that the parents should not interfere and at some point motivation has to come from within and over time the parent role diminishes as the child acheives independence and takes expert guidance from the teacher...but in the beginning isn't a parent's role a key variable?

P.S. I mention this because I feel that if some measure of standards/expectations are set at the beginning and parents are aware of them- then incompetence on the teacher's part would be easer to spot. Of course, children progress at various rates and some practice a lot more than others but at least with a baseline and regular review the issues can be isolated.

#948661 - 11/12/06 02:32 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
wolfindmist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/04
Posts: 1478
Loc: In a state full of Volcanoes
Sounds like there is quite a need in the general lay media to get the word out to parents who are looking for a music teacher on how to find a qualified instructors.

What about asking you local newspaper to do a human interest story on a local qualified music teacher, and/or what to look for when looking for a piano teacher.

Sad to think that there are people out there taking advantage of uninformed but well-meaning parent(s). Caveat emptor! Buyer beware.

I feel bad for these kids and their parents; and for the truly qualified teachers from whom these unqualified teachers affect their livelihoods as teachers.
I have my own weapon of mass destruction in the form of a "teenage" German Shepherd. Anything she spies and can get ahold of is fair game.

#948662 - 11/12/06 02:36 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10761
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
There is a huge information asymmetry here, and word of mouth usually doesn't go very far in overcoming the problem. You have a business here in which essentially anyone can enter. A lot of the customers have very little understanding of the process or of the meaning of credentials. Local teacher organizations can simplify the choice to some extent, but variance in ability and quality can still be extreme among the members (who wants to criticize their fellow teachers, or worse, work to expel them).

#948663 - 11/12/06 05:39 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
ice Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/06
Posts: 2
Loc: canada
Where I live, teachers (piano) are very limited. People see the word "school" or "conservatory" they automatically assume the teachers know what they are doing and are qualified. I took lessons when I was 5. I'm 34 now. My teacher was a mean old hag who spent more time with books and flash cards than actually playing piano. (insert life story here)I'm grown up now and have been teaching for 14 years. Some of those years were at a conservatory. Where I was, the object was to get a child playing a complacated-sounding song as quickly as possible to impress parents with how good their child is and hope reading will improve as the child progresses. (remember who administers the grade tests) By the way, I was never told this by any employer, this is just my personal opinion based on the course materal they wanted me to follow. So anyway, it wasn't until I started teaching that I realized, the old hag I had as a teacher, was the best teacher anyone could ever hope for. She had passed away some time ago but I always called her for advice and she was always there. I did pick up alot of traits from her but one really sticks in my mind now, If a child is not progressing (or trying) she would tell the parents to find another teacher or see if the child might be interested in something else. I used to think it was mean but I see now why she used to do it. Anyway, I don't even know where I am going with this so I'll end it

#948664 - 11/12/06 05:47 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
my teacher told me that some people who only had some non-piano degree teach kids piano. they probably did take some piano courses in school or conservatory, but that didn't really qualify them to be a piano teacher automatically. basically, anybody can teach piano it seems in US at least, while in E. Europe or maybe other countries, according to my teacher, you have to have a degree in piano or equivalence to teach even beginners.

#948665 - 11/12/06 06:46 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
ice Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/06
Posts: 2
Loc: canada
That could very well be. I would like to see that here. Have at least have some kind of certification for piano teachers. Many teachers, Including myself, around here teach our own course or an instructor led type of course out of our own homes. What is to stop any moron from scamming money (or worse) out of parents. This could scare future students away from home based and back into underqualified schools.

#948666 - 11/12/06 07:44 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Thank you for the responses so far. When I see her during the week to drop off some music I ordered for her, I'll bring this along. The lady from the "school" has done quite a bit of damage from what I hear. It is too bad, and as Codetta remarked it is the kids that really suffer in the end.

My teacher really is a kind lady, (She can be a bit onery with me, but that's besides the point) and sat one little girl down during the lesson, and told her that it will be easier to start from the easy pieces and go up from there rather than struggling with the things she's been working on all along.


#948667 - 11/13/06 05:24 AM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
I have some very strong feelings about this. I do know that there are a small minority of very good teachers out there who have no formal qualifications for whatever reason. Some of these might have had a performing career from an early age and just never needed to go down the university route. These teachers will usually have many years experience and a solid reputation to back them up. Most people in the business will know and respect them. However, as I said, they are in the minority.

I firmly believe in some kind of recognised qualification for private instrumental teachers. In the UK anyone can put an ad in the local paper or a card in a shop window and start teaching for money. This not only leads to the situation John describes but is also dangerous. I teach piano in schools as well as at home. In order to teach at school I must be qualified. I was also interviewed and had to prove my performing skills. More importantly I had to undergo criminal record checks because I was working with children. It is beyond belief that someone would send their child alone to a one on one piano lesson with a complete stranger without checking them out, but it happens all the time. Still, no checks are made and there is absolutely no regulation in this line of work. Anyone can invite children alone into their house without their parents being present.

Another question (perhaps a separate thread) is what qualifications are relevant to a piano teacher? Should they be required to hold a teaching qualification? I have known people with advanced performing skills and diplomas coming out of their ears who just can't teach. Teaching is very different to doing although I think it is important and useful to have good subject knowledge and the skill to demonstrate. What about people who don't have access, time or money to study at university ar take an exam course?

In my area there must be at least 30 piano teachers listed in the local music shop. I would be willing to bet that most of these are not qualified. There was a studio in a nearby town run by a complete con artist. It had a posh name and premises in town. This lady would train kids up to intermediate standard and then offer them a 'little job'. She would pay them peanuts to teach beginners (whose parents were paying full whack). She would also sell them all their music books at marked up prices. I don't know if she is still in business but I hope not. As John says this kind of thing can be extremely damaging. The early stages are the most important time to get things right. Habits that develop then are often difficult to change later. It makes me so mad when parents say to me that they only want someone to start their kids off. Mrs 'X' down the road only charges £3 an hour so we'll send them their first. When they get older they can have a 'proper' teacher.

When I speak to prospective clients on the phone I will tell them my qualifications because most of the time they never even ask. I also urge them to ask other teachers they call for qualifications/experience. I suppose that many parents are just not aware that this kind of thing goes on.
Pianist and piano teacher.

#948668 - 11/13/06 06:33 AM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Piano&Violin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
When looking for my first piano teacher I went through the local public music school, assuming that their teachers were quality-checked. The one they assigned me had taken piano as second subject, his piano skills were limited and the results of 1.5 years with him were very few things learnt and some wrong learnt, so oveall the 1.5 years were a waste of time.

Regarding importance of teacher qualifications: I believe awareness is not there. For many things - like teaching a language - a beginner can learn a lot from a good intermediate learner. It takes a lot more skill and knowledge to be a good piano teacher.

#948669 - 11/15/06 07:13 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 987
I see many transfer students. Often they lack a solid foundation because their teachers presumed all sorts of things.

My piano teacher used to say if there's one year that you need the best teacher, it's the first year. My pet peeve is parents who think they can make do with an inferior piano and an inferior teacher for the first year.

I tell them I plan to succeed with your child. You will be driving to my home every week for at least four or five years.

#948670 - 11/15/06 09:10 PM Re: Time to vent about non-qualified teachers!
Piano Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/01/03
Posts: 402
Loc: Southern Ontario,Canada
On the subject of inferior pianos. I am always amazed at peoples reluctance to spend money to improve their pianos performance. Its hard enough to get them to keep it tuned, let alone serviced, repaired or regulated. How can anyone play some of these pianos. Then they wonder why kids are discouraged. I usually use sports as a way to get them thinking right. For example...do you send your child to play hockey with skates never sharpened, and a broken hockey stick. NOT!!!!
Richard, the"Piano Guy"
Piano Moving Tuning & Repair
From London ON to Fort Erie ON


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