What makes a piano teacher "successful"? - Important qualities

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Postby Stretto » Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:51 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Stretto wrote:As a piano teacher, I would view myself as successful if I was teaching each student everything I possibly can and should be about music (of course taking into account their developmental age and their skill level at any given time).

Also, I view myself as successful if I am continually learning about music, continually reviewing what I have already learned so as not to forget, and continually keeping up my skill level.

Thirdly, I consider myself successful if each student walks away with a lifelong love of music.

If I have done everything I possibly can within reason to teach a student about music, I've succeeded. If I didn't do everything I could have in teaching a student about music, I've failed.

Insightful comments, as usual, Stretto. :)

One question: do you use these criteria when you rate, publicly or privately, the success of other teachers or are there different or additional ones that you would apply?

Yes, I would use this criteria when looking at the success of other teachers. I think Becibu put it well - "teachers getting stuck in their ways" or those settling for "status quo". I feel personally, that it would be an injustice to my students if I didn't continually find better ways of teaching, coming up with fresh ideas, keeping up with what's available in music or continually searching for "good" music, keeping up or advancing skill, finding more opportunities for students to perform, etc. Perhaps some teachers feel they have reached a level or degree of keeping up with all these things and are happy with the way they are doing things.

Each teacher I'm sure has an individual view of what they feel makes them successful, probably a view that differs greatly from how those on the outside see them. I think of other teachers as being successful if they have a decent size number of students with new students wanting to take lessons from them because they have the reputation from others who have taken lessons from them of being a good teacher, who have at least a portion of their students who can play really well, provide varied performance opportunities for students. However, I don't use these same criteria for myself (although all those things would be nice!). I have a very small number of students. The majority of students over the years have not practiced enough to become really good mostly because they are overextended and don't have time or take time to devote to practice. Those that do are fewer and farther between. (Perhaps some teachers who appear really successful from the outside only take students who by screening in interviews can tell if they will be those committed to the degree to become really good). I guess my main view of myself as successful would be is if I even made one person love music and be learning, listening to, and being involved in something musical for the rest of their life. It brings me pleasure when I hear former students even those who only took lessons for a year or two are doing something musical in their life. For example, a student I had who I think although enjoyed the piano was more interested in putting it on as one more thing to look good on college or college scholarship applications and only took for a few years but I am pleased to hear that student now into their career as a doctor has taken up guitar and playing guitar in small local settings. I also have always encouraged students to over time find the one or two things they enjoy in life and pursue those whether career-wise or hobby rather overloading themselves on too many various activites, for example at once. If I feel I have encouraged students positively in life in some way then I am successful, whether I have only a few students or whether or not they play well or practice a lot.

It would be interesting to hear by what criteria other teachers judge their own success.




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Postby Stretto » Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:55 pm

What about meeting parents or students expectations in the piano lesson experience? Does anyone think that is a criteria for success? Should a teacher measure success or lack of success on whether or not they have met parents or students expectations?

For example, I think parents would expect their child or students themselves whether children or adults expect to be able to play reasonably well after a certain amount of time taking lessons if they have put in the effort in practice at home.

What about keeping students? Many parents just want their child to stay motivated. I think one of the biggest concerns I see of parents is when the child's motivation starts faltering. Is the mark of a successful teacher one whose keeps most of their students taking lessons longer? If several students quit after a couple years, is the teacher overall unsuccessful?




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:17 pm

Stretto wrote:What about meeting parents or students expectations in the piano lesson experience? Does anyone think that is a criteria for success? Should a teacher measure success or lack of success on whether or not they have met parents or students expectations?

This could get dicey, if taken too far. On the one hand, meeting student expectations to some degree is usually necessary to be able to retain the student long enough for his hard work to begin to show. On the other hand, the teacher knows a lot more about piano and lessons than the student; if not, the teacher shouldn't be teaching! Presumably, that knowledge is the reason the student came to the teacher in the first place. I might suggest here that one of the attributes of the successful teacher is the ability to cultivate in the student a sense of reasonable musical goals and expectations.

All of this assumes, of course, that the student actually practices and learns. The teacher can't be considered "unsuccessful" if the student simply makes no real effort to learn - any more than a school teacher can be taken to task for failure when the student never shows up for class. I might add that truancy is all too common in high schools these days. I guess I would say that meeting student expectations is not without meaning, but only a part of the talents of a successful teacher.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:46 am

Stretto wrote:What about keeping students? Many parents just want their child to stay motivated. I think one of the biggest concerns I see of parents is when the child's motivation starts faltering. Is the mark of a successful teacher one whose keeps most of their students taking lessons longer? If several students quit after a couple years, is the teacher overall unsuccessful?

Stretto, sorry it took me a while to get back to this thread. I had intended to comment on this but other things took me away.

Students tend to come and go over a period of time for all kinds of reasons, only a few of which relate specifically to the teacher's efforts. Turnover in clients is a natural, and healthy, part of any business, including that of a teaching studio. A teacher cannot be considered unsuccessful just because he or she experiences a more or less normal rate of student turnover. If a teacher loses half or more of her studio unintentionally over, say, a period of a year, it's time to ask questions.

I think that keeping students over a period of time could be one indicator of a teacher's success, so long as that teacher looks at it in an overall sense, rather than specific to one student. The teacher who keeps a core group of serious students who make steady progress over time is almost certainly a good teacher - and successful by most of the criteria we've talked about so far. That's especially indicative when those long-term students recommend the teacher to others. :)
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:44 am

Most of the best teachers I've known have had the ability to get the true best from their students. Most of us tend to underestimate our own abilities and talents to some degree. Successful teachers always find a way to help the student discover that he is more capable and "talented" than he realized. This is really a matter of providing goals which help stretch the student's abilities and encouragement to achieve them.
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Postby FelipeBretts » Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:38 pm

Well said, Dr. Zeigler.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:44 am

Although I suspect that some teachers and students will disagree, allow me to suggest that another way of identifying the "successful" teacher is through the success of his/her students in local and regional competitions. Competitions may not be right for every student, as we've said many times all over PEP, but, when a teacher repeatedly has students who, year after year, win or place highly in competitions, it indicates that the teacher is not only a good one, but that her/his students can apply what they have learned. Success in competitions takes knowledge, dedication, focus and drive on the part of both the teacher and student. Competitions are usually judged by unbiased, neutral, and experienced pianists and educators. Winning in competitions shows that the teacher can both instruct and motivate students. :)



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Postby 112-1182392787 » Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:31 pm

Having lots of students win at competitions shows that a teacher is successful in preparing students for competitions.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:00 am

pianissimo wrote:Having lots of students win at competitions shows that a teacher is successful in preparing students for competitions.

If you've ever been involved in planning, organizing, and running piano competitions (I have, several times), you know that a successful teacher has to both know how to teach piano well and how to motivate students in order for them to excel in that stressful performing environment, as I said earlier. In addition, both the teacher and the student have to be willing to do the extra hard work necessary to prepare for competition. To me that's a pretty good set of qualities and abilities for a teacher to have! In fact, I would want those qualities in my teacher, whether I chose to participate in competitions or not. Competition can be valuable for the student in getting the experience and self-confidence to deal with the stress of any performing environment, whether it's a studio recital, family get-together or recording oneself at home.

I would not argue that competition success of a teacher's students is the only indicator of a teacher's success (nor have I). Neither would I suggest that a teacher who emphasizes competition is right for ALL students. However, in a field with few "external" standards, competition results provide an independent way of evaluating those teachers who place students in competitions. In fact, one could even argue that those teachers who have enough confidence in their own teaching and motivation abilities to put students in public competitions, at the local or regional levels, are likely to be ones who are either successful or at least willing to move in that direction. I have also seen a number of cases where teachers who have had their students do consistently poorly in competitions have re-examined their teaching and become more successful as a result. This is, perhaps, one of the most positive aspects of competition - that teachers and students can learn from the experience and both can become more successful thereby.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:53 am

Although success can be defined in many ways, depending on the the individual teacher, it's worthwhile to point out that respect from one's peers is an important indicator of success. If a piano teacher is regularly consulted by other teachers, frequently asked to give presentations to teacher organizations, often asked to judge piano competitions, often given as a reference by other teachers, and often has potential students referred to him/her, the respect of other teachers for that teacher is clear. Similarly, from the student standpoint, if one hears the same name several times when asking for piano teacher referrals, it's a good bet that the teacher is successful.

Let me point out that my article, A Teacher Interview Checklist, although written for students and parents interviewing prospective teachers, suggests, indirectly, a number of indicators that could also be used to judge the success, and ability, of a teacher. Although not all of its points could be applied in judging the successful teacher, it might be useful to some thinking about this issue.




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Postby FelipeBretts » Fri Apr 11, 2008 4:45 pm

Has anyone mentioned PATIENCE?
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Postby Tranquillo » Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:30 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:Although success can be defined in many ways, depending on the the individual teacher, it's worthwhile to point out that respect from one's peers is an important indicator of success. If a piano teacher is regularly consulted by other teachers, frequently asked to give presentations to teacher organizations, often asked to judge piano competitions, often given as a reference by other teachers, and often has potential students referred to him/her, the respect of other teachers for that teacher is clear. Similarly, from the student standpoint, if one hears the same name several times when asking for piano teacher referrals, it's a good bet that the teacher is successful.

Let me point out that my article, A Teacher Interview Checklist, although written for students and parents interviewing prospective teachers, suggests, indirectly, a number of indicators that could also be used to judge the success, and ability, of a teacher. Although not all of its points could be applied in judging the successful teacher, it might be useful to some thinking about this issue.

There are a number of things that I agree with on the Check list ... but some I would question to be a but interrogative and personal but that could be a cultrual thing.

Asking how many students a teacher has to me sounds personal. Numbers dont mean everything, if a teacher has too many students it becomes very obvious because the teacher would be tired and burnt out every lesson being occupied with housework and other duties. (at least that would often be the case).

Also, there are some teachers that only have 3 to 5 students. These teachers might not be full time teachers but they could be proffessional musicains that teach for pleasure on the side.

The teacher, teaching for a primary source of income doesnt mean that the sevices could be all the great. Some people go to work to live and thats it , some teachers may just be doing it to survive but not really bother with teaching all that much ... I know one teacher I saw when I was younger, she didnt teach that well and teaching was the primary source of income. I think the level of involvement doesnt matter weather the teacher has a primary or secondary income with teaching.


Well thats all I have to say , I am not saying that things in he checklist were wrong I'm just giving another perspective.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:07 pm

Becibu wrote:
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Let me point out that my article, A Teacher Interview Checklist, although written for students and parents interviewing prospective teachers, suggests, indirectly, a number of indicators that could also be used to judge the success, and ability, of a teacher. Although not all of its points could be applied in judging the successful teacher, it might be useful to some thinking about this issue.

There are a number of things that I agree with on the Check list ... but some I would question to be a but interrogative and personal but that could be a cultrual thing.

Asking how many students a teacher has to me sounds personal. Numbers dont mean everything, if a teacher has too many students it becomes very obvious because the teacher would be tired and burnt out every lesson being occupied with housework and other duties. (at least that would often be the case).

Also, there are some teachers that only have 3 to 5 students. These teachers might not be full time teachers but they could be proffessional musicains that teach for pleasure on the side.

The teacher, teaching for a primary source of income doesnt mean that the sevices could be all the great. Some people go to work to live and thats it , some teachers may just be doing it to survive but not really bother with teaching all that much ... I know one teacher I saw when I was younger, she didnt teach that well and teaching was the primary source of income. I think the level of involvement doesnt matter weather the teacher has a primary or secondary income with teaching.


Well thats all I have to say , I am not saying that things in he checklist were wrong I'm just giving another perspective.

As for the number of students, I don't see how the prospective parent or student could know or estimate the potential impact of a large student population on their own instruction if they don't ask the teacher! It's too late to find out that the teacher has too many students AFTER one starts lessons. I specifically mentioned the idea that teachers have different teaching styles and different time commitments for teaching, so that it's difficult to give any one number of students that might be "too many."

I think anyone will tell you that they will be more careful about their job performance if it's their primary or only source of income. I would agree that it's entirely possible to find a good teacher who teaches part-time, just as it's possible to end up with a poor teacher who teaches full time. However, all other things being equal, almost by definition, you'll get a greater level of commitment from the full-time teacher who depends on teaching as his/her only source of income.

I think a different perspective is valuable, in the sense that it points up what I said in various ways in the checklist: There is no single, hard and fast, sure-fire criterion for judging a teacher. If one applies enough different measures and criteria, he is likely to reach a good decision. I provided the checklist link to give one way for people to think about what might constitute teaching success. It sounds like I only confused things by doing so. Sorry for diverting us from the thread topic.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:49 pm

I think anyone will tell you that they will be more careful about their job performance if it's their primary or only source of income

Why would that be?

The self-employed people that I know all have pride of workmanship and professionalism, and they keep that regardless of how much they are being paid and even if they work for free. Income has no correlation with wishing to do quality work as far as I can see.

I am currently teaching some music theory on the side, and I'm doing it for free because I'd like to get some music teaching experience. Because I have only one student and I am not in a rut from doing it often, I find that I give a lot more than I probably would if this were my main activity.

In fact, if you do something because you have to in order to earn a living, might you not actually be less particular?

It is possible that a person might apply himself more if that work is his source of income, but I don't think it's a hard and fast rule. He wold certainly be more experienced.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:00 am

I think another attribute of the successful teacher is the ability to foster in his/her students an appreciation for and some discernment of music. A student's piano skills may become "rusty" if he doesn't practice or play for awhile after leaving lessons, but an appreciation for music will stick with him for his entire life.
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