Page 1 of 3

PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:38 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Although we have talked in this forum about what things make a great piano teacher, we have not considered much the qualities and abilities that make one successful as a teacher. Although "successful" is vague (intentionally) in meaning and intent, let me start by saying that I would define "success" for a piano teacher as including, at least: 1) having a sufficient number of students to meet one's financial needs; 2) having enough business skills to make their teaching business viable; 3) having interpersonal skills sufficient to maintain good relationships with students and parents and provide "word-of-mouth" publicity; 4) being knowledgeable and personally talented enough at the piano to provide quality lessons for the majority of students (i.e. perhaps setting aside those relatively rare students with advanced skills and talent); 5) behaving as a professional at all times.

I know that this list is incomplete and I hope that others will add the items they think are important. I provide the list merely as a tool to get discussion started. I think both teachers and students can comment on this question, since it works to the advantage of both groups to have a teacher who is successful in at least the ways defined above. If you're a student tell us how you define success in teaching. What do you expect and want?

We all know of teachers whose studios are full with long waiting lists and other teachers in the same areas who would like to teach more students. What differentiates the successful teachers from those who are still trying to achieve success?

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 12:35 am
by Tranquillo
This appears to look at a teacher's dealing from a business and proffesional aspect.
I haven't really givern it much thought but something does intrigue me. There are some teachers that "sell" their students. On advertisements they say that they have trained certain proffesional artists that have studies at certain conservatoriums and prestigous musical institustions. Also, that they have assisted in competitions, exams and festivals and that their students come close to first or first or have had some sort of a high mark.
This sounds good, however, sometimes I wonder if this really makes a successful piano teacher...

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:45 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Becibu wrote:There are some teachers that "sell" their students. On advertisements they say that they have trained certain proffesional artists that have studies at certain conservatoriums and prestigous musical institustions. Also, that they have assisted in competitions, exams and festivals and that their students come close to first or first or have had some sort of a high mark.

I've never heard of this being done in the U.S., though that doesn't mean it doesn't exist somewhere here. There are certainly large multi-teacher "music academies" that have teachers working under the supervision of the academy owner. Of course, there are also training sites, like the Suzuki one in Stevens Point, WI, that educate teachers on how to use a particular method with their own students.

Some teachers here tout the fact that their students do well in competitions. I think that's a perfectly valid way of recruiting motivated students, assuming that the claim is truthful. Many parents (for some people's taste, too many) want their children to be successful in competitions, rather than simply becoming competent and discerning musicians.

Although business and professional aspects are a part of what this thread is about, I'm interested in visitors views on how they would define in success in piano teaching, broadly speaking. :)

PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:50 pm
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:5) behaving as a professional at all times.

I have contemplated many times starting a thread here on professionalism for piano teachers. One of the reasons I've deferred is that I get the strong impression that most of the teachers who post here are truly teaching professionals who have a good working grasp of what professionalism means. That said, we have seen all too many times in posts from both students and teachers in these forums where examples are given of gross professional misbehavior on the part of some (I hope) small number of teachers. I've seen it myself all too many times (and even one is too many). Can a teacher be successful and be "unprofessional"?

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:29 am
by Tranquillo
Quote (Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor @ Mar. 05 2008,07:38)
5) behaving as a professional at all times.

I have contemplated many times starting a thread here on professionalism for piano teachers. One of the reasons I've deferred is that I get the strong impression that most of the teachers who post here are truly teaching professionals who have a good working grasp of what professionalism means. That said, we have seen all too many times in posts from both students and teachers in these forums where examples are given of gross professional misbehavior on the part of some (I hope) small number of teachers. I've seen it myself all too many times (and even one is too many). Can a teacher be successful and be "unprofessional"?


John, your comment much reminds me of my own piano teacher. (I'm in hot water now!). Well to describe the unproffessional "behavior" ... he walks out of the studio to attend to other duties during the duration of my lesson. He overlaps his students ... and can talk on the phone for quite some time! At the verys same time he goes very OVERTIME. I still see him as a proffessional and very dedicated teacher. It took me some getting used to his 'behaviors'. I did and still am considering a change - or refocus.
The very fact that many students do still come to him and take lessons from him does tell me that they dont mind this 'unproffessional' behavior. Still makes him sucessful I guess.

The term proffessional depicts expertise in a certain skill/ field. Some would say that this would be means getting some sort of a degree and studying some time at an institution. Others say that it comes with experience, persistance and passion. I say that it would be a mix of all the above.

Having said that others define the term 'proffessional' as making money or earning an income out of the your choosen field.

Then there is this 'professional' behavior. I dont know if anyone has seen the play "Whose life is it Anyway" but the main character Ben defines 'proffessionalism' as keeping your distance. Many would debate that this is not true as there is an 'intimacy' formed between a student and teacher ... not a 'romantic' one but one that links the student to the love of music.

This is what I think a successful teacher does. A successful teacher has great expertise, passion, skill and love for music and the piano that it is contagious and reflective on the student. Through this the student's love for music grows and blossoms. The student gets this intimacy and passion for the music.

So as a student, I want the teacher to love teaching, to love music to love the instument. To do it not just to live but because the teacher has a great passion to share a skill with someone else.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:10 pm
by 112-1182392787
I think that first we need to define success. It means to have a goal and be able to achieve that goal.

If a teacher wishes to have many students in order to earn a lot of money, and he meets that goal, then he is successful. He might compromise what is important in order for his students to become competent and independent musicians, giving them what they want whether or not it is good for them. He may have a high turnover but still get sufficient income. He is successful becuase he has met his goals.

Another teacher may care only about turning out excellent musicians. He may be unwilling to compromise, be relentless, and may find only a very few students willing to go that route. He may take a promising person who does not have the means to pay him. He may even work for free from time to time. He might be impoverished and have only two students. This teacher is also successful.

Professional? I am a professional in my field, which is not music. I freelance like a music teacher does, and my field is both a science and an art. To me professionalism which can be applied to both professions comprises the following:

- expertise in your field. You're trained and you know what you are doing.
- You do your work well, always. You do it well even when you don't feel like it and when you are not enjoying it. I disagree about the necessity of loving it. There are times when you may hate what you are doing. You will still do it very, very well.
- You must know how to interact with your customers/students, giving them what they need, and working always on their behalf, and to their benefit. Sometimes you need to educate your client/student on how best to work with you.
- If there is conflict, the professional has the better chance of self-control and a "professional attitude". He/she will also be able to guide the student/client toward a resolution. He should never be passive or the victim.
- A freelance professional, which is what a private music teacher is, must know how to manage time, organize, and have good discipline in that regard.
- He/she must have business skills, planning a budget, expenditures and revenue, bookkeeping or hiring someone for the same, know how to maintain a customer base/student base.
- Upkeeping of skills, knowledge, networking, professional development if needed.

as keeping your distance. Many would debate that this is not true as there is an 'intimacy' formed between a student and teacher ... not a 'romantic' one but one that links the student to the love of music.

I would say that detachment is needed - I don't know whether "keeping a distance" is the right term. But the professional must be able to keep perspective because he is guiding and steering things. You cannot be awash with emotion and governed by it if you're the one at the helm. That doesn't mean indifference. You cannot do a good job from a place of apathy.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:07 pm
by Tranquillo
pianissimo wrote:To me professionalism which can be applied to both professions comprises the following:

- expertise in your field. You're trained and you know what you are doing.
- You do your work well, always. You do it well even when you don't feel like it and when you are not enjoying it. I disagree about the necessity of loving it. There are times when you may hate what you are doing. You will still do it very, very well.
- You must know how to interact with your customers/students, giving them what they need, and working always on their behalf, and to their benefit. Sometimes you need to educate your client/student on how best to work with you.
- If there is conflict, the professional has the better chance of self-control and a "professional attitude". He/she will also be able to guide the student/client toward a resolution. He should never be passive or the victim.
- A freelance professional, which is what a private music teacher is, must know how to manage time, organize, and have good discipline in that regard.
- He/she must have business skills, planning a budget, expenditures and revenue, bookkeeping or hiring someone for the same, know how to maintain a customer base/student base.
- Upkeeping of skills, knowledge, networking, professional development if needed.

as keeping your distance. Many would debate that this is not true as there is an 'intimacy' formed between a student and teacher ... not a 'romantic' one but one that links the student to the love of music.

I would say that detachment is needed - I don't know whether "keeping a distance" is the right term. But the professional must be able to keep perspective because he is guiding and steering things. You cannot be awash with emotion and governed by it if you're the one at the helm. That doesn't mean indifference. You cannot do a good job from a place of apathy.

I can see what you are saying by being good in your field despite the fact that you hate it. The way I see it is that it depends on what kinda field. My music teacher at school admits to me that teaching music was really the last thing he wanted to do. He doesnt hate it but its something he has tolertated over the years. He admits that he really wants to be out there performing but as a musicain he just didnt bother to push himself to get gigs.

As a student of his I can see that he so sooo bored. Its reflective in all the students of the class. I can see that they are bored and ready to fall asleep. I guess you could say that with a Music Degree and Teaching Diploma as well as experience and training as a musicain he is "proffessional" but the quality of his teaching isn't great. He isn't the best 'teacher' and not passionate in imparting music to his students. He doesnt teach very very well because he doesnt love it.
I think in the end it depends on what field. Something that deals with the interaction of people the quality of your work is dependent on your passion and love.

Its interesting how this thread seems to be discussing what makes a 'proffessional' teacher.

As you said success varies on the goals set by the teacher. Whatever this goal maybe, in the end I agree it would be varied.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:14 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Becibu wrote:Its interesting how this thread seems to be discussing what makes a 'proffessional' teacher.

As you said success varies on the goals set by the teacher. Whatever this goal maybe, in the end I agree it would be varied.

Mea culpa on the professionalism issue, I'm afraid. Professionalism is an important part of what success in any professional field should include. That's not the whole story, though.

I believe that achieving one's goals is important. I think I understand what pianissimo is saying when she mentions that. I wouldn't disagree with what I think her intent probably was when she wrote that, but I would think that a too literal interpretation of that thought could lead one down the road away from success.

I think that one has to set meaningful and moral goals for their achievement to contribute to success. If your only goal in being a piano teacher is to make enough money to survive, achieving that goal might satisfy you, but I doubt that it would make you "successful" in any meaningful sense. If you did nothing but that, your peers in teaching would not see you as successful or as a "good teacher". My point here is not that success can't be defined in many ways; indeed, one of the goals of this thread is to develop some understanding of all the ways one can reach "success".

The other caveat I would place on pianissimo's valuable comments is that "success" does not imply simply working hard until you achieve whatever your goals might be, then simply sitting back and being satisfied. I don't think that's what pianissimo had in mind, either. Successful people in any field always look for new challenges and are continually setting new and higher goals for themselves as they achieve interim goals. Such people rarely think of themselves as being "successful", except perhaps at the end of their lives, because they always have new goals and milestones ahead of them.

I mentioned the opinions of peers above. While I wouldn't advocate using peer respect as the single most important determinant of one's success as a piano teacher, I would suggest that having the respect of many of one's peers and being depended upon by them for advice, counsel, and example might be an indicator of success as a teacher. Of course, there are many other elements of success, too. What do you think some of those are? :)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:49 pm
by 112-1182392787
I can see what you are saying by being good in your field despite the fact that you hate it.


No, that is not quite what I meant to say. Regardless of how much a professional loves his field, there will be aspects of his work that he doesn't like, or there will be unpleasant moments. An amateur may do things when he is inspired, slack off when he doesn't feel inspired or in the mood. He may do well when things give him joy, and allow himself to falter when it is unpleasant. The mark of a professional is that he will always do his best and produce top quality (or try to) in what he is doing regardless of the circumstance or feeling.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:18 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
pianissimo wrote:I would say that detachment is needed - I don't know whether "keeping a distance" is the right term. But the professional must be able to keep perspective because he is guiding and steering things. You cannot be awash with emotion and governed by it if you're the one at the helm. That doesn't mean indifference. You cannot do a good job from a place of apathy.

In general, I agree with most of this post, as an independent professional myself. However, balancing involvement with students with the need for a degree of professional detachment is especially tough for piano teachers. Virtually their entire relationship with students and parents is personal and immediate - and should be. I have written all over the site about how one might balance involvement with detachment. As I've written on our Learning to Play page, I would want a teacher for children who shows interest in them, a regard for them, and a connection to them, personally. Successful teaching in any area probably requires that.

I think where one has to exercise detachment is in any area outside piano and piano lessons. The successful and professional teacher doesn't try to involve themselves in the personal life and problems of her students, nor does she discuss her own personal life and problems with them. I've seen many very good teachers come perilously close to crossing that line, precisely because they have a connection to the students. When they do cross it, it almost always leads to problems for both the teachers and the students. We've talked a little about this problem in our article on Establishing a New Teaching Studio.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 6:01 pm
by Tranquillo
I think where one has to exercise detachment is in any area outside piano and piano lessons. The successful and professional teacher doesn't try to involve themselves in the personal life and problems of her students, nor does she discuss her own personal life and problems with them. I've seen many very good teachers come perilously close to crossing that line, precisely because they have a connection to the students. When they do cross it, it almost always leads to problems for both the teachers and the students. We've talked a little about this problem in our article on Establishing a New Teaching Studio.


Thats true, any involvment personally would be unhealthy and unproffessional. At the same time where some draw the line does vary. E.g. A teacher in my highschool was getting married, as a proffessional she didnt tell any of the kids where and when. However, there have been teachers in the past that I have encountered that have allowed their students to come to their wedding.
Some teachers here give out personal contact details while others don't.
In the end, whatever the teacher decides to do should not give off the wrong message to the student but a proffessional message.

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:42 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Let me add another attribute of the "successful teacher". I think all the successful piano teachers I have known have actually enjoyed teaching piano. That's not to say that they enjoyed all aspects of it 100% of the time or enjoyed working with all students equally well, but, as a whole, they looked forward to teaching most days, because it was enjoyable. Enjoyment and enthusiasm is contagious and appears in students if the teacher has those qualities.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:57 pm
by Stretto
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). I feel if I am leaving out or glossing over concepts, not covering everything I feel important for a student to know, then I am failing.

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. If I would settle for status quo in the area of my own knowledge and skill or let that knowledge and skill slide, then I have failed because I am unable to impart as much in knowledge and skill to students.

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.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 1:12 am
by Tranquillo
Stretto wrote: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. If I would settle for status quo in the area of my own knowledge and skill or let that knowledge and skill slide, then I have failed because I am unable to impart as much in knowledge and skill to students.

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

Its great to hear that you pecieve music is a life long course and that it is something that we continue to discover. I have had an immense amount of respect and inspiration from such teachers that renew their knowledge and have this love for learning.
I think there are those infortuanate cases were teachers have taught for some years and sometimes get "stuck in their
ways."

The greatest teachers continue to renew their understandings and learn as well as re-learn things to share with students. As a student the teachers I have been through that have this joy for learning have truly inspired me and motivated me.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:17 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
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?

Let me suggest another attribute of a successful teacher. The successful teacher works to share his/her expertise and experience with other, perhaps newer or less knowledgeable, teachers. This can take the form of participation in music teacher organizations, personal conversations, writing for teacher publications or any other form of effort which helps to improve the quality of teaching generally. All teachers and students benefit when successful teachers transmit what they've learned. If helping other teachers to be successful isn't a criterion for success as a piano teacher, it ought to be! :D




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1206814638