Professionalism in the teaching studio - What does it constitute?

Talk with other teachers, exchange tips, participate in polls regarding a teaching studio business

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Nov 01, 2005 8:43 am

We have said many places on the site that piano teachers are professionals and should be treated as such by clients. We have also touched upon teaching professionalism in our Setting Standards for Your Studio and Your Students article. However, there is much more to be said on this topic.

MTNA has a Code of Ethics, which is well-motivated and thought out, dealing with some basic standards of professional conduct for music teachers. However, it is unclear how much attention MTNA members and officials pay to it, despite its value.

Obviously, the teacher must teach the lessons competently and caringly, but what other "rules of conduct" must a teacher observe to be considered a true teaching professional? What kinds of conduct should the teacher avoid?
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Site Admin
 
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Jun 08, 2003 6:46 pm
Location: Rio Rancho, NM USA

Postby Stretto » Wed Nov 23, 2005 10:23 pm

As far as kinds of conduct a teacher should avoid, I've ran across a few people who in the course of conversation find out I teach piano and say things like, "I took piano lessons once and I spent the lesson playing with the teacher's pet bird". Or "The teacher spent half the lesson on the phone with people while I sat there", or "the teacher stopped all the time during the lesson to take care of her own child". Other things maybe taking to much lesson time on chit-chat or even spending too much time giving directions and not enough learning by doing.


In a nutshell, the teacher should be consciencious of and respect the fact that the parents or adult students are paying for the teacher to teach music.

Oddly enough almost all my teachers have had some odd quirks that seemed perhaps a little on the "unprofessional" side for example, kind of being a nervous person, or clapping and counting so loud to my playing and being off-beat, etc. But I overlooked the quirks and learned a lot from each teacher I had. Probably the worst problem I could see would be teachers wasting lesson time on things unrelated to learning or talking down or in a rude tone as well as other obvious things.
Stretto
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 10:34 pm
Location: Mo.

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:46 am

Stretto wrote:Oddly enough almost all my teachers have had some odd quirks that seemed perhaps a little on the "unprofessional" side for example, kind of being a nervous person, or clapping and counting so loud to my playing and being off-beat, etc. But I overlooked the quirks and learned a lot from each teacher I had. Probably the worst problem I could see would be teachers wasting lesson time on things unrelated to learning or talking down or in a rude tone as well as other obvious things.

I thought I would revive this thread a little because it's sort of related to another current thread on continuing education for piano teachers(i.e. continuing education is a part of professionlism, in my view). I hear horror stories with some frequency from students and teachers all over the world that detail all kinds of unprofessional behavior by teachers, not simply personal quirks, which need not, in my view, be considered unprofessional. Here's a short and incomplete list of some things I've personally seen or heard piano teachers do that I consider to be clearly unprofessional:

"trashing" other teachers verbally or in writing to other teachers or students (this includes one example of the newsletter of an Albuquerque music teachers organization specifically and personally disparaging one of its own members and another of a teacher sending a widely distributed letter doing the same thing in regard to a teacher she admitted she had never met!)

the teacher being late for or missing lessons without advance notification of the involved students

teachers appearing for lessons in attire that could be characterized charitably as highly "informal"

teachers giving lessons with little or no advance preparation for the lesson

teachers using the paid lesson time for things completely unrelated to piano

teachers trying to teach by "intimidation" of the students

carrying out discussions with parents about unpaid fees in front of children

This list is by no means comprehensive, but may jog some thinking or memory. What kinds of things should professionalism demand that teachers do and not do?




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1142617738
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Site Admin
 
Posts: 994
Joined: Sun Jun 08, 2003 6:46 pm
Location: Rio Rancho, NM USA

Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:31 am

Dr. John;
I may not have all the education of some teachers, but I never have or thought of doing anything on your list!

I almost never cancel a lesson and if I do, it is because I am ill, which luckily seldom happens. If I go away, which is also seldom, I give notice way ahead. If there is a special performance for a grandchild, which is usually evenings, I also give notice ahead. I offer make ups for any of these.

"Trashing" another teacher...i would never think of that. I may give an opinion, if I know something about the teacher, IF ASKED, but it would be to the value of the person asking..ie "He does really well with older, advanced students" or "She is a good teacher though not as warm as your child may like". I would try to stay positive, but would not like to mislead someone and have the student have a bad experience.

I am never late - in fact three times a week I am coming from another job and I am overly concerned that I arrived on time - in fact, ahead of time, so I have a breather to get ready. The music IS ready, in folders by the piano, with the student's name. It is the parents, occassionally, who may cancel at the last minute.

I spend time every week preparing for each student. I look through music, play music, listen to music, read over my notes...etc. I have MUCH music and theory within my reach, so I am ready for the unexpected need or question. As I have said on other threads, I teach to the child and if I am asked for or see the interest or need in a certain piece or style, or a theory need, I get it out. This happens every week!

I do not answer the phone during a lesson and keep the ringer off - I do not answer my cell phone either. My friends know my teaching schedule. There is nothing else I would be doing while teaching a lesson except teaching a lesson! I do not recall any of my many teachers doing anything else either! When the door bell rings, I do have to answer and may take a package from UPS but when a girl scout came selling cookies, I asked her to come back later, when I would be finished teaching. Is this so strange? Maybe it is...but not to me.

You can guess what I think about "imtimidation"! Why would I do that when I am trying to show my students the joys of music?

I call or e mail parents with anything about the lesson and the child. I used to have a billing system, but now with only a few students, I tell the parents to pay as they wish, by the week or by the month. I hate doing billing and this works for me now. I do have a place where I keep a record of what is paid. After years of raising children and teaching nursery school, I know not to say anything in front a a child that they should not hear! Isn't this just common sense?

I cannot see myself in a bekini, anytime, but surely not when teaching. In the old days I actually changed clothes to put on a skirt or dress before teaching lessons! Now I just make sure I have on nice, clean slacks and blouse! Today, I am in green!

I think I covered everything. Whew, you really woke me up this morning.

I do not think I am the best teacher, but over the years I have learned that I have brought the joy of music to MANY and the skills and desire to go on with their music education. I have had students come to me from other teachers, who had stopped lessons, but the parents persued other options, and they found the love of music again. I can think of nothing worse than discouraging anyone from learning the piano - no matter how innately talented they are...or not. I have some young boys, who will probably be devoting their time to sports, next year, and may not continue piano after their second year. Is that bad? No, not for them as they have learned to play the piano and found a new love and appreciation for music! It will stay with them throughout their lives, whether persued again later, or not!

Any arguments?

:p

Joan
User avatar
108-1121887355
 

Postby Stretto » Sat Mar 18, 2006 7:51 am

What a nice reply loveapiano!

I'm actually shocked to hear so many horror stories of unprofessionalism among private piano teachers. I can think of at least 3 people who told me they spent most of the time playing with the pet at the teacher's house and at least 3 people who said the teacher stopped all the time to take care of a child. I'm equally shocked to hear stories of teachers bad-mouthing other teachers.

I had 4 different teachers growing up and don't remember any of them doing any of these things. I do remember a professor taking a phone call a few times and being on the phone a long time once during my lesson - :angry: . At least it wasn't an "everytime" occurence.

If someone calls during a lesson, I do check the answering machine just because I always think what if the parent of the student at the lesson had an emergency like a car accident and was trying to call. It is rare that the phone rings during a lesson anyway.

As far as dress, I remember in junior high and high school that the youth pastor of the church wore jeans and a t-shirt with a really "hip" haircut. I remember as a teen thinking how "cool" that was that he dressed that way and not in "stuffy" dress clothes. I do wear a nice, casual shirt with slacks or jeans minus holes, and casual dress shoes mostly for lessons but sometimes I where a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes and don't worry about it. Although I do think dressing "nicer" helps to elicit more respect from the student and also helps a person such as a teacher come across more professionally. Being in sloppy clothes might make a teacher feel like coming across more "sloppily" in approach.

Another item I can think of to add to the list:

Talking to a student or parent about another student. For example, telling stories on another student like, "I had a student who used to . . . " Or "one of my students does such and such . . . "

I really have to be careful on this one as it is tempting just to tell a funny story sometimes but I avoid talking to one student or parent about another student.




Edited By Stretto on 1142690300
Stretto
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 10:34 pm
Location: Mo.

Postby 108-1121887355 » Sat Mar 18, 2006 9:51 pm

Thanks, Stretto.

I do sometimes tell a story about a piece of music or something a student did - compose a piece, use that fingering, etc. as it is hard not to do, but I do not give the name of the student and in fact, often say, a former student.

I still do not understand why a teacher would be on the phone, unless some emergency, or let the child pat the pet?? If you are a teacher - teach!

:angry:
User avatar
108-1121887355
 

Postby 76-1144948098 » Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:27 pm

I have to agree. I however have also to admit, I am far far from proffessional, but I am striving for it. I have had 4 students in the past - all from the same family - but the there were some strange things happening, and anyway, they quit, but it wasn't me, and if it was, I don't understand it. In fact, at the time, I was going to suggest that the little ones stopped private lessons for a while and did something in a group such as KinderMusik or MYC. In any case, I did teach them without planning for a little while, but I'm back at planning with my current students. At the time I really didn't feel the need for a plan, I simply opened up the book, had them play, directed them, encouraged them, worked on whatever needed working on, etc., but I have to admit, having thought it through and really 'planned' it, makes it much more enjoyable for me. With an older student I would definately see the need for plans. I do find however, that often my 'plan' doesn't go quite as 'planned'. For instance, last week, I had planned to move on to another piece with one beginner student, but all of a sudden I realized she was quite confused about 'beats'. I asked her gently if she knew what a beat was and I got silence and then a "ya...sorta...I guess" or something along that line. So I spent the lesson explaining and demonstrating etc. Finished off with a fun little 'song' she knew. :)

I also understand 'staying on track' with the lesson, however, it's very hard to do when your 6 year old student looks up in the middle of something and says: "We're gonna have our friends the so-and-so's over for Easter!" I usually reply with an: "Oh ya, that will be fun! :)" and proceed to the next thing. I know I have been known to bring up another topic at my lessons, but usually they have something to do with piano anyway. ;)

I think that a teacher should definatley dress proffessionaly. Most of my teachers dressed quite classy for lessons, and I try to copy that as much as possible, but I'm a bit limited, because I hate wearing skirts for teaching in (hard to move around in, etc.) and I don't have many dress pants, but I do dress as proffessionaly as I can.

Another thing that I find is quite intimidating for the student, that one of my teachers did, is standing during the lesson (such as at one side of the grand piano to write in the binder) while the student sits. It's very intimidating - especially when you're little - to have an adult hovering way up high above you while you play. I didn't realize it so much at the time (was my first private teacher) but now that I've had several teachers, it bothers me.

Sorry for the long rant! Might post more later,
Sheila
User avatar
76-1144948098
 

Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:59 pm

Lina.
I know what you mean about 'the best laid plans'. I try to have several ideas for the next lesson, but even so, a new one may come up. Inversions, I thought were thoroughly understood by a student, were like another language this week. Took some time, and I hope she is set now! Happens often, or a new piece does not get practiced -"did not like it". Spent some extra time on intervals with a student this week, and some with a piece she had composed, writing it out and the explanation that went along.

Even the older students can get side tracked. I am teaching a child and the whole child, and so their interests have to be acknowledged. An 8 year old, plays almost all the time, and still hears what I say. Sometimes, I have to stop her, to be sure she is listening. She usually is!

The exibition at the Science Museum lead a student to play some music from "Star Wars"- the "Pink Panther" was begun after seeing the movie. You can steer students to concerts, live and on TV and loan tapes and CDs. which I do frequently. Sometimes just having some music out is a motivator, and stories about composers. One 6 year old borrowed a book on Haydn and is excited to learn some of his music - especailly "The Surprise Symphony", I loaned him a CD this week.

I do not stand up to teach - would feel strange!

You are doing a good job - professional doesn't mean cold or strict.



Joan
User avatar
108-1121887355
 

Postby 76-1144948098 » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:54 pm

You are doing a good job - professional doesn't mean cold or strict.


Thankyou, that is very very encouraging. :)
User avatar
76-1144948098
 

Postby Emily Wyatt » Thu May 25, 2006 7:11 pm

I do make a great effort to be professional as a teacher. My piano pedagogy professor would remind us to make sure we weren't talking like 'Valley Girls' and chewing gum. :p

Dressing well, being on time and prepared (not--who's next? What are we playing? Really?), keeping students only exactly for the half-hour lesson time, staying current with parents about expectations and progress--some of these I find easier than others. I think communicating with the parents is one of the most important things a piano educator can do, and that is the hardest for me. (Childhood conditioning? If I ignore a problem it will go away. Not)

I had a wonderful teacher whose cat would curl up inside his grand piano during lessons...
Emily Wyatt
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu May 25, 2006 11:35 am
Location: Missouri, USA

Postby Stretto » Thu May 25, 2006 9:19 pm

Speaking of cats. Has anyone ever had really bizarre out of the ordinary things interrupt a lesson (things one would never have thought of).

Here's a couple that happened to me in the last couple weeks: Two siblings listening to my cat in another room coughing up a hairball - of all things! I just shook my head apologizing in embarrassment while the students sat there laughing.

The other incident was my kids who typically are pretty good about playing quietly for around an hour a day in another room while I give lessons: There was quite a comotion coming from the family room where they were because a spider had crawled across the floor right under some toys they were playing with and they were insistant I stop and get the spider.

Between cats and kids wanting spiders smashed during lessons, I guess these kinds of "out of the ordinary" things are one downside to using one's home for giving lessons. Fortunately, all my students are big time cat lovers and all cat owners.

I do explain when students first sign on that if there is on rare occasion some interruption, I will tack the interrupted time onto the lesson or add it to another lesson. Also, I mention if there happened to be some big interuption, that I wouldn't charge for that particular lesson. I've added 5 min. on a handful of occasions, but never had a big interuption that would cause me to have to give a credit for the lesson.

We were having roofers replacing shingles during one lesson last week. I called the parent to reschedule but they wanted to keep the lesson. I said there would be no charge for the lesson that day with the disruptive roofing noise going on but the students weren't bothered by it and a couple times I asked them and they said, they didn't even notice it when playing and the parent wanted to pay for the lesson.




Edited By Stretto on 1148613625
Stretto
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 10:34 pm
Location: Mo.


Return to Running a Teaching Studio

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron