How do you leave a teacher gracefully?

February 4, 2007 at 08:34 PM · It's quite likely that I'll be switching violin teachers soon, assuming that my trial lesson with the teacher I observed today goes well. I have several reasons for wanting to do this, but the primary ones are that my current teacher doesn't give me enough direction---she's more like a coach than a teacher---and she doesn't have recitals or any other performance opportunities for her students. Nonetheless, I have a wonderful relationship with her, and I don't want to hurt her feelings by leaving. What is the best way to tell her my plans? I assume I should do it in person rather than over the phone; should I do it at the beginning or end of a lesson? Is it reasonable to "give notice" and have a few more lessons with her after I've announced my intentions so the loss of income isn't abrupt? (I don't think her financial situation is such that it would be a hardship, but after all, companies give you severance packages after they lay you off...) How much should I volunteer about my reasons for switching teachers, or should I just wait for her to ask me?

I'd especially appreciate input from the numerous teachers here; I'm sure there are both good and bad ways to do it and I want to handle it well. Thanks!

Replies (100)

February 4, 2007 at 09:42 PM · How about this: "I really appreciate all of the help I have gotten from you, and I really value our relationship, but I think it is time for me to move on, and get a different point of view", or something like that. That wouldn't offend me a bit.

What not to do: Don't show up for your lessons, and don't return phone calls wondering where you were. That happened to me this past summer, and it bothered me.

February 4, 2007 at 10:05 PM · Throw your violin on the floor and scream "I QUIT!"

February 4, 2007 at 10:17 PM · Karin,

What a great question! I often wonder this myself and fortunately am not ready to move on yet, but this will happen soon or later to all the violin students if we are to move on.

I used to tutor both classical and modern Chinese language to both undergrads and grads, and I would prefer people be upfront with me and notifying me ahead of time of any concerns they have. I even encouraged some of them early on to tell me if they'd like to seek a 2nd opinion. More than one occassions I gave my students names and contact information of other tutors that I believed would be mutually beneficial. I believe experienced teachers won't take it personally when students are leaving. If you are not the most suitable, you are waisting her time as well as yours. I would aks my teacher if she would be willing to work out a transitional plan together so that it helps me to move on smoothly as well as giving her a positive closure (that the student has 'graduated' from her lessons and is moving on to another level).

In terms of notice period, personally, I think one month notice is reasonalbe so that the teacher can have enough time to find a new student to replacing the time slot, if money is not the issue. But the longer notice period is even better of course.

February 4, 2007 at 11:14 PM · I think you should leave her studio as soon as you tell her you are leaving, but you should offer to pay the rest of the month, or whatever time frame seems appropriate. It will be awkward to remain in her studio unless there is some kind of understanding that you would be working with two teachers. Taking her income issues seriously doesn't mean that you should come in for lessons while beginning with the new teacher, but you should at least offer to pay for them. If she can easily replace you and the income (i.e., she has a waiting list and can drop someone in the slot), then she will probably let you go gracefully. Good luck.

February 4, 2007 at 11:23 PM · Greetings,

my own feeling is that in these situations it is better to leave a squickly as posisble. If you have a very friendly relationship and feel turing up n the dya and saying goodbye is rather abrupt perhaps just one mor e lesson with a present being given in the last would make things feel better. But to tell the truth I can handle a phone call form a student saying that they have changed teacher and are not coming any more without too much trouble.

I honestly don@t see why you should pay for lessons you are not going to take. I would never accept money for lessons that I wasn@t going to give because the student is leaving except within the normal bounmd sof my contract.That is , you pay a month in advance and if you cancel lessons you have to arrange an alternative time thta suits me or lose the money.

I do not think the student should be too concerned about giving the teacher time to find a replacement. Even though I am always on the teachers side I don`t see that as part of the stduent`s obligation. It`s a nice thought but it would have to be aplied across the board and if you are elaving your teahcer becuase they are unsatisfactory that is therir problem not yours.

Cheers,

buri

February 5, 2007 at 12:08 AM · I completely agree with Buri. Phone call is OK. You don't have to take care of teacher's business. Teacher definitely knows what to do without student's help. Don't show in class after notifying about leaving. It is better for both of you. Don't compensate with money. If you want, you can make a little present (like flowers...) and 'Thank You' note. It is enough. When you will have a talk with teacher, don't point that your new teacher is better, or has higher level, or... Find other reason, like closeness to your home, wanting a differnt teaching views and approaches, etc. And... be prepared to any reaction (depending on teacher's temper).

Good luck!

February 5, 2007 at 03:07 AM · I appreciate all the responses so far. Just a couple of clarifications and a follow-up question...

We didn't have a formal contract when I started, just a few ground rules I agreed to about 24-hour notice for cancellation, etc. No discussion about what would happen if and when I decided to move on. Also, she's quite lax about payment and all her students have different payment arrangements. I actually pay every lesson, so it's not like she'll automatically have money from me for the rest of the month when I leave.

As for resolving any problems beforehand, some of you may not recall threads I've started before but I've had several talks with her before about what I want from her and I'm just not getting it. I think she just doesn't have enough experience teaching students at my level to give me what I think I need. I believe, and I think she'd agree, that I've given the relationship a fair shot.

One followup question: she is actually acquainted with the teacher I'll be switching to, and I don't plan to volunteer his name but I'll of course tell her if she asks. If this happens, is there anything I can or should do to make sure there's no animosity? I already plan to emphasize that he did not "recruit" me as a student in any way, which is the truth.

February 5, 2007 at 03:44 AM · Greetings,

better to avoid discussing the other teacher at all. if your currnet teacher asks all you need supply is the name. If your current is smart she will just nod smile and wish you the best of luck.

Cheers,

Buri

February 5, 2007 at 05:37 AM · There aren't any politics in your case, so just go. Say "I won't be here after this week." The teacher will say "Ok." The more he wants an explanation, the weirder he is.

February 5, 2007 at 05:41 AM · You are the pros and you all have made it very clear: just go. I'm a bit spooked now, to be honest:) I really like my teacher but I'll try different ones in future for sure. Who wouldn't? I can't just say goodby and go. Just doesn't seem right to me. Besides, it's a small city we are in and people may end up playihng in a same orchestra. Oh well...

February 5, 2007 at 06:58 AM · All teachers have their area of expertise,Some might be excellent with very young children and others with older , already intermediate or advanced players.Good teachers will know their own parameters and will therefore not be surprised if a student is ready to move to a different style of teaching.Some teachers even work with a colleague and pass on students when they are at a certain level.Nobody expects a child to remian with their first year elemntary teaqcher until they are 21yrs so why shoud violin teaching be aby different?

February 5, 2007 at 07:36 AM · I only have one thing to say: just be glad you're not an adult beginner. Ok--two, Janet made some good points.

February 6, 2007 at 04:40 AM · I don't think a teacher should ever start getting mad - especially at this - its a natural cycle and one teacher shouldn't think they're a student's only teacher forever

February 6, 2007 at 04:55 AM · Janet and Adam, I entirely agree with you. This is why I don't understand why should we avoid discussing when it comes to time for departure? If it's such a nature thing as we all agree, we should be able to sit down with our teacher and work out a transition plan and end on a really positive note. As far as I can remember, I always have great long-term relationship with my teachers that worked closely with me and I certainly want this one to be the same when the lessons end one day. I can't imagine just a goodbye note without any open and heartfelt discussion.

Al, this may be the problem of being adult students that we just think too much and make things complicated for us:)

February 6, 2007 at 05:42 AM · I think the best way to do it is with an attitude of gratitude. Think of all the good things your teacher has done for you, and thank her/him for that. Then say that you have found a new teacher, but don't go on and on about why. ("You just aren't giving me what I need, I need someone more...") Just that you've found a new teacher, you'll be starting next week, and thank you so much for everything.

It's never easy! I've switched teachers before; I made my Mom do it. I've even NOT switched teachers when I should have, just to avoid this.

I know from my own experience as a teacher, and from being amateur psychoanalyst to many fellow teachers, that it can hurt when a student leaves, especially if it feels like there was a lot of conniving and dishonesty involved. But if you do it with dignity, respect and honesty, then both parties can feel all right about it.

February 6, 2007 at 06:31 AM · Hi Laurie,

Good advice. I also think I'll probably at some point bring up the topic in a hypothetical manner with my teacher to see what she thinks.

February 6, 2007 at 07:43 AM · I don't know if there's a best solution to leaving a teacher. It is an uncomfortable situation all round. I think honesty is the best policy. In a delicate matter such as this, keeping matters private can go a long way. I remember there was some girl on here a while back talking about how she disliked her teacher at one of the major conservatories and wanted to transfer to another school (I forget where). I think we have to remember teachers are people too, and they have feelings. I wonder how this conservatory professor would feel if he were to read that. He probably wouldn't care actually, but still, I don't think airing dirty laundry is necessarily always the best answer.

February 6, 2007 at 08:07 AM · I don't want to beat the dead horse on this, but I truly feel that I'm a bit of an outsider here on this matter so I just want to make one more point. I don't think one can show respect and appreciation to our teachers by being evasive about something potentially awkward. If this is such an awkward situation as everyone suggests, then I want to know what exactly makes it awkward? What's wrong with it? If it's such a natural thing for every violinist to go through, why can we just discuss it with someone we respect like we would about our relationship, plans or dreams? If we have had awkward experience in this situation in the past, then more the reason for us to look into it to see what is that makes us feel awkward? How to improve the situation and to make it more than okay for everyone?

It's about relationship. That's my point.

February 6, 2007 at 09:09 AM · "I QUIT" has a singular, dramatic finality about it. Can't afford trashing my violin, so I would use a cheap bow in the next lesson, and snap it in two. Then I would simply pack up, pay up, say thank you, and change phone numbers.

February 6, 2007 at 03:13 PM · LOL! That's it, Ron!

February 6, 2007 at 04:22 PM · interesting to see the different responses:)

JUST DISAPPEAR AND LET THE TEACHER FILE THE MISSING PERSON REPORT:)!!!

actually, i would side with being nice about things since there is already a friendship established (but hey, isn't that always the case with any teacher:):)?

agree with lauri and yixi that one should be very grateful and sincere and clear about the reasons for departure. if not comfortable relating it face to face, one should write a thank you letter in which some reasons should be given. or even email, but a phone call or leaving a msg on a machine is,,,you know.

on top of that, if it is up to me, i would buy her a nice gift for all the help.

in real life, we are often remembered by little gestures at crossroads and by how we conduct ourselves in times of rough sailing.

February 6, 2007 at 06:14 PM · Thanks again for the additional responses. Laurie, I like your idea of focusing on gratitude. She's done many wonderful things for me and it won't be hard for me to enumerate them. I was thinking of something like, "I've learned so much from you in the past two years; I'm especially grateful for the work you've done with me on intonation. The things you taught me about ring notes and finger patterns have really brought me to a new level. I've really enjoyed working together, but I think it's time for me to get a new perspective, so this will be my last lesson."

Does that work? Also, I'm still not sure about how to resolve the money thing. As I mentioned earlier, I pay by the lesson; should I offer one more lesson's pay, or is a small gift sufficient?

Nate, I agree with your comments on privacy; it's always difficult to strike a balance between wanting to share and discuss things and potentially hurting people. (I have no respect for those who post mean and hurtful things in their personal blogs, for example). My teacher doesn't do much on the Internet so I'm pretty sure she won't see anything here, and I've removed her name from my profile.

February 6, 2007 at 06:39 PM · The only thing I'd add is that you follow your gut. Only you know the teacher and his/her personality. We can write all sorts of stuff over email that can't really do justice to the situation.

Personally, I like flying across the room and body-slamming your former teacher in a classic full back souffle - WWF style. But maybe your body type would require a head and heel pick - it's really hard to say.

February 6, 2007 at 07:48 PM · Lots of varied (and well considered) advice on a touchy issue.

Yeah, sure, you've got to follow your instincts, but I certainly agree that you ought to keep it positive. You were with this teacher for a long time for positive reasons.

It might be nice to review (quickly and to the point) what you feel you've gained that will give you a good foundation for the future.

And remember, although your teacher may very well have some feelings of disappointment about it, it's not the end of the world for either of you. And you may want to email your teacher or drop a note (so to speak) every so often to keep in touch.

If this is the worst problem you ever have in life, you'll be doing great.

Cordially, Sandy

February 6, 2007 at 08:22 PM · Haha Terry, actually the WWF is now called the WWE. The World Wildlife Federation sued the World Wrestling Federation over the rights of the abbreviated name. The reason I know all of this is because I live practically around the corner from the WWE (formerly WWF) headquarter building - which is often filmed in the television shows and advertisements. I remember the days following the World Wrestling Federation's loss in court, I found it kind of funny to see somone on the building changing the logo that hung on the top.

February 7, 2007 at 09:29 AM · this isn't really a comment for the students but for the teachers. I actually had to leave a GREAT teacher for a very BAD one because of my sensitive nose and his VERY bad breathe. He would fix my postures and everything but when he talks, he is always 2 inches from my face and I guess he forgot to brush... I'm kicking myself now as I write this because it was a great opportunity to be a better violinist. kick* kick*

February 7, 2007 at 11:19 AM · Hi,

From my perspective as a teacher, here is what I would think. Like Buri said, do it quickly. A phone call is best. Someone mentioned honesty. Go with that card. Nothing worst than things left in the air - I personally hate people who do that; unsaids are worst than lies.

That said, be thankful, respectful and appreciative of what she has given you. That should also be said.

Cheers!

February 7, 2007 at 12:22 PM · if only the poster asks for departing nicely, or amically...but she said gracefully,,,,which may call for some special touch,,,,i would think:)

February 7, 2007 at 02:37 PM · There's a message here for people teaching privately. I taught privately for some years, then gave it up due to a family illness, my need for discretionary time, & a sense of fair play towards my school students, since I could not say yes to everyone. Now retired, I have accumulated a studio! Because it "just happened", I haven't done much in the way of contracts, pre-payment, etc. I do require notice 24 hours' ahead, barring sudden illness. (I've said if a child doesn't go to school or is sent home, I don't want to see them.It hasn't happened at all yet.) I've planned to assess the whole venture at the one-year mark this summer, and will plan to add a definition of my term, and a re-up date for the next one. This gives anyone who needs it for any reason an easy out, and lets me keep my roster full and schedule tight. // I have had school students (note the plural,please) study privately with a person who completely lost it when there was a decision to stop lessons or move on. She also screams and bullies. The older they get and the more promising, the meaner the treatment. Says things like, 'If I'd gone to my lesson prepared like that I'd have been crying the whole time and on my knees begging my teacher's forgiveness, so I'm going to make you cry.' Mistreats the not-talented ones, too, by the way, by ridiculing.

February 7, 2007 at 03:07 PM · There are all kinds of people. I am sure teachers experience abusive parents, too. We had a friend who was a private violin teacher. She had a couple of students she had for a long time that she had to quit. She got a job at a school as a music teacher and she just didn't have time to keep private students. I happened to be at her house shortly after she made a phone call to one of the parents informing of her decision. She was at a tear point. She is not a delicate type.

Summer sounds like a good idea. We had that with our first teacher in a casual manner. Both our teacher and our daughter went away for summer. When we wished Good Summer on each other was a good time to indicate future intentions of both sides.

Ihnsouk

February 7, 2007 at 04:20 PM · In general, there is no reason to put up with being personally abused, whether you are the student or the teacher. The most graceful way out is simply to say, "I'm sorry you do not understand my situation, and I'm sorry you feel that way about it," and leave (or hang up). As far as I am concerned, there is no place for personal abuse in any kind of education, least of all in so personal an education as the violin.

Sandy

February 8, 2007 at 05:40 PM · Al, you read too much into my words...by "gracefully" I simply meant "in a classy, mature manner". :)

Well, my consultation with the prospective (not anymore!) teacher yesterday went very well, so it seems this is no longer a theoretical question. I think I know what to say to my current teacher to express gratitude, but I'm still a little concerned about the money thing. I was pondering the idea of showing up for my lesson, but instead of taking my violin out, say I want to talk to her, announce my departure, hand her payment for the lesson as planned, but then not stay. It doesn't make sense to me to do the lesson with her now that I know I'm switching teachers (especially since the new one has me on all new pieces), and this way she still gets some "extra" payment.

Does that sound reasonable? It also then gives her my whole lesson time to deal with any feelings before she has to teach her next student or go to her rehearsal or whatever she's doing next.

February 8, 2007 at 07:11 PM · I think that is a great idea.

I am a private teacher and it is always difficult when a student moves on. The "talk" idea is very mature and shows you care. Paying her for that lesson is sufficient. She will be able to find another student quickly enough. That is the nature of our job.

If she has a break-down, offer to pay her for the rest of the month. But hopefully it won't come to that.

Staying the rest of the lesson and playing is a bad idea. It just makes the teacher wish you weren't leaving and makes it harder on everyone.

Say thank you, pay her and tell her you will keep in touch. Whether or not you actually keep in touch, of course, is optional.

Good Luck!

February 8, 2007 at 08:40 PM · Greetings,

I a still puzzled as towhy one should to pay for the rest of the month if things got a little dicey.

Maybe this sounds odd but as a teacher i would be a little offended by that. Maybe it is something to do with a very vague implication that the money is the most important thing. And if it is, why waste yours on someone who thinks that way?

Cheers,

Buri

February 8, 2007 at 09:12 PM · Good thought Buri.

I didn't think about my comment going that way.I have taken with teachers who were worried about their lost income until they found another student. I was only responding to that type of a situation. I would never expect a student to pay me for the rest of the month. But I would also not get upset at the student for the lost income in the first place.

February 9, 2007 at 12:49 AM · I'm suddenly in this situation, too, and for the second time since January, when my violin daughter left her former teacher. In that case, we had paid for lessons for a month already and we felt that the biggest sorrow was saying goodbye to someone who had nurtured her for 8 years.

This time, my viola daughter is probably going to move on. She had a lesson today with a teacher who seems to have a lot to give her, in a new direction. Both teachers are members of a major orchestra and I know there will be no professional animosity. The old teacher will understand because she's a professional, but I am still totally dreading our conversation. If it comes to that. My daughter is still unsure, even though she knows the new teacher will be the right move for her, for all reasons. But it's always painful and difficult to do this. I have four kids who play stringed instruments (somehow, stings seem to have more emotional strings-- I don't recall having had trouble leaving piano or wind instruments in my own youth) and each time has been hard. Some of the teachers have been hurt and angry, even vitriolic, and others have been kind and professional, but it has always been painful to say goodbye even when we all know it's the right thing.

February 9, 2007 at 04:32 AM · In my adult lesson years, I have left 3 teachers. Two of which was not because of a decision to move on to another teacher, but to be moving physically to a new country/state. In those two circumstances, I knew far enough in advance that I gave each teacher about a one month notice, but continued lessons up 'til the time of my move. They both appreciated the advanced notice, was sad to have me leave (I felt the same way). The remaining lessons were good, but there was always a tinge of sadness and it was a little strange at times. One attended my going away party and we all had a good time.

When I first moved to Oregon, I started off with a teacher who taught intermediate students. After the first lesson, it was she, not I, who suggested that I find an advanced teacher and helped me in the search. I kept her as a teacher for several months to work specifically on my vibrato (something that I never really was able to do).

February 9, 2007 at 05:56 AM · Thanks Mendy, this is exactly what I would do. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who finds that we need to give one month notice and keep the whole thing as normal as it should. I believe if we stop looking at leaving teacher as a negative event, it will less likely be negatvie. So the first thing to ask ourselves is if we can accept it ourselves that this is the wise time to move on. If it is the case, then all you need to think about is how to communicate your gratitude to this teacher, because she is the one effectively brought you to this wise moment. Slow down if you have to. Don't rush to another teacher until you are ready to finish with this one.

I also agree the point others made that offer money with polite thank-you words can be tricky and even offensive. Give the teacher one month and announce it as a matter of fact, then you've got the rest of the time to show how grateful you are. That's a win-win situation.

February 9, 2007 at 12:23 PM · I left my teacher in California when I moved east for a job. That was fine personally, although I still miss him musically because he was a great teacher.

I left my last teacher in Boston when I was 8 months pregnant and said I was just not going to have time to play after I had the baby. She was a mother herself, and seemed to understand and be sympathetic. I thought we left on pretty good terms. But now I've got this block against going back to her.

I liked her way back when, and I was learning a lot from her, but I'm embarassed to call now because that "baby" is now a big 7-year-old, and there's another baby (who is 3). I don't know what I'm afraid of, exactly, maybe being lectured about not practicing enough :(

February 9, 2007 at 11:24 PM · Karen, I'm sure she'll be glad to hear from you. Of course she'll understand that there is not a whole lot of time to practice between babies. No need to feel guilty. Just be glad that you're picking it up again. I'm sure she'll also be glad to catch up with you.

February 10, 2007 at 11:01 PM · Why would anyone want to leave their teacher, Grace Fulley? I'm sure Ms. Fulley is a good teacher. Why is everyone so upset with her?

:) Sandy

February 10, 2007 at 09:45 PM · which happens to be an anagram of face yell grrrrr...

that's a good reason to change.

February 10, 2007 at 10:37 PM · And Trafalgar spelled backwards is Raglafart.

February 10, 2007 at 11:31 PM · How long have you been with her?

Approach this boldly--your decision is yours and deserves approbation. State that you have auditioned a new teacher and are moving on to a more challenging direction. Do not be apologetic with words or demeanor--simply express your plans with the same resolve as ordering dinner in a restaurant. This will garner her respect (in turn boosting your self-assurance, thereby imparting a mutual regard and appreciation for both sides).

Let her know how your time together has made you ready for more focus and broader opportunities. Be gracious, allowing her an inroad for her ideas: How can she now best prepare you for your new learning environment? How can the two of you use wisely your remaining time? (I sincerely suggest two or three additional lessons with her as a good wrap-up--you'll supplant any awkwardness with a clear and shared sense of forward direction, gain some valuable insights from each other, and bring about a fulfilling close to your relationship.)

All good teachers understand the necessity of change in the student's environment. This is crucial for the vitality of both sides. When taking on new students I always state that in the end my job is to make myself unneeded. While the underlying goal is self-sufficiency, it also bears relevence in closing of chapters such as this along the way.

Good teaching empowers students to stand as individuals on what has been taught, and allows them to approach the next level with confidence and impressionability. Good students in turn help teachers refine their method and refresh their own approach to music.

You'll be the better student for it--and she'll be the better teacher.

Eric

February 10, 2007 at 11:52 PM · If you have a good teacher, honestly, it shouldn't be a problem. By "good," I mean natured, not actual teaching.

I remember my first teacher actually telling me at one point that I should find another teacher because she had done everything that she could for me, and didn't want to feel like she was holding me back.

She even went so far as to call several musicians and set up meetings for me with them. Keep in mind I was still a child when she did all this, but she was very professional and courteous about it. As soon as I found a teacher I liked, I had a few more final lessons with my old teacher and then left for my new teacher.

That is my experience, but I am sure that everyone has their own unique memories of switching teachers.

February 18, 2007 at 06:25 AM · Well, that didn't go too badly. I showed up for my regular lesson but without my violin, and we sat down and I told her of my plans. I emphasized that I'd learned a lot from her and told her how grateful I was for her teaching, particularly in improving my intonation, and how I really felt empowered in my playing in a way that I hadn't before. She was gracious and said she understood that every teacher had a different style and that the more ways you approached something, the better you'd be overall. I told her I hoped this didn't preclude us possibly working together in the future (which wasn't just an empty platitude; I can see it happening when I'm more mature and need more of a coach than a teacher), and she said of course it didn't. Of course I paid for for the full lesson, which she appreciated, and when I got up to shake her hand she pulled me into a hug instead. :)

I was a little surprised to discover how emotional *I* was afterwards; I do love her, and I'm going to miss her. It's weird to think that I won't be seeing her anymore...as excited as I am about working with my new teacher, I don't think we'll ever be as close as I was with her.

So, thanks all for the advice. I'm glad to have it over with!

February 18, 2007 at 02:01 PM · Karin: Nice going. Sounds like a great resolution to a sensitive issue. Wouldn't it be a much better world if we all spent more time building bridges than we do burning them.

Cordially, Sandy

February 18, 2007 at 03:34 PM · Admirably done, Karin. Congratulations, and thanks for being a good online role model for students.

February 18, 2007 at 05:16 PM · Very mature and sensible way of meeting a potentially difficult situation, Karin. You're wise to have done it that way... and left the door open for coaching later. Best wishes... and let us know how the new teacher works out. :)

Katie

February 18, 2007 at 05:10 PM · Karin, well done! Your thoughtfulness and courage are remarkable. Thanks again for sharing this experience with us.

February 18, 2007 at 05:46 PM · Well done Karin.

February 19, 2007 at 10:01 PM · Thanks, everyone, for the nice words. Teachers of all kinds tend to be underappreciated, so the least we can do is let them know how much they have done for us.

February 20, 2007 at 12:05 AM · Karin, your sense of responsiblity, even compassion, is notable. Having read other horror stories of teachers that really aren't qualified, perhaps even terribly so, is what has made this discussion very interesting. Good luck in the future, with choosing teachers.

February 20, 2007 at 09:48 PM · make sure you are paid in full, then give them a reasonable amount of notice so they can fill your slot (six weeks is reasonable).

That's all you need do. Just be honest. It's a business transaction, not a love affair!

February 20, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Greetings,

I`m going to repectfully disagree with Adam here even though it does repeat what I said earlier , for me.

In my opinion, the student has absolutely no obligation to give a teacher time to fill a slot. Actually I have a waiting list anyway.

Paid in full yes, but if a student wants to quit then an amiable and rapid goodbye is best all round. 6 weeks would drive me nuts and would be difficult for the student.

Cheers,

Buri

February 21, 2007 at 12:58 AM · Buri - We go by the year. If six weeks drives you nuts, I wonder what a year will do to you.

Ihnsouk

February 21, 2007 at 01:24 AM · Greetings,

dear Ihnsouk, you know I am well past nuts....

A year?!!!!

One of the rationals behind my thinking is roughly this:

Are you changing

a) because the teacher is useless.

b) because you are moving.

c) because it is time to change -even though the teacher is good you have been with them for long enough (very common)

d) you or your child is incompatible with the teacher.

Of course there are other reasons or combinations of these and more. But, in just three out of four presented here you are not getting what you pay for and like any busines s transaction you are entitled to get value for money. So why would you want to carry on paying? Why should you?

Of course it is not just about money, but I sometimes feel reducing it to a busines stransaction can be beneficial to all parties concerned. It can be really tough on a teacher when parents try to build a friendly relationship with a nice littlee chat before and afte r lessons. The end result can be havoc when you are trying to earn you living by teaching four students in the morning and get out on the dot for an afternoon rehearsal. Parents often don`t realize that teaching is a job, not a hobby.

The plus side for parents is that they understand that they get value for money if they organize their child where necessary, help the child to understand about practice, paying attention, care of the instrument, preparation and the like.

Idle thoughts

Buri

February 21, 2007 at 02:27 AM · The private instrument instruction area is not regulated, and a huge majority of those hanging out shingles have no training in pedagogy. Many people who teach for a living with credentials hate the real environemnt out there, and will if they feel like sharing, expound on these feelings in detail.

Orchestra members are often not only not really qualified to teach, but poor teachers--sometimes very poor because they've had to come up through the jungle themselves and are basically winging it. Of course they don't mention this when they are taking your money. Elm St. housewives flock their children to them anyways.

Now with service industries replacing industrial, the jungle is even more vine entangled, and any student who encounters a poor teacher should feel more than encouraged to find another if possible. There at least in the past was local accountability, and some semblance of standards in method even for the self-professed 'teacher'. This is no longer true.

One Suzuki trained teacher feels there should be survival training for parents as well as student's in today's jungle.

February 21, 2007 at 02:38 AM · There are a lot of ways to deal with this situation, depending on the relationship between the teacher and the student (and the parent),the local culture/community, and sometimes, the particular economic situation either the teacher or the student, or both are in.

One best solution to avoid unnecessary difficulty in departure is to have a signed agreement to begin with. If the terms of the agreement are clear from the start, including the term of ending the contract, then it'll be much simpler for both teacher and the student. Assumed and unspoken things are not very prunelike.

The notion of notice should not be confused with the idea that students are taking upon the responsibility of helping the teacher to fill the time slot. That's teacher's job for sure. But employee-employer relationship does entail some kind of reliance of each party -- expectation of providing service and receiving compensation on a regular basis. Students should get the value but that can be quite subjective at times. Teachers are people too and they often have student loan or mortgage to pay and kids to raise. Unless there are good reason (such as abuse or other misconduct) that one should just fire the teacher on the spot, I think it is fair to all parties for a student to give reasonable notice either by way of announcing the depature way ahead of the time, or by paying a few sessions extra upon leaving. If you as a teacher don't want to go on teaching when the announcement is made, fine, but you need to tell your students way ahead of time. It's not student's fault wanting to be reasonable according to her own standard by providing you with notice.

February 21, 2007 at 03:44 AM · The best way to leave your teacher is to tell her that, due to an unexpected financial windfall resulting from the death of a great aunt who left you her estate, you are now free to pursue your dream of becoming a circus lion. Then chortle maniacally but quietly. Stop suddenly and ask if you could borrow a cup of meat. Then say nothing. Let nature take its course.

February 21, 2007 at 04:03 PM · The private instrument instruction area is not regulated, and a huge majority of those hanging out shingles have no training in pedagogy. Many people who teach for a living with credentials hate the real environemnt out there, and will if they feel like sharing, expound on these feelings in detail.

Orchestra members are often not only not really qualified to teach, but poor teachers--sometimes very poor because they've had to come up through the jungle themselves and are basically winging it. Of course they don't mention this when they are taking your money. Elm St. housewives flock their children to them anyways.

Now with service industries replacing industrial, the jungle is even more vine entangled, and any student who encounters a poor teacher should feel more than encouraged to find another if possible. There at least in the past was local accountability, and some semblance of standards in method even for the self-professed 'teacher'. This is no longer true.

One Suzuki trained teacher feels there should be survival training for parents as well as student's in today's jungle--and my experience has been that he is right on mark.

February 21, 2007 at 01:58 PM · I thought I was just throwing in a joke. We changed only once and I can't generalize. For us the reason was that it was about time to move on to another teacher. That doesn't have to happen overnight and one can see it coming long in advance. Besides, in choosing our first teacher, we did our research attending the teacher's concert, etc. before we spoke with the teacher. By the time we talked we had a fairly good idea of what we were getting into. For you and many others on this site, a year may an eternity, but at the snail pace we make progress, a year is like a week on violin time.

Ihnsouk

February 21, 2007 at 08:15 PM · "Besides, in choosing our first teacher, we did our research attending the teacher's concert, etc. before we spoke with the teacher. By the time we talked we had a fairly good idea of what we were getting into."

It's very good that you did your research I think. Many people do not have that luxury, for several reasons. And really qualified better teachers are often the ones doing the choosing. But for the average person, again:

The private instrument instruction area is not regulated, and a huge majority of those hanging out shingles have no training in pedagogy. Many people who teach for a living with credentials hate the real environemnt out there, and will if they feel like sharing, expound on these feelings in detail.

Orchestra members are often not only not really qualified to teach, but poor teachers--sometimes very poor because they've had to come up through the jungle themselves and are basically winging it. Of course they don't mention this when they are taking your money. Elm St. housewives flock their children to them anyways.

Now with service industries replacing industrial, the jungle is even more vine entangled, and any student who encounters a poor teacher should feel more than encouraged to find another if possible. There at least in the past was local accountability, and some semblance of standards in method even for the self-professed 'teacher'. This is no longer true.

One Suzuki trained teacher feels there should be survival training for parents as well as student's in today's jungle--and my experience has been that he is right on mark.

It also came to mind, that one should always know the prospective generalist teacher's students successes--or lack thereof.

Someone just emailed me privately and said if it is obvious that the teacher is just winging and starts talking about 'their' method--that one should take special note of this.

February 21, 2007 at 09:13 PM · slip out the back, Itzhak

make a little plan, Hahn

say you don't give a durn, Stern

just get yourself free.

head for the coast, Kavakos

no need to be cryin', Milstein

drop off the key, Kennedy

and get yourself free

February 22, 2007 at 04:16 AM · Gee, Jim, I don't like that poem at all, but thanks for sharing!

February 22, 2007 at 01:12 PM · As a critic, Jim Miller can throw it.

The problem is he thinks he's a poet.

He's brilliant at insight,

But for odes he's a fright.

Hey, Jim, as to rhymes, just stow it.

Your pal, Sandy

February 22, 2007 at 02:34 PM · That's my perennial problem. That's me in a nutshell - powerful insight with insufficent means of expression. I think I've got it worked out this time though. I've got this poem on the tip of my tongue about how past a certain age, even though you haven't changed, you're perceived differently and are a prisoner, victim, etc. of that. No one has ever put it down on paper, but you see the results of it all around you. Actually, it's more of a country song. I need to put the message inside a country theme, like a guy with fifteen children running from the law falls over a cliff and breaks his leg. I could make it a lieder or something but nobody pays attention to the words in those things.

February 22, 2007 at 03:58 PM · Jim, great idea. The psychology of us older codgers is just right for a C&W song. Just don't call it the same title as the country song I heard the other day - "If you don't go away and leave me alone, I'll find someone who will."

:) Sandy

February 22, 2007 at 04:25 PM · That's exactly what I'm talking about. You think I'm 22 or something and refer to yourself as a codger, but I'm the same age as you. But what does being the same as I was at 22 get me? Not a damn thing. Except maybe thrown out. Wait, maybe I'm younger than you. I didn't see Heifetz live in 1927.

February 22, 2007 at 04:40 PM · Jim: OK, I wasn't implying that you are 22. My 91-year-old mother says that she can't believe that she has a son who is on Medicare. I didn't see Heifetz in 1927 (I don't go back quite that far), but I did see him in the late 1950's when I was in high school. It was the only time I saw him live, and he lived up to his reputation.

I also saw the first Chicago appearance of Leonid Kogan, who was on his first American tour. He was absolutely incredible. I also saw Michael Rabin once (when he was about 21 or 22) playing the Paganini 1st violin concerto (in Philly), and he was also fantastic.

Great memories.

Be well. Sandy

February 22, 2007 at 04:57 PM · "Great memories."

For you youngsters, the encoded message is have a time while you're really 22. So just:

slip out the back, Itzhak

make a little blur, Allendoerfer

...

February 22, 2007 at 05:57 PM · "That's exactly what I'm talking about. You think I'm 22 or something and refer to yourself as a codger, but I'm the same age as you."

I thought he was including you in codgerdom. And isn't your song from 1975?

February 22, 2007 at 06:22 PM · It's one of those songs that will always get play, from back when we were kids. We.

February 22, 2007 at 08:37 PM · "Besides, in choosing our first teacher, we did our research attending the teacher's concert, etc. before we spoke with the teacher. By the time we talked we had a fairly good idea of what we were getting into."

It's very good that you did your research I think. Many people do not have that luxury, for several reasons. And really qualified better teachers are often the ones doing the choosing. But for the average person, again:

The private instrument instruction area is not regulated, and a huge majority of those hanging out shingles have no training in pedagogy. Many people who teach for a living with credentials hate the real environemnt out there, and will if they feel like sharing, expound on these feelings in detail.

Orchestra members are often not only not really qualified to teach, but poor teachers--sometimes very poor because they've had to come up through the jungle themselves and are basically winging it. Of course they don't mention this when they are taking your money. Elm St. housewives flock their children to them anyways.

Now with service industries replacing industrial, the jungle is even more vine entangled, and any student who encounters a poor teacher should feel more than encouraged to find another if possible. There at least in the past was local accountability, and some semblance of standards in method even for the self-professed 'teacher'. This is no longer true.

One Suzuki trained teacher feels there should be survival training for parents as well as student's in today's jungle--and my experience has been that he is right on mark.

It also came to mind, that one should always know the prospective generalist teacher's students successes--or lack thereof.

Someone just emailed me privately and said if it is obvious that the teacher is just winging and starts talking about 'their' method--that one should take special note of this.

February 22, 2007 at 10:24 PM · and I'm going to disagree with Stephen Brivati

I don't have a waiting list. Teaching is how I make my living. If a student up and quits before the six week semester is over, it is her obligation to pay me in full for that time.

Students quit for all kinds of reasons. If she quits, I can assure you it is not because of me! I am nothing but professional.

Regardless, I won't sign on a new student unless I receive a commitment of a minimum of six weeks.

February 22, 2007 at 10:34 PM · Greetings,

Adam, I wouldn@t dream of suggesting you were anythign otehr than totally proffessional.

What I think we are talkign about emphasizes the need for a detailed explanation and mutual understanding on both sides in the nature of a contract bfore anything is done. I follow basically the same policy as you I think, in that I tell students up front you will pay four lessons in advance and if you cancel them without good reason ther e is no refund. This is quite unusual in Japan (unless you work for a commercial school) and some prospective students raise their eyebrows. I then take time to explain that serious teachers don@t just do a lesson out of thin air. It involves, evaluation, preparation, note taking and even research. Why should I work out a plan for someone over a month or whatever when that person is going to mess me around? It also indicates a willingnes to match the ampount of effort I put into the teaching process. Most people get the point. Those who don`t I immediatley thank and inform I cannot take them on.

However, what I am very opposed to is the informal suggestion of a student taht they should pay an arbitraty figure as compensation. Anything outside the boundaries of clearly agreed renumeration is , in my opinion, unnecessary and even offensive in some cases.

My reason for stressing this point is that I really feel that teachers as a profession should get its act together like you have done and spell out exactly what they want. In the long run I feel this is how we remind students that what we do is damn hard, profoundly worthwhile, and distinctly underpaid.

Cheers,

Buri

February 23, 2007 at 02:39 AM · Buri--you sound like a good teacher--working out a plan alone is really pretty distinctitive in today's jungle. Good job.

I am reserving my opinions for a little while until I arrive at the words to express them along these line--but as you know, I shall, when I'm ready.

February 23, 2007 at 02:56 AM · Greetings,

al, I write up noptes on all my studnets from day one. Those are reviewed prior the next lesson so I rmemeber exactly what we are working on and whta if any the problems were. Its pretty mcuh the same a shaving a goal in private practice. If oyu don@t know eactly why you are doign something at a given moment then ther eis not a lot of point in doing it.

This is not a recipe for inflexibility though. It is by creaitng the parameters that one is much freer to go with somethign completley differnet if necessary. That then simply becomes part of the on goign proces sof note taking.

Cheers,

Buri

February 23, 2007 at 03:07 AM · That' sort of how I tutor. But I've never had enough students at one time to have put it on paper at any one time... As I said...

February 23, 2007 at 03:32 AM · Teacher like Buri doesn't exist in this world. Not where I live anyway:(

February 23, 2007 at 04:00 AM · Yixi, all it takes is real concern, not over-doing it, and a little attention to detail. Lessons are very expensive, and there is absolutely no excuses for established teachers--none.

Yes, they are people too before it goes there. But...

I've 'never' not known where one of my kids were from one test to another. And having brought kids reading levels up, though I was given a distinct roadmap to success in that environment, it's amazing.

February 23, 2007 at 04:27 AM · Al, you sound like a good teacher yourself and I know what it takes to be a great teacher because I'm married to one. Still, we have to admit, some students just bring the best out of their teachers than others, isn't it? Why?

Maybe it’s a Chinese thing, I take all my teachers, good or bad, to be 100 times more important than any other people I work with. They make me grow and change my life in ways no one else can. We are compensating our teachers for their work and this is the business side that we have to live with, but the value of good teachers just can’t be measured by what we pay. It’s really too bad some students can’t see this.

BTW, did you get my message about prunes, Al?

February 23, 2007 at 04:52 AM · Yixi said:

"Maybe it’s a Chinese thing, I take all my teachers, good or bad, to be 100 times more important than any other people I work with. They make me grow and change my life in ways no one else can. We are compensating our teachers for their work and this is the business side that we have to live with, but the value of good teachers just can’t be measured by what we pay. It’s really too bad some students can’t see this."

Yes and then there's students who revere there teachers too intently--sometimes unbeknowingly, and then much time has passed.

February 23, 2007 at 05:43 AM · Greetings,

Yixi said:

>Still, we have to admit, some students just bring the best out of their teachers than others, isn't it? Why?

That`s an interesting one. I wa s talking about that with my healer last night because I have just started with a student but there appears to be little or no exchange of energy or values going on. i feel rather like I am working in a black hole. My friend told me that this problem crops up in body work sometimes so they have classes on it as part of the training. Its called maybe Yuen (or Yuan)n Chinese medicine, maybe.... Sometime s there is simply nothing one can do about it. People are so different it happens every now and again.

Cheers,

Buri

February 23, 2007 at 06:49 AM · Albert said:

”Yes and then there's students who revere there teachers too intently--sometimes unbeknowingly, and then much time has passed.”

Teachers and etudes share a lot in common. They teach you as much as you are able to get out of them. Time passes and we change. When we aren’t able to get more out of them, we figure it’s time to move on to the next teacher or etudes. But before we move on, we can say, ‘hmm, the teacher or the etudes are no good and I’ve wasted all my money and time!’ Or, ‘wow, I’ve learned so much from them and now I’m well prepared for different challenges!’ Most of us probably wouldn’t call the etudes lousy etudes just because they no longer serve our needs, but when it comes to teachers (or people, for that matter) that we’ve been with for a while, fingers start to point. When this happens, there’s no winners but only one side loses more than the other. Who is the bigger loser?

February 23, 2007 at 01:55 PM · Not really--I was talking about teachers who teach poorly, cannot communicate concepts, and lead students along sometimes for years. I wasn't talking about opinion, I was talking about a proven jungle.

Bow distribution at of quarter notes is not an abstraction.

February 23, 2007 at 09:56 PM · It is if you're blind and don't have arms and are in a lot of pain.

February 23, 2007 at 10:30 PM · "It's very good that you did your research I think. Many people do not have that luxury, for several reasons. And really qualified better teachers are often the ones doing the choosing. But for the average person, again:"

Al - Sorry for not getting back sooner. Yes, we were lucky. Our first teacher conducted a small youth orchestra. It was easy to attend their concert. We could see that the conductor and kids had a comfortable, mutually repecting relationship. The orchestra played in tune. The program was excellent, no blockbusters to impress parents. Smaller but musical pieces that matched kids' ability. The concert was at a small nursing home we never heard of. We took us more than three hours to find the place but the trip was worth it.

Ihnsouk

February 24, 2007 at 05:08 AM · Sounds like it--I saw a youth orchestra of an acquaintance on youtube recently and they were as you described.

A lot of teachers teaching today should probably stick not only to music on the kids levels, but kids on their teaching level. Adults, uh, sense things.

February 24, 2007 at 06:47 AM · Finally someone has realised pushing kids through pieces too difficult for them not only massacres the music but can build up all sorts of bad playing habits and lowers the pupils expectancy of good intonation and musical playing.

February 24, 2007 at 02:33 PM · i think when a kid plays music, at least to me, the most important thing to be aware of is what the music does for the kid, not what the kid's playing does for the listeners.

music playing to a kid is, at least should be, about enjoyment, a priviledge, a fun activity, something that feels unique and special to the kid, and NOT what teachers or even parents think or want, certainly not about perfection.

a kid with bad technique and poor musicality will get much more out of music playing if he/she is interested. and most kids are not interested. or made or treated in such a way that they lose interest. something the parents and teachers scractch their heads later and wonder: what went wrong? often, the adults' reaction is a selfish act...they scream and yell because the kid's music sounds bad to them, but not necessarily bad to the kid. give the kids some room to explore, to grow, to learn to appreciate music through time.

the worst thing to suggest to a kid is,,,look at heifetz play. because if the parent or the teacher saying that is that insightful or farsighted, they probably should have lived by example. let the kids find heifetz themselves.

the second worst thing to do is to follow the cookbook and only play things the kid is capable of, or not capable of, as long as it is the next piece on the book. it simply shows the lack of creativity of the adults around. kids are not created equal and each must be challenged to the max, as long as it is fun, to them. how does the saying go? if you are never asked to do things you cannot do, you can never do things you can well. getting cheesy.

the third worst thing to do is to listen to someone play and make a quick judgement call, particularly as an adult to a kid. may want to inquire about how much practice has been put in,,,,intonation and musicality often are impaired because of lack of sufficient practice,,,just like people in the adult world who do not have enough sleep, kids never have enough time to practice! everyone needs a break!

cheers.

February 24, 2007 at 04:11 PM · Al too said:

"the worst thing to suggest to a kid is,,,look at heifetz play. because if the parent or the teacher saying that is that insightful or farsighted, they probably should have lived by example. let the kids find heifetz themselves."

As a generality I think so... Being an adult beginner, when I was listening to David Nadine play what I was attempting it was most frustrating.

But in looking for elements such as left hand, or elbow and shoulder relaxed, I think if it is specific goals for specific and well thought reasons, it's ok to look at those, especially such as Menhuin.

I'm not sure of the role of discovery v. molding good posture and so forth. It seems that the earlier they can at least get out of the slouching and so forth at least it sets up the environment for discovery in a positive context rather than perhaps several years of experimentation--which seems the goal of starting early on some levels.

February 24, 2007 at 04:51 PM · concur, al. al is always right, lol.

i take the side that many many parents who start their kids very very early with violin does not have much intention of having fun with it.

perfect techniques mean absolutely nothing in life and the real world. some go as far as ending their lives early partly because of having perfect techniques in an imperfect world and haven't we see that often enough?

February 24, 2007 at 07:43 PM · no--not always... absolutely not... Thanks though.

February 24, 2007 at 09:00 PM · Lately I've been wondering about the nature of exploitation, as in, exploiting a child's musical talents. I don't even necessarily exploiting their talents for money, I mean doing it for an adult's satisfaction, either a teacher or parent.

When does all this cross over from teaching to exploitation? Perhaps when a child's curiosity and enthusiasm is killed in the name of someone else's idea of a perfect performance. When a child submits to being the vessel for someone else's ideas, and never learns to use his voice as his own means of expression, the teaching has failed.

Of course, children and students have to start with other people's ideas. But they should be learning to make educated choices and eventually to develop their violin technique on their own. When the nurturing stops, and the expectations start taking front seat, I think it's time to reevaluate.

February 24, 2007 at 09:48 PM · Mr. Ku: "i think when a kid plays music, at least to me, the most important thing to be aware of is what the music does for the kid, not what the kid's playing does for the listeners."

BRILLIANT! puts teaching where it belongs...enhancing human happiness! Good for you! Ku-dos!

February 24, 2007 at 09:53 PM · that is very true laurie. the classical world is very much of a pyramid scheme, where only a few selected, with the right combo of technicals and personal charms, are put on the top. many children very early on were told by their parents that the tip of the structure is where they need to be. unfortunately, the slope of the pyramid is very steep,,,you can slip off just one step away from the top.

what i think parents and teachers need to do is to prepare for the kids for that fall, with a balanced lifestyle and life skills.

addn: mr wittert, hey, another al, what can i say:)

February 24, 2007 at 10:46 PM · I don't think any parent needs to prepare a child for a fall. I think they need to nurture their children along, so they can discover exactly which mountain they are meant to climb.

Music need not be a pyramid scheme or some horribly frightening journey during which one can take a precipitous fall at any moment in time. The broader one's foundation, the less likely any kind of such "fall" will occur.

We needn't set up a child to think that losing a competition or audition will be the end of that child's world or future. In fact, the most successful musicians tend to be the most resilient and the most self-sufficient.

February 24, 2007 at 10:53 PM · Albert said:

”I wasn't talking about opinion, I was talking about a proven jungle.”

Of course, buyers be aware. I thought most of us have gone beyond this, but I could be wrong. Anyhow, Al, you and I are not disagreeing on this point, but only that I tried to address a different issue – the issue of understanding the dynamic of teaching and learning, the attitudes that student should have for their own benefit which can greatly affect the result of learning and growth, given the teachers we’ve chosen or stuck with in some cases.

Laurie said:

”Of course, children and students have to start with other people's ideas. But they should be learning to make educated choices and eventually to develop their violin technique on their own. When the nurturing stops, and the expectations start taking front seat, I think it's time to reevaluate. “

I would go further, if we teach our kids and ourselves to be able to think critically, to ask questions, a lots of them and frequently, to think before asking questions, to really respect and appreciate what teachers (good or bad ones) have offered us, and most of all, if we are able to not blame others (including one’s teacher) when things did not go the way we wish, then I think we'll be fine as parents, as students and as human beings, and I'm not talking about mere opinion here either.

February 25, 2007 at 02:56 AM · Yixi said:

"I would go further, if we teach our kids and ourselves to be able to think critically, to ask questions, a lots of them and frequently, to think before asking questions, to really respect and appreciate what teachers (good or bad ones) have offered us, and most of all, if we are able to not blame others (including one’s teacher) when things did not go the way we wish, then I think we'll be fine as parents, as students and as human beings, and I'm not talking about mere opinion here either."

Though you were responding to Laurie's observation, nor was I focusing on opinion--it's a jungle out there, and your perspective of good and bad seems just a little naive, no disrespect intended. Teachers in the jungle do not like lots of questions, they do not give feedback or try to communciate with depth and understanding--it's far too often just an economic thing--and I'm not kidding.. And again, this is not opinion.

And Laurie, Leopold Mozart lives.... I dated a girl who coached tennis. She was very clear that one of her best case scenarios would be to discover a prodigy.

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