I Am Not To Fond Of My New Teacher

September 23, 2011 at 08:53 PM · Among things, she answer her cell during a lesson. Is my distaste understandable or not?

Replies (36)

September 23, 2011 at 10:33 PM ·

I think the title should have read: "I am not too fond of my new teacher."

Edit: Answering a phone and carrying on an extended conversation during a lesson isn't appropriate. Just ask her to add the time she was on the phone to the end of the current lesson.

If she begins to browse the web during a lesson I would look for another teacher.

September 23, 2011 at 10:51 PM ·

 There are many reasons for answering a phone, so I wouldn't necessarily leave a teacher for that unless it was just constant and blatant chit-chat that lingered. I do occasionally answer my phone because students are forever calling and rescheduling. Sometimes that can affect the very student I'm teaching (maybe they can stay longer because the student on the phone will be late or has cancelled). I try to make it very quick and don't take personal calls for any other reason.

The real question is the quality of the teaching.

September 23, 2011 at 11:11 PM ·

I will pause a student briefly when the answering machine picks up to see if I need to answer it.  I will only pick up if a new student has lost their way and needs directions, or if it's a question or situation that needs immediate attention.  Sometimes, it's the student's parent trying to get a hold of us. Over the course of a semester, teaching 35 lessons a week, I answer the phone during a lesson maybe two or three times.  I'd be frustrated at any teacher who didn't treat the time I paid for as though it were valuable to me.

September 23, 2011 at 11:43 PM ·

I once took from a teacher who checked and answered emails while supposedly listening to my scales. It was the beginning of the end of the relationship...

September 24, 2011 at 01:12 AM ·

You can probably tell if your teacher is really putting her heart into your lessons and giving you her best. 

I teach around 50 students, and my own policy is that I won't answer the phone (which rings annoyingly often - up to 10 times a day) during a lesson or any other appointment, unless I hear someone leaving a message that they are dying in my parking lot or something that is equally a true emergency.  I answer all the messages after 7:00 pm when I am done teaching. 

The only exception (rare - maybe three times a year) is when I know ahead of time that I will have to get a call briefly, in which case I will tell the student at the start of their lesson that I am expecting an important call and ask if it is ok to get it, and then I add on the time taken at the end of the lesson, even if it puts me 3 minutes late all day. 

My approach may be a little too strict; but to me it is important to err on the side of really giving my students my all; if I expect them to give their best, I need to set the example!  Plus, I love my students too much to do that to them - they are more important to me than someone not present.  (I have a strong distaste for technological communication taking away from "real life," the person here with me now.)

September 24, 2011 at 11:06 AM ·

 Among things, she answer her cell during a lesson.

i am intrigued by the "among things" :)

September 24, 2011 at 12:46 PM ·

I am retired. Things are sure changing fast. Walking round my nearby town, I seem to be the only person not texting as I walk. How do those folk avoid collisions ? I have a cell, but rarely turn it on.

I believe that nowadays in schools pupils text and twitter continually during "lessons". It's rare to have a conversation that isn't interrupted by the other person's mobile ringing. If your teacher persists in mobile-phone activity during your lessons, surely you can retaliate ? Can't you get some kind of hands free apparatus and chatter while you play ? I am sure that will be the coming thing to do.

D (for dinosaur ) Beck.

September 24, 2011 at 01:20 PM · As the others have said, it's a concern but depends on the context. I'm similar to Scott; I will usually answer calls from that days students since they can have immediate bearing, but always after asking the students permission-and if the people want to stop and talk I'll politely tell them that I'm in a lesson and what time I can call them back. My students know that they have my full focus during their lesson, and that when possible they usually get extra time anyway, so there is no question of priorities. But I do understand your concern; personal calls or extended business calls have no place taking up lesson time I pay for! On David's note-so true! Most of my students know without saying that their cell phones don't belong in lesson, but I have one that I think just got his and the novelty hasn't worn off yet. We're right in the middle of a thought and it rang and he picked it up and tried to text his friend back! Needless to say, I had words... :)

September 24, 2011 at 01:20 PM ·

I went to an eye specialist who, during my consultation, received a call from his wife...Their conversation centered around  that evenings restaurant booking and which wine to buy for the gathering of friends afterwards...It went on for some time........When I got to the desk  to pay the bill, the receptionist quoted me a fugure...I asked why so much as it wasn't the original figure quoted for the consulation.... She told me it was because of the length of my visit...I told her...(I was very polite but very firm)....that I was NOT going to pay for time the doctor took for personal calls....

This should happen with your music lessons seeing as your teacher seems to be habitually on the phone...if your teacher continues to take calls during lesson, cut her fee by the appropriate number of "innattention" minutes.

September 24, 2011 at 01:45 PM ·

 it is very odd for a student to hold back portion of the tuition with a deduction for the teacher's phone time.  very odd.

it is only a phone call.  sure, it is very inappropriate for a eye doc to take a call of a personal nature and talk aloud so the patient can hear the nature of the personal call, but there are also times when the person on the other end really has an emergency, like a violinist having poked the eyeball out with the bow tip or something.

for those of you who want to deduct a teacher's fee, do you also consider adding to the fee if the teacher stays a bit longer after the scheduled class to show you something?  that happens often enough, right?

September 24, 2011 at 03:03 PM · Al and Veronica both make good points. I disagree with Veronica's last paragraph for the reasons Al mentioned. In my studio and I imagine in most others, my students get enough "extra" teaching that a two minute business phone call should be no big deal. (I hate the clock in my lessons, btw-it always goes too fast!!) However, in a case like Veronica mentioned, seriously my student should not be paying for my extended personal conversation. Since most of us have set fees we would probably never charge a student extra as her doctor did, and we probably would not accept low payment, but honestly if I had a true emergency that required me to take personal time on the phone during a student's lesson I would either give free extra lesson time, if reasonable, or simply refund that lesson. The mutual trust and respect relationship with my students is too important to be broken by something like that.

September 24, 2011 at 03:16 PM ·

 Yes, it happened to me in 1995.  i was being taught mechanically once a week.  So, I was not fond of my Teacher.  I stopped after 3 months.  In May 2011, i decided to take up my violin again without a Teacher.  Today, I am happy to play a little !

Since I was on my own, I decided to draw a graphic 0 x horizontally and subdivided it 1 to 10 and named it Bow Speed. 10 is nearest the Fingerboard. 1 is nearest the bridge.  Then, oy vertically and subdivided it again 1 to 10 and named it Bow Speed.  So, nearest the Fingerboard I got point 10 / 1 to mean Bow Speed fast + Less Pressure of the Bow.  1 / 10 to mean Bow Speed slow + Heavy Bow Pressure.  The Speed and Pressure is to be studied closely as it is very subjective.  Subdividing the graphic from 1 to 5 would equally be ok as 1 to 10 appears excessive.

I bowed at an angle 0 to less than 10 degrees North North East.  Down Bow :  I pushed the bow hairs towards the Finger Board.  Up Bow : I dragged the bow hair towards the Bridge.  It is like literally painting the string with the bow hairs.  I notice that the Bow Bouncing is in much better control.  

Though without a Teacher, I have managed to self teach myself.

Please let me know what you think of my system of bowing always at an angle.  Bowing perpendicular was less than roughly 10 per cent.

All this was because I was not fond of my Teacher !

September 24, 2011 at 07:08 PM ·

My teacher takes an occasional call, but keeps it short.  However, I'm paying for a half-hour lesson, and since she has no one scheduled after me, my lesson is almost always over an hour!  If she needs to answer a phone call, write her Congressman or jot down Chapter One of the Great American Novel, I certainly have no objections!!  :) 

September 24, 2011 at 10:03 PM ·

 I am a luthier, not a teacher. But when I deal with a client the phone is switched off. It is a matter of respect. 

In  a serious teaching environment I would expect both teacher and pupil to have phones switched off. Period. The teaching environment is extremely important and should be sacred. 

If I was  a parent and my child's teachers used their phones in ordinary school lessons I would be outraged. Here in the UK they would be fired. If my doctor, accountant, lawyer answered their cell phone during a consultation I would take that as a mark of unprofessional behaviour and personal  disrespect and discontinue my relationship with them. 

To the original poster...your role is that of pupil. It is not your role to address the poor behaviour of someone who you are paying to teach you. If I was you I would simply find another teacher. 

September 25, 2011 at 01:12 AM · My teacher occasionally answers the phone but why would I not be understanding? 1. He is the only teacher for 50 miles 2. I am his last pupil of the day so the lesson lasts as long as it needs to. 3. He always keeps it short. 4. He does not charge me money. (I am his computer "Tech Support" et. Al.) 5. Lastly (And mostly) He is patient with me! I have struggled with many things and he keeps patiently making small adjustments and changing approaches.

September 25, 2011 at 02:44 AM ·

our current teacher does not have a phone in the teaching room. i am not sure if it is by design.  our two previous ones had landline phones in the room.  often, it was parents calling about not being able to show up due to something.  every time the teachers made it clear to the other party that they were teaching, so the conversation was very short.  as a parent, if i cannot make it to the lesson, particularly on the same day and if i cannot locate the teacher, it may be quite stressful.  thankfully, we never had to cancel a lesson on the last min notice.

clearly that eye doc's wife (or perhaps a hot mistress) knows exactly where the doc is at and if she insists on making long phone calls, it is a reflection of her level,,,as well as his.  

again, i have no problem with incoming calls.  but if a teacher saves up a bunch of calls to dial out in our time slot, that will be a different story:)

another bad sign is when you do your scales, the teacher goes through her pilates program...

a teacher dozing off is also not cool.

teacher running out for a bathroom break is ok.  getting a cup of tea/coffee is also forgiveable:)

September 25, 2011 at 03:16 AM ·


this is purely my own extreme position and I state it while fully acknowledging that other proffessionals may be working in circumstances where it is both necessary amd acceptable to do otherwise.

I consider answering the phone in a lesson completely unacceptable.  It is my belief that the lesson time is concerned with fostering an attitude towards art .  For that reason,  whatever the student chooses to play to me is something worthy of the same respect as what I would hear in the concert hall.  In the same way that letting ones phone ring while attending a concert is unacceptable I want to give the same respect to my students in the hope they will take that away with them for the rest of their lives.  

Thus my cat is trained to answer the phone.



September 25, 2011 at 03:57 AM ·

Ben never remembers to write it down.

September 25, 2011 at 05:39 AM ·

As a matter of policy, I too agree one should have undivided attention on the student, but, because there can be emergencies or unexpected problems that require an immediate response or brief "listen to"  the phone is there just in case. Though it happens very infrequently, almost all the time, if I get a call during a lesson it will be from parents saying there is a traffic tie up and they may be late or they forgot the violin and had to run back to get it and therefore will be late.  Because they know my teaching schedule, parents will leave a message saying succinctly "we know you're teaching- just letting you know we'll be a few minutes late".  As it  takes up very little time to listen to that, the current student is aware that will not really cut into their lesson time  because they will get the benefit of a few extra minutes owing to the next student's being late. Once there was a really serious problem with a mother calling in about to pick up her child desperately asking for help because she was getting dizzy and short of breath. I bolted out the door and had to drive her to the emergency room. I can tell you, that was one call I'm glad I paid attention to.

In general though, the phone is not a distraction but, given that emergencies can occur, I keep it in my studio, just in case.

September 25, 2011 at 07:00 AM ·

Occasional phone call?  Not a problem - if you have a good relationship with your teacher there is an understanding that distractions - phone kids (she teaches from home), boiling kettle - its all OK because I know she is 100% invested in my playing and progress. 

Which brings me to the main point - being on the phone is a symptom not a disease.  What I read in the short opening post by Jade is a frustration with her teacher and then mentioning this symptom - but its surely not the whole problem!!  If you loved your teacher I don't think you would not even mention it.

Why not expand a bit on your teaching relationship?  Is there interest, investment, generosity, understanding, care, and personal touch to your learning?  If so you are way ahead of the game.  If not - if you can not learn from this teacher then do two things:  first examine yourself to see if you really want to learn and you are open to instruction and, if that is true, then look to see if this relationship can be fixed - and if it can not then look for another teacher.  But perhaps you are at the last stage already....


September 25, 2011 at 12:18 PM ·

" Ben never remembers to write it down."

hello emily, 2 characters come through your writings which are must read for many.  please clarify for us which one is ben, the hubby or the labby.

September 25, 2011 at 12:38 PM ·

If you are looking for input about the suitability of your teacher, please consider telling more. I routinely have my cellphone on & close to hand during lessons in case of emergency. I have explained to parents that I do so since we are often the only ones in the building and the landline is locked in an office I don't have access to. Occasionally a parent calls to say they are delayed, but I just look at the phone to see who is calling & wait till the end of the lesson. My mother, 83, was very ill over the summer, passed away end of July, and I did take calls from my Dad & the hospital. If it wasn't an emergency, I stopped the call.  

September 25, 2011 at 01:03 PM ·

 i like the point elise raised.  if the relationship is solid, we look at things differently.

November 12, 2011 at 04:17 PM · I never take calls while teaching. My philosophy is that people are paying for my time and deserve my undivided attention. If I receive a call, I check the message asap, but I WILL say I wish a lot of PARENTS would adopt a similar attitude!

November 12, 2011 at 07:16 PM · I'd like to raise another point through personal example.

I think very highly of my very capable teacher. I pay for an hour lesson once a week. Anywhere between half to two thirds of the time is spent on lessons. The rest of the time, she is either texting or we're cutting up. And I don't think anything of it. Much of the time, I'll even end a lesson early. I mean this humbly, but I'm a super motivated student, and my teacher recognizes this. I realize that I'm the one who needs to go home and practice, practice, practice. My teacher is simply my guide to keep me on the right track. Once the lesson has been taught and absorbed. It's my responsiblity to woodshed and learn the lesson/song to an appreciable level. I don't expect my teacher to hold my hand throughout the entire process. Once the lesson is learned, it's on me.

November 13, 2011 at 10:07 PM · This may be understandable to a certain degree. If ever my teacher phone rings during a lesson, it is either another student cancelling or such, or a family member she has plans with later in the day. Any extra chit-chat is immediatly dismissed. You could always find another teacher if you feel this is distracting.

November 14, 2011 at 12:00 AM · In my personal opinion, unless the teacher is expecting a very important call(family emergency, hospitalizations, etc), both the teacher and the student's phones should be off. Lessons are not a cheap investment, and I would feel disrespected if my teacher acted as if I were paying him/her to take care of personal business on my dollars.

November 14, 2011 at 01:53 AM · How can you anticipate an emergency? Last week, I was teaching a woman whose daughter called my house and was leaving a message on the machine saying she'd been accused of shoplifting for bringing her own candy in the grocery store and eating it while shopping. Could it have waited? Of course. Depends on your priorities. Her priorities at that point were her daughter, so I let her take the call.

I don't know, maybe it could have been best to leave the ringer off.

November 14, 2011 at 02:37 AM · Not to hijack but I just needed to vent and this topic title was my feelings exactly!

I moved (temporarily) to a new state and had to find a new teacher. Google searches proved moot save for one resource. I met the head of the adult program and she is very harsh in her manner and was definitely one of those "I'm better than others" kind of person.

She questioned my teacher's credentials, and seemingly put her down while propping herself up. I love my original teacher and hope to learn more from her when I move back home.

Anyhoo as her school is the only source (that I've been able to find) for adult group sessions I've decided to bear with it. (and hope that she is in fact as great a teacher as she describes herself to be) I just don't have a poker face and I feel like you should like your teacher, at least as a person in order to make the lessons as beneficial as possible. Is this wrong?

What irritates me too is all the help this board and my original teacher have been in regards to taking off the tapes and training my ear. She says that eight months is too short a time to be doing that and will MAKE me put the tapes back on for our warm up private lessons before group lessons begin in January. (I'm not 100% on my placement after having to take a two month break from playing due to the move) Sigh.

BTW if she texts or takes a call I will raise an eyebrow unless it's for a good reason. And yes I would expect to stay a bit latter for the missed time or make up the time next lesson(if it's 5+ min) lessons aren't cheap!

November 14, 2011 at 01:07 PM · "How can you anticipate an emergency?" haha, a good one!

i dunno, would you prefer a teacher that looks at you with glassy eyes for the entire 60 mins while his/her mind is elsewhere or would you prefer a teacher that is genuinely interested in your progress, possibly even think about how to teach you better when folding laundry, but just have to make/receive a call or two?

this thread is similar to that one on teacher starting late and stopping on time.

really. come on. duh.

November 14, 2011 at 04:26 PM · "What irritates me too is all the help this board and my original teacher have been in regards to taking off the tapes and training my ear. She says that eight months is too short a time to be doing that and will MAKE me put the tapes back on for our warm up private lessons before group lessons begin in January. (I'm not 100% on my placement after having to take a two month break from playing due to the move) Sigh."

If this is the case I would wait until you can find a decent teacher as it sounds like she needs the tapes stuck over her mouth, and not on the fiddle fingerboard.

And 8 weeks is too long for tapes (or 8 seconds for that matter). She has in my opinion already given away the fact that she must be dreadful teacher.

November 15, 2011 at 08:41 AM · I think possibly you either click with a teacher or you don't, and things annoy you more with a teacher you don't have such a good relationship with. I absolutely adore going for lessons, and my teacher frequently answers his phone during them. I don't mind though. After all, I suppose he's basically running a business, and I'm only there because he once answered my call. He is always as quick as possible. I distract both of us with my constant chatter anyway, so I can't really complain. Plus the lesson often overruns- last Sunday I'd been there well over two hours before either of us noticed!

November 15, 2011 at 09:02 AM · Lila - you are clearly onto a winner!

November 15, 2011 at 09:16 AM · I know- I've totally lucked out! And I think it makes a massive, massive difference. I learnt piano for less than a year when I was 9 and I hated the lessons. Sometimes my sister and I would turn all the lights off and hide under the stairs pretending not to be in when the teacher came! We could see his silhouette through the frosted glass, and we'd cower there trying not to laugh, until... he went. Wow, I feel awful thinking about it now. Still slightly funny though. :-)

But these lessons I'd be gutted to miss. I think it's all down to the teacher, yes.

November 15, 2011 at 10:59 AM · My teacher has embraced technology and now almost entirely uses text for communication. I know this isn't always possible so her message bank is on at home and she can always listen to see if it is urgent. She has teenage children so anything can happen and sometimes does. But she won't directly answer a call or check her messages until our time is up, under normal circumstances. I know I would never consider phoning her for fear of interrupting her very busy schedule. All our communication is via text from altering lesson times or days through to birthday invitations. We have a great relationship when face to face, but otherwise she is all business. We like it that way.

November 15, 2011 at 12:27 PM · I never call my teacher or my son's teacher. Knowing they might be teaching, email works much better and is much less intrusive. If I need to speak with them, I will email them to call me back when convenient. The problem is not the teacher, it is all those pesky people that call. At any rate, I agree it is unprofessional for teachers to take phone calls while someone is paying for their time. An occasional call is ok, but if it happens on a regular basis, the teacher is not acting in YOUR best interest -- time to change teachers

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