I need help switching teachers

June 8, 2018, 5:31 PM · I've been taking violin lessons for nine years, always with the same teacher. However, I've been noticing that now, most of my learning is self-directed. I read blogs, watch YouTube videos, listen to recordings, and of course, practice. However, I feel like I haven't been getting what I should out of lessons.
I need to switch teachers, and I know someone who I will (and have worked with before)well with, but my parents are skeptical about switching.
I also mentioned having to switch days to my teacher (a day she doesn't do) and she sent an email to my parents trying to convince them to stay.
I really need this switch; the chemistry doesn't work. Please help! Any suggestions for convincing my parents/teacher? The next semester is starting in 3 weeks, I need to convince them before so I don't have to go the whole summer with my teacher, because I want to make a ton of progress (more practice time - yeah!) but without proper guidance, I'm just wasting my parents' money.

Replies (22)

June 8, 2018, 7:01 PM · No you don't, just do it. Insist, saying that you feel very strongly that you need a change and think you might work better with another teacher. But leave it open for an amicable return if it turns out that the alternatives are not better.
June 8, 2018, 7:05 PM · Maybe the first thing to do before leaving your teacher is to find one that is better (otherwise you'll end up with no teacher...).

Will your parents let you take some sample lessons from other teachers in the area? It would help convince them if they can sit in on the lesson and hear and see what another teacher would suggest or change.

It can be difficult for a parent to switch teachers, especially after 9 years. There is a relationship there and much investment. An economist would call it a "sunk cost" that makes people emotionally reluctant to change. Or it simply may not be a priority for them.

Are there other teachers in your area?

Edited: June 8, 2018, 7:19 PM · Nina, the reasons you've told us why you want to switch seems to be quite good. But it'll help us to give you better advices if you could also tell us the reasons your parents told you why they are against switch. Also, why do you think your parents are skeptical towards the potential new eacher you mentioned?

Edited: June 9, 2018, 2:25 AM · Going on summer workshops can give new perspectives, and a spurt in progress (based, however on what went before...)

I like to think that my teaching "grows" with the student, but a few of my students who stayed for around ten years were very grateful, but I'm sure glad to move on.

Edited: June 9, 2018, 4:15 AM · I don't know your parents so I'm not going to broach that part of the subject. But something about your post bothers me a little.

Years ago I was pretty unhappy at the university where I was studying. I hated my teacher (undeservedly, I think) and pretty much everything about my situation. One night, after having a bit too much to drink at a party, I ranted openly about my feelings to some of my fellow students. I met another violin professor in one of the regional orchestras I was playing in and had talked with him about transferring; I was surely a little too harsh about my desire to pack up and go.

A girl who happened to be in the group talked with me a bit about my feelings. She asked me a question that stays with me to this day:

"It doesn't matter whether you go 50 miles away, or 500 miles away, or to the North pole, one thing will be constant, always with you, always guiding you, making all of your decisions for you, and you're the only person who can affect it. Nobody else can."

I remember laughing and saying "What, is that Nietzsche or something?"


And she said

"It's you.

You'll be the same wherever you go unless you decide to change." I laughed again and brushed it off.

But she was right. She saw me as I was, not as I thought I was. I did transfer and ended up in exactly the same situation I was in before I left. I was still frustrated by my progress, I still had the same entitled mentality, I still went out too much, I still didn't take classes seriously. No behavioral modifications at all. Somehow I graduated, but I'm sure no one was sad to see me leave.

It wasn't until my next stop that I began to realize how much my behavior was affecting my learning and my relationships and decided to try to change it. That was one of the most important realizations of my life. It seems so simple but for many of us it's not. I'm still not the easiest person to get along with but I always make a conscious effort to fight against my weaknesses, and it makes a huge difference. I'm much happier now.

OP - I noticed you listed all of the things you are doing on your own but you didn't list a single thing your teacher is asking of you (even something you don't care for). Obviously I don't know what the dynamic of your relationship is, and changing teachers is certainly a necessity throughout our lives, but it seems you've become so bullheadedly self-reliant in your learning that I'd be afraid that it might leak into your relationship with your next teacher.

How long have you been tuning your teacher out? Are you 100% sure you followed her teaching faithfully before you had these issues? Are you conscientiously practicing what she assigns even today? Are you a drag from the moment you enter her studio for your lesson? Your attitude may not be the best, even if you don't realize it.

I say - go, find another teacher if you must. But DON'T allow these "habits" to put you off on the wrong foot when you do. Make sure you leave them behind.

Always remember the age old riddle: Who learns more from a conversation between a fool and a wise man? The fool or the wise man?

And Why?

June 9, 2018, 6:01 AM · Scott: There are a lot of teachers in my area, and I know one in my music school who I've worked with before and I got a lot of technical problems fixed by her in the span of three months (she was a substitute when my teacher was out with surgery) and she's a teacher there now too.
Yixi: My parent's aren't skeptical about the teacher I want to switch to, they just think I'm getting bored with my teacher. My parents think that she has done so much for me, and why leave now? Ryan: I have been following what my teacher has been telling me, but it's not helping me progress. Her teaching style doesn't work very well with me for some reason. I follow her instructions, but I feel that she doesn't know me and what works for me.
June 9, 2018, 6:12 AM · Can you be more specific? What that she's telling you is not working?

June 9, 2018, 1:09 PM · I actually think that, "Plateaued in what I've learned from my current teacher" is a perfectly valid reason to switch. Nine years with a single teacher is a very long time. Almost all students can benefit from a change in perspective after that much time, especially if there hasn't been much other input from masterclasses, other coaches, summer camps, and the like.
June 9, 2018, 3:23 PM · You definitely have a valid reason to change teachers. Studying with the same teacher for nine years isn't unheard of. I've been with my current teacher for about 8 years and haven't had any other private violin teacher, though I have received input from adjudicators and ensemble coaches. I don't see myself changing teachers any time soon.
June 9, 2018, 5:59 PM · I had a great first teacher, and whenever I asked him about something I "learned" on the internet, he told me his advice was to stay off the internet and practice more. In hindsight, it was good advice. One of the main things a teacher does is listen to you and let you know what you need to work on most at that time. This is invaluable. Going off on your own can seem great, but having an expert opinion about whether it's an advancement or not is invaluable in saving you time and avoiding detours that can cause long delays while correcting things.

There's no reason you can't switch teachers, but like some of the posters above, it sounds like you might be doing it to avoid issues you many just take with you. Get really honest with yourself about your playing and your goals and discuss them with your parents, current teachers, and any prospective teacher. You might be surprised that they may be able to help you more if they understand you better!

Edited: June 9, 2018, 6:51 PM · Nina, I appreciate the loyalty that your parents apparently have for your current teacher. I'm the same way. But a teacher who has done a lot for you is not a good reason for not switching, not if what she does is no longer of much help to you. Students grow up and things change. It sounds to me that there's not much good chemistry between you and your current teacher and you are worried about your progress. These are two very good reasons for switching, especially you've already found someone else who seems to be a better fit.

Do you think it's possible to ask your parents to let you take a break from your current teacher and work with the new teacher you on a temporary/trial basis (say, for the summer) to see how much you'll progress?

June 9, 2018, 6:52 PM · I think that kind of arrangement is unfair to both teachers unless it is made very clear to both of them what the arrangement is, and they explicitly agree to it. I also think that's very unlikely except in cases where the first teacher is encouraging the student to move on and is facilitating a transition.
June 9, 2018, 7:10 PM · Of course what I've suggested has to be done with complete transparency to all parties involved. I've seen this being done.
June 9, 2018, 7:57 PM · I don't think I could ever enter into that kind of an arrangement as a teacher.

If a student wants to leave they should leave. That's the nature of the business and I get it.

But I'm not going to let them "try out" another teacher and then take them back if they don't connect. That's just a waste of time for everyone involved. Make a clean break and move on.

June 9, 2018, 8:47 PM · Students who want to move on may end up taking a trial lesson from one or more other potential teachers. A single trial lesson generally will tell you enough about a teacher to make a decision. No need to drag things out.

During my childhood, my teachers routinely went away during the summers, and so I had a succession of summer teachers (chosen by my primary teacher). At one point, my summer teacher turned out to be sufficiently preferable to my regular teacher that I eventually switched teachers. But that wasn't the original intent.

June 9, 2018, 9:14 PM · I think that a teacher should be able to perceive when a student's rate of progress has changed and discuss it with the student.

I know of teachers who have recommended students move on to other teachers after reaching some level beyond that of the teacher's usual students or move to teachers with a different approach.

The question here is a case of the student perceiving this change. It s tough if a young person has to address such questions to an adult teacher, especially one with a 9 year relationship. But I think it has to be faced. If the teacher is a reasonable human being you should be able to part as friends and keep a good, though different, relationship. If that doesn't work out - well - you will have learned a valuable lesson that will serve you for future personal and professional relationships - and if it does work out the way you want, that too will be a valuable lesson.

June 9, 2018, 11:09 PM · I would be HAPPY to have any of my students try out another teacher, just so they can appreciate what I offer as a teacher (if they don't already, which they usually do).

In fact, I really wish all of my students had some prior experience with other teachers, because the ones that do always appreciate me a lot more. The ones for whom I'm the first teacher don't have any reference points, so they like me, but perhaps don't understand that good teaching is not the norm (when considering the AVERAGE level of teaching among all teachers, qualified and unqualified).

With that said, most teachers are going to be offended when you tell them that you're trialing another teacher. It's sort of a relationship you're in, so similar emotions are involved. You wouldn't tell a spouse you're going to trial someone else but you'll come back if it doesn't work out.

And of course, it's always a good idea to ask yourself if YOU'RE the problem, not the teacher. But that's a whole separate thing I don't feel like getting into right now.

Edited: June 10, 2018, 12:28 AM · OP already mentioned to her teacher that she wanted to switch, so it's matter of when, not if so far as I can see. The marriage analogy is inappropriate -- these are completely different types of relationship, commitment and emotions involved. A good teacher should help a student to transfer, how ever she feels about it. If she really can't, at least don't be the obstacle for change. It's also kind of groundless to point finger at the OP, who is just asking for our help.
June 10, 2018, 9:53 AM · One of my teachers had this rule; To avoid the appearance of "stealing" other teacher's students she would not hear you until after you resigned from your current teacher. Nine years is a very long time to be with one teacher, unless they are absolutely at the top of the profession. It's time to change and get some different opinions about things.
June 10, 2018, 10:47 AM · Everyone needs a new spark from time to time. Sounds like your firecrackers are gonna be just a little early this year. Go for it. you can always go back, or heck use your old teacher once in a while if you have to. good luck on your adventure.
June 10, 2018, 11:22 AM · It's fair for a student to examine from within when she is unhappy with her current teacher, but it's equally fair and perhaps more so for a teacher to do some soul searching, should a long term (9 years!) student be "stolen" by another teacher. To remain with her current teacherwould make sense to me if the teacher makes good effort to win OP's confidence in her teaching back instead of pressuring the parents to keep going.
June 10, 2018, 6:53 PM · Nine years with one teacher is a LOT. Sometimes it's better to move on to get another point of view after all that time.

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