How to leave a teacher

Edited: July 1, 2019, 4:14 AM · Since one year I have the feeling not to progress with my current teacher. Now I've found a new teacher who noticed the same issues with my technique and could explain better what to change.
So.... how do I tell my current one that I will stop? What is the nicest way? I pay upfront for x lessons. Simply not pay for the next x lessons is too blunt, obviously. But to tell 5 lessons in advance is perhaps awkward?
Is there a "best practice" for this?

Replies (12)

July 1, 2019, 5:26 AM · I've never had a student just tell me they were leaving for another teacher, but I assume it has happened. Usually they say something like "my job just changed, so I won't be able to continue lessons starting July". Or "my financial situation has changed, so I'll need to take a break from lessons.". Or they say they're moving.

Actually, I would find it interesting if any of my students left me for another teacher, so I wish they would tell me if that ever happens and explain why. It's all a learning experience.

July 1, 2019, 6:42 AM · The music school I teach for has a policy in place that whatever date you cancel(last lesson) you pay for two additional lessons. It's the way of things, switching teachers, it never hurts to get a fresh perspective on repertoire and technique and many teachers understand that. That being said, its nice to soften the blow as teachers get attached to their students. You may still want to give your teacher a few lessons warning so they can adjust their lessons schedule accordingly or work to fill your time slot. You could say something like, It's been a real pleasure to study with you and I'll need to take a break from lessons at this time. I'm exploring the possibility of studying with another teacher that lives closer, or has a different perspective on the repertoire, or.... my last lesson will be on such and such date, is there anything you need from me regarding this?
July 1, 2019, 8:38 AM · Shake their hand, say thank you, and tell them you're moving on.
Edited: July 1, 2019, 9:11 AM · With one teacher that I left, it was due to scheduling conflicts and also my outgrowing what they could provide me as a teacher (I've written about it here before). I paid per lesson, and told them at the last lesson that I appreciated working with them but I was going to be taking a break from working with them for the time being as our schedules were not meshing. I had already found another teacher by then.

If I were paying for X lessons up front, then I would tell them before paying for those (future) X lessons in advance. I would not want to be stuck with however many lessons left, with a teacher that I knew I was leaving.

As to the details of what to say... you'll have to decide based on your relationship with your current teacher. I think a "thank you so much for all you have taught me, I'm really grateful for your time and dedication to my education..." etc.

July 1, 2019, 8:53 AM · I agree with "Cotton Mather". Wait until your current X lessons have been used, then just thank them and tell them you're moving on. Don't pay for more. Pay your new teacher.
July 1, 2019, 9:34 AM · Depending on the circumstance, I think you may want to give prior notice to the teacher that you will be stopping on such and such date. This helps the teacher fill your spot and set his/her schedule, and is usually appreciated. But usually in this circumstance you need to hedge around the truth a bit or those last lessons will be awkward.
July 1, 2019, 10:20 AM · The summer break is a logical time to make a transition like this since folks schedules can be pretty erratic until school starts back. Helps with the need for prior notice.
July 1, 2019, 12:22 PM · As a teacher, I appreciate getting a few weeks notice before a student resigns. I will change my plan and give them some technical topics that I would otherwise postpone. Related topic; I had a high level teacher who, for ethical reasons, to avoid the appearance of "stealing" another teacher's student, would not hear or consider a student until after they resigned from their current teacher.
July 1, 2019, 1:21 PM · Paul,

Why'd you put my name in quotes? I get the feeling you've discovered my superhero identity or something.

July 1, 2019, 1:54 PM · "Taking a break" at summer time is probably the easiest way to leave-without-details. (Sometimes people like to say "for the summer" as if to "soften the blow" by giving me hope, but I only plan for them coming back if they say specifically, we will be back in the fall, can we keep our current lesson time or what time can we have.) Otherwise, minimum two weeks' (paid) notice is probably suitable unless the teacher has previously stated or shown another preference.

Bad ways to leave are:
- no-show at what would have been the next lesson (worst is when this is after having had a consistent schedule and fruitful relationship for months or years)
- a text after what ended up being the last lesson
- surprising the teacher with the news at the end of what was the last lesson
- surprising the teacher with the news at the beginning of what is to be last lesson
- hiding the teacher change and or asking a child student to hide it (#1, I can often see through it and #2, it's a small world and sometimes I even know your future teacher)

What I'm after is respectful closure of the relationship (both in personal and educational terms*) and logistics of scheduling. In my interactions with students/families, I occasionally talk about different ways that different teachers do things and acknowledge the future time in their journey when it's beneficial or necessary to move on - in hopes that when that time comes, they will understand that it doesn't have to be an awkward topic and can be handled with sensitivity.

*Lesson plan change as Joel suggests - we might go into more of "overview mode" rather than deep detail mode, or playing through pieces, or sight reading new stuff, or something, depending on what makes sense.

July 1, 2019, 4:16 PM · Thank you for the replies. Indeed, Mengwei, it is a respectfull closure that I would prefer. I guess it is best to tell a few lessons in advance and focus on what is positive during the remaining lessons. And then say thank you and shake hands...
I will not lie that I will stop with the violin.
July 1, 2019, 5:27 PM · "The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your teacher

She said it's really not my habit to intrude
For the more I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
So I repeat myself, at the risk of being cruel
There must be fifty ways to leave your teacher, fifty ways to leave your teacher

Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, Stan
Don't need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me
Hop on the bus, Gus, don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.."

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