Do Bad Students Stay With Bad Teachers?
A trend I have noticed:
Good students tend to find their ideal teacher quickly (assuming there is one in their area) because they are driven. If they take a few lessons with a bad teacher, they care enough about their progress to leave and try another teacher, and they will repeat this process until they find what they consider to be the best teacher for them. Even with no musical experience, they do research and figure out the basic signs of a good teacher and how to find one. Once they are with that good teacher, that same initial drive will carry over into their lessons, and thus the good teacher will benefit from a good student. Good student, good teacher.
Bad students will find the most convenient teacher and stay with that teacher regardless of how the lessons are going. They might spend multiple years with the teacher before thinking "maybe this isn't the best teacher." Clearly, the student didn't care enough about progress to even consider trying out multiple teachers, or to research what constitutes good teaching. Bad student, bad teacher.
Thus, through this system of natural selection, it tends to be that the more experienced, higher-expectation teachers tend to get the best students, and the less experienced, lower-expectation teachers tend to get the worst ones.
There are always exceptions, so I'd say 10-20% of students don't follow this pattern.
Has anyone else noticed this? The reason I bring it up is because I used to lament about how I'd receive a student from another teacher and their form/technique would be royally *screwed* from years of being shown the wrong way. And I'd blame the previous teacher, saying to myself, "if only they'd been shown the right way, they could be 100x better than they are now!!"
But I now realize: even if that same student had me as their first teacher, they'd still suck. Why? Because as soon as I insisted they do things correctly (in a nice way, of course), they would lose interest. The only reason they managed to squeeze out multiple years with the previous teacher was because that teacher had zero expectations, and so the naturally un-driven student didn't have an incentive to give up.
So I no longer lament these students and their solidified bad technique: if they managed to stay with a *clearly* bad teacher (and there are objectively recognizable signs of bad teachers, even if you have no musical experience!), then there is a 90% chance they are just a bad student.
Good students don't stay with bad teachers! That's my belief.
I think for this to be true you would have to live an an area that features a sufficient number of teachers for students to change teachers, especially if these students are children with limited geographic reach who maybe have parents with limited budgets.
That's kind of a reductive way to look at it. Who knows how many factors affect why a student does or doesn't progress. If a student has at some point internalized an idea that work doesn't result in progress, then maybe they stop paying attention. Maybe they don't have support or structure at home. Sure, there are limits and boundaries that teachers should have. There are probably periods of variable maturity for everyone, and a wise teacher can recognize that and cut their losses if they don't think a student is putting in their part.
I have known good students who would be better students if they switched teachers.
Unfortunately, geography matters quite a bit. Even completely ignoring money, a large percentage of the American population does not have multiple local string teachers to choose from, and that is true of an even higher percentage of the world population. I mostly grew up in a country that, as far as I've been able to find since then, had no Western string teachers until the year before my family returned to the US; the nearest orchestra of any kind was 6 hours away and on the other side of a national border. I've met plenty of string players since then who do not (or did not) have a choice of teacher, at least not within reason for a beginning to intermediate learner. It was either the one local teacher or no teacher. It may be worthwhile to travel for lessons as a pre-professional student (as noted in another thread), but it probably isn't worthwhile to travel for a better teacher at beginner level.
Schedule matters too. Even a mid-sized city like Sacramento isn't necessarily big enough to find a teacher with a workable schedule. I've been trying to find a regular teacher for the last five or six years.
I was a good student who started with an absolutely horrible teacher, and I didn't switch for an entire year (actually, I took a break after that and resumed a few months later). This was for a number of reasons, not the least of which being transportation and travel time.
i had a fabulous teacher at first growing up, but scheduling was very difficult so i ended up with a one that wasn't as great as the 1st but her schedule was more workable. had i stick with the better 1st teacher and be better off? maybe, but i found if i didn't have the motivation to do it for my self interest i wouldn't push myself regardless how good the teacher is.
I don't believe "good" students gravitate towards "good" teachers (or "bad" to "bad").
Furthermore, many people have
Christian, I don't recall badmouthing any of my students, either in this post or in others. I simply enjoy having open conversations about teaching.
Teachers and parents that over exaggerate progress are not doing their students or children any favors: creating narcissistic behavior. So when others get them, and they start correcting them and pointing out flaws they are unable to cope and will quit.
Eric, respectfully, I find that a bit too simplistic and black or white
I think another factor, at least in my case, was that when I was a young student I was not the most driven/effective student in part because I did not (and was not taught by my parents) to advocate for myself to my teacher, to say things like "I want to improve X, Y, Z, how do I do that?" - the assumption was that the teacher knew best and if I failed it was my fault. It's a bit naive to assume that all the students have that self knowledge/cultural perspective.
How does one judge "good"? For instance, many parents are attracted to teachers who move kids through repertoire very quickly, rather than emphasizing technical perfection. How much emphasis should there be on setting a good foundation versus progressing enough to keep the kid interested? Etc.
I have a spreadsheet with a list current students and a twice as long list of former students. They did not all leave because they were bad or I was bad. Some have quit violin entirely, others have gone to other teachers, and sometimes students of those other teachers have come to me (on their own initiative). There is an aspect of "fit" involved. And who or what decides that a student or teacher is "bad"? It's been said that most drivers of cars consider themselves to be above-average drivers; are there really teachers who consider themselves bad?
I would certainly hate to be judged as a teacher by my most frustrating students--I know they're not practicing much, but outsiders may not know that. They're nice kids who enjoy playing but violin isn't first, or second, or third on their list. Thankfully most of my students work hard and progress well, and it's not unheard of for someone in the former group to catch fire and move over to the latter group.
Lydia - there was a time when a bunch of my students were leaving around end of Suzuki 1 / early 2 and that is why right now I have students in 1-2, three in 5, one in 7, and none in 3-4. I suspected that a contributing factor was me being "slow" with the repertoire. A book 2 student left earlier this year, and I'm sure it was the same.
I should probably add that by "Good students," I meant ones that try to do well. I don't necessarily mean students that have made it very far in technical progression. I have personally taught plenty of adult students and a select few child students that practice sufficiently but still make very slow progress. I still consider them "Good" students, though, because they are trying their best. Usually a learning disability, short term memory loss, or motor skill dysfunction is at play (and these seem to manifest, to some degree, in a surprising amount of adults).
Mengwei, I'm curious who your teacher trainer was and what you thought of them. Feel free to email, or to PM me on Facebook, if you don't want to post that publicly. Thanks.
Mary Ellen said, "Many choose their kids' private teachers based on proximity and price, and neither know nor care about how more knowledgeable people would rank the local teachers." This captures exactly how my parents decided upon a teacher when I was growing up. Their frame of reference was a classroom teacher with a textbook, and they figured I'd pick it up if I had the talent, since I always did in school no matter the quality of the classroom teacher. This was their implicit reasoning; if they'd ever thought carefully about it, they would have realized the error, I am sure.
I respectfully disagree with the argument in the OP.
Jack, when I speak of "students" in the context of kids, I'm referring to the combined effort between child and parent -- primarily the parent's efforts.
I had lessons for 11 years with the same teacher as a child. I was diligent about practicing. (When I wasn't diligent, my parents were diligent for me.) I didn't realize until the age of 45 that this teacher was terrible. In my 2nd or 3rd lesson my new teacher realized that my childhood teacher had never taught me intonation. Imagine having 11 years of lessons without learning what "ring tones" are.
Based on the responses so far, it seems that "bad students stay with bad teachers" was not a correct assessment.
The bad teacher may be creating the bad student by praising everything they do (love bombing). I've read about that on other forums. Your task, Erik, is to decultify them.