Curiosity question: Which bad teacher situation do you think is more common?
A recent thread got me thinking, which bad teacher scenario do you think is generally more common, and why? This is assuming the student is putting in a decent amount of effort and has no additional learning difficulties.
1. A student who has played for five years is still on Suzuki book 2.
2. A student makes medium to fast progress but is rushing through repertoire and playing pieces way beyond their technical/musical level.
I am just curious and am not looking for advice.
I would say the first because it means that the teacher has to put in the least amount effort possible teaching things that are well within their own ability
Tosi, Opinioni de' cantori antichi e modern (1723):
I've had experience with the second type the first time I tried to return to violin as an adult after having had public school-supplied group lessons from 4th until 11th grade. Those early lessons tended to be aimed at the best player in the group, who was not me! My teacher when I started again at 30 had me playing things from Suzuki books 6 and 7, all of which were somewhat beyond me technically. She didn't work on my right hand technique at all. I seem to have retained some shifting ability (now in my 60s) and my intonation isn't terrible.
These are both stemming from the same problem. That is to say, both scenarios show the teachers inability to assess the zone of proximal development (zpd)
Another sort of "bad" teacher is one who does not transmit aspects which he/she does without thinking, but still criticising the result.
I have personally seen way more of 2 (rushing), than 1 (too slow). On the rare occasion I have encountered a student from a #1 teacher, the student usually has very good technique, the teacher is just ridiculously perfectionistic, but otherwise the student plays quite well. While the teaching situation is not ideal, they are IMO in a much better place when they do switch teachers to take off and move more quickly. (Also, more times than not, you usually find that when a student moves slowly through the repertoire, practice amount, or quality is an issue, or the student started very young and is not receiving sufficient help from a parent).
Why must the teacher shoulder all the blame for an inferior result?
Forget the rate of advancement - the teacher must be musical and know how to produce music - not just perform rote skills. Good teaching requires passion for one's subject for all kinds of students.
Paul, in my previous post on this topic, my concern was specifically about students who apparently are putting in regular, serious practice, and still seem to be advancing at a glacial pace.
Before going off on a tangent, let me answer the original question: based on my personal experience, situation #2 is far worse, more common, and more harmful than situation #1. But of course, they're both bad. The issue is that with situation #2 (a student progressing too fast into territory where they can't play with quality) is that their expectations and perception of their own playing is artificially inflated, and at *some* point in their future playing, that bubble is going to burst. When it bursts, they are going to feel terribly discouraged. And let me tell you: there is no worse situation than a severely discouraged student. Because not only do they feel like they wasted all this time doing things the wrong way and playing at too high of a level, but they now need to feel like they're working *backwards* for a good while just to "catch up" to where they should have been. I think the #2 scenario is the most harmful not because of bad technique (although that's large part of it), but because of the mental/emotional consequences.
Thank you all for your answers. It's an interesting discussion indeed. I changed the thread title to reflect my question better as I was struggling to come up with a good thread title at first.
When #1 was mentioned, I said that I have 5 and 6 year long children students in book 1. They/parents seem to enjoy coming and spending their one practice session per week with me despite the complete lack of other initiative. One was a particularly "exuberant youngster" and has made strides in the realm of growing up and maturity.
In my limited experience I’ve run into the second situation.
#2 is much more common. It's painful to listen to students trying to play pieces that are way beyond them but it happens all the time.
Eric, in my opinion, features like communication style or expectations are far inferior to the actual content the teacher has to deliver.
No 2 is often preferred by parents: better value for money......
I've also seen a lot more of #2. But you can't usually tell how long a "Suzuki book 2" student has been taking lessons unless you interview them, so there could be a lot more of #1. I've seen a lot of #1, too; where I grew up, it was the norm for students getting weekly group instruction in public schools.
I think it depends on the situation as to which is worse for which student. For a student who is SUPER motivated and ambitious and is brought through the rep too quickly/playing stuff above their level - #2 is worse in the long run even though I'd wager that a #1 teacher would feel worse for said student.
Here is what I think about No. 2 ("hot-housing"). It may be a perfectly reasonable strategy to give young students challenging pieces to ramp their skills up at a faster rate. But there are two supporting factors that must be in place for it to work. First, the teacher needs to be spending a lot of lesson time on the practice techniques needed to tackle the tricky parts of the piece, which presumes they actually know how to teach that. And second, the student needs to have the resources of concentration and commitment to work on those sections diligently at home. Neither is a given.
I agree with you Paul. I guess I'm thinking about #2 in that neither of those things are occurring, and insanity in rep difficulty is occurring...
I love Eric's answer. My current teacher is all of those, at least those I can judge as a student. Interestingly, some of those skills are good communication skills in general: think before speaking, know when to let something go :)
I probably should have added another thing to my list: A good teacher knows when to target emotional/psychological issues instead of just jumping into playing. For example, sometimes spending the first 20% of a lesson just getting a student to relax is far more efficient than going directly to playing (as in the case of very anxious students). Otherwise it's just a domino effect of one failure after another, each attempt getting worse than the last.
Erik, where do you teach?
My impression from other forums is that there are lots of type 1s.
Aika, I teach in Sacramento, California. Why do you ask?
Is there any way for a student to know if they are in situation 1 or 2, or is it only something that can be diagnosed by another teacher? The pieces my teacher gives me all feel harder than I can play well, but I feel like I am learning from them and improving. That said, because they are hard, I know I am not playing all the notes in tune and often can’t play up to speed. But I do work on intonation with slow practice and have practice techniques for problem areas. I just don’t think I can play any of the pieces really well or beautifully.
Excellent Question CQ but you should start a new thread with this very important question.