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#28496 - 03/27/04 05:40 AM Transfer Students First Lessons
Emilymae Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/19/04
Posts: 191
I'm building up my studio and half of my students are transfers. I don't know their teacher but I'm seeing a trend. I guess there was one very young teacher who used Bastien and the children loved her. Her strength seemed to be helping her students really love the music and start reading the notes as well as you can with the Bastien method. She did not teach any formal technique or theory. She was a college student and has now moved away. Then her group of students, mayb 9 or 10, switched to another teacher. The parents who are calling me say she seems to be a really good teacher but she's strict and their children don't want to return to her after only one lessons! I've heard that this teacher has jumped in and tried to correct everything their previous teacher did or did not teach them and said as much to them. They way I look at it and the way I think these chidlren see it, is that they loved their first teacher and miss her very much and are not prepared to hear about how much needs fixing now. I'm just starting this group of students. Luckily they are just about finished with their Bastien books. I will start them in Piano Adventures, maybe one grade lower and start fresh, fix technique with new pieces, not old ones. I will listen to their favorite pieces from their beloved teacher, praise them and move on. I think you have to treat transfer students carefully the first few lessons while they get to know you. I'm not sure what the strict teacher was thinking, it seems like she wasn't very sensitive. The parents kept telling me she seems to be a really great teacher, I wonder if this teacher was trying to impress them with her knowlegde but forgot about the children's feelings. Do you think I have the right idea?

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#28497 - 03/27/04 03:48 PM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
The gaps in these students' piano study need to be filled before moving on... & believe you me, with Bastien, there will be gaps. Best to start with new books, IMO, & not continue with Bastien. It's also best to inform the parents of what needs to be done. They may not like to hear it, but they need to know. If they view that as being "strict" (which, for the record, I don't), then so be it.

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#28498 - 03/27/04 07:24 PM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
pianoannie Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/20/01
Posts: 946
Loc: midwest USA
Emilymae,
I think you sound right on track! You sound like you are very sensitive to the children and what they have been through in losing a teacher they loved.
Bastien is certainly not my favorite method, but when I started teaching 10 years ago it was what I used. I still have some of those students who started out with me in Bastien (I haven't used it for 7 or 8 years now), and despite starting them in Bastien they are fine pianists now. ;\)
Every transfer student is going to have some gaps somewhere, as I believe every teacher has strengths and weaknesses. I would never say anything negative about a former teacher. Sometimes my students will say something negative, like "gee, my last teacher never taught me anything about technique," (I hear that one a lot) but I try to deal with comments like that as positively as I can. It's not my place to criticize a previous teacher to a student. Sometimes parents will even ask me if it seems like a previous teacher did a good job, and I'll usually say that I can't possibly know how much of the weaknessess I see in a student are the fault of the teacher, the fault of the student not following the teacher's instructions, or simply the teacher not being a good match for the student. That way I'm not criticizing anyone, yet I can acknowledge weaknesses I see in the student and talk about how I intend to address them.

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#28499 - 03/27/04 08:34 PM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Am I the only one here wondering if the 2nd teacher somehow got the dirty end of the shaft? I mean, is this collective of students like the Borg or something? Why would ALL of the students jump ship so fast? And to the SAME new teacher?! Did anyone even bother to talk to the other new teacher before the Cluster Shift? I can't even imagine how she must feel if not. I smell a rat. And when there's one rat, there's usually a boatload. Don't get me wrong - I know you are an innocent party in all of this. Just be aware that the same could happen to you compliments of whomever instigated this.

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#28500 - 03/28/04 05:11 AM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
One of the questions I have with a possible transfer student is what was your favorite and worst thing about your teachers. It's amazing what they will come up with.

Sometimes with their worst thing they will then tell me why their teacher made them do that - so they assume I will do that too (like make them practice?!?), but it was still their worst thing. What they choose to describe usually has nothing to do with their what they teach - it's their personality and how they relate.

When there is more than one teacher involved I can see if we have an attitude brewing or unrealistic expectations - and I want to stay clear of them. Or, not.

I also don't assume that a previous teacher really didn't teach something just because a student - even several students - say they were never taught this.

If you don't give it a name - they don't always know they learned it. Just because you say something doesn't mean they heard it.

I went through 12 years of lessons - feeling like I'd never been taught music theory. I went to another teacher as a young adult, with a specific request to learn music theory. I found out that I knew more than most - because my teacher taught it very thoroughly. We just didn't use books, and she never called it theory. I'm still not sure what it was I thought I didn't know?

I would be interested in having the students describe with a few more words what "strict" means. It could mean that this teacher just doesn't let a song pass until they really know it. It could mean it must be performance perfect all the time. It could just mean that this teacher is a grouchy, insenstive person. It could mean this is an inexperienced teacher that thinks she/he needs to act professionally but doesn't quite understand what that means. It could mean a lot of things.

Before I took on several transfer students from the same teacher - I would sure want to know what I was getting myself into. Your studio will be built by word of mouth more than any other mode of advertising. If this is a group that sticks together - they will leave you in the dust - as was earlier suggested. Not the best form of advertising to have a group that will most definitly talk about you, come and go.

Ask around - if this is a group of kids/mothers that try the same activities - they've done it before. They've "tried out" different ball teams, dance instructors, gymnastics gyms....

And then, ALWAYS take on transfer students on a trial basis. Let them know it's a trial both ways. You can decide how long the trial is - maybe only a few lessons - but you both have the opportunity to stop without penalty if you see this won't work. I've never had anyone drop me with a trial basis - but I have dropped them. I usually don't accept a student if I can see they are looking for a teacher that I can't be. I'll just turn into a stepping stone until they find what they're looking for. I'm not that desperate for students.

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#28501 - 03/28/04 06:23 AM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
Emilymae Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/19/04
Posts: 191
I read all your replies and it sounds like lots of great advice. I'm especially glad that Bastien studetns can still turn out fine! I got the impression that the 2nd teacher came across more serious than the first teacher and that the students didn't feel comfortable enough to return to lessons. I understood it to be a personality mismatch. There's probably nothing wrong witht he 2nd teacher, but it might have been a shock to these young chidlren. One mom I spoke to said my temperment seemed to match what she was looking for and that it seemed like I enjoyed working with children. And the second teacher didn't give her that impression. I was talking to my husband the other day and I was saying how this nice teacher only used the method book of Bastien (no technique or theory), I was trying to explain to him how Bastien is not very good, and I was thinking she was so new and young she probably didn't have the long term thinking of piano teaching, and he said "But her students loved it so she must have been doing something right". Maybe its a fine balance between teaching them what we know is important and fostering the love of music.

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#28502 - 03/28/04 06:41 AM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
Emilymae Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/19/04
Posts: 191
I jus reread your replies again, and now I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong by accepting these students? Is that fair to the second teacher (I don't know who she is). I know families can make up their own mind, but I would be disturbed if a group of students left me. If they give the teacher the explanation then she can agree with the termination or work on those changes if she wants to. I'm also thinking the second teacher was proving her wealth of knowledge, all in the first lesson, because the parents I spoke to were very impressed with her ability to teach - they just didn't seem to think it was a good match for them.Please advise me on how you would handle this!

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#28503 - 03/28/04 10:26 AM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
pianoannie Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/20/01
Posts: 946
Loc: midwest USA
You said you would be disturbed if a group of students left you--well, that wouldn't likely happen unless there was good reason, right?
My opinion is that as long as I'm not actively soliciting students from other teachers, I am doing nothing wrong if they choose to transfer to me. Occassionally I will talk with the previous teacher, but usually I leave that to the parent. I make it clear that the parent needs to be upfront and honest with the current teacher about considering a switch, and the parent is aware that I *may* talk with the current teacher (so they won't think they can "hide" anything from me).
But emilymae, in your case, the first teacher moved away (which answers Lisa's question about why so many are switching all at once), and I think it's quite believable that teacher #2 was so different from #1 that the kids just weren't comfortable. I see no problem (ethically) with you taking any or all of these students who call you. I don't even see a real problem with the fact that they've been in Bastien (no more than other positional methods)--you just start filling in gaps.
I know some teachers here really don't like taking transfers, but I have almost always had great success with mine. In fact, I think I have gained more confidence from teaching transfers than anything else I have done, because these parents and students give me glowing compliments in comparison to previous teachers. Particularly in my early years of teaching, that helped me really feel that I was doing a lot of things right. I've taken numerous transfers through the years who were ready to throw in the towel on piano, and they've ended up staying with me for several years and doing very well. It is such a joy to hear parents tell me "I am so thankful we found you, and that you were able to get my children to love piano!"

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#28504 - 03/28/04 12:41 PM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
It is true that Bastien is no worse than any other positional method. It is also true that, for some students, Bastien is not a problem at all. I used Schaum, then Glover, then Bastien, with my own daughter (Piano Kid) before switching to PA when she got to level 2. She experienced no problems playing pieces that were out of position, no problems with technique, no reading problems, no problems with anything else for that matter. Perhaps this was because I knew how to teach & did not rely on the method books to do the teaching for me... &/or perhaps it was because she's musically inclined & wouldn't have had problems anyway. At any rate, Schaum, Glover & Bastien didn't hurt her. I switched her to PA primarily because her hands are small; the PA pieces are better suited for students with small hands.

As for liking t'fer students, I must admit that I'm not usually successful with t'fer students... primarily because they don't practice or complete assignments. Occasionally I get good t'fer students, but most of the time I don't. I like to dot all the I's, cross all the T's, leaving no stone unturned... no gaps, if I can help it. Most t'fer students are reluctant to review anything, go back a level or 2 if necessary, or even use new books. It gets frustrating.

Be that as it may, I do what I feel must be done, & people can either like it or go elsewhere. If the parents knew anything about teaching piano, they wouldn't be paying me to do it, so I feel they should trust my judgment regarding the direction in which their children's piano study programs should take... especially when I try my best to individualize each student's study program by allowing students some choices regarding supplementary books.

My advice, to any teacher accepting t'fer students, is to use whatever books & materials you think are best. The parents &/or students may not like your choices, but that's okay. They can either allow you to do your job to the best of your knowledge & ability, or they can go to another teacher.

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#28505 - 03/29/04 07:47 AM Re: Transfer Students First Lessons
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1573
Loc: Chicago
I believe professional courtesy demands that criticism or comparisons not be made towards a fellow teacher. How is it constructive? We don't know the details and never will. Also, because lessons are one on one, there's an enormous personality and work ethic issue. There has to be a good fit. Perhaps this 2nd teacher was the demanding type who assigns Czerny and expects it polished. While the first teacher assigned Chugga Chugga Choo Choo and whooped it up during the teacher duet. Quite a difference wouldn't you think? Our job is to work with the student at whatever point they are at in their musical studies. I find that I often forget there was another teacher as we very quickly get caught up into our current studies. It doesn't take long to determine where they are lacking and where their strong points are. Just get on with it.

[ 03-29-2004: Message edited by: Lilla ]

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