Students with 2 piano teachers

Sharon Brown Cheston Ph D said: Feb 23, 2017
Sharon Brown Cheston Ph DPiano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Woodmere, OH
5 posts

Is having 2 private piano teachers a new trend? I have not spoken to either parent in the scenarios listed below. Both students mentioned are in elementary school. I was told by one of my Suzuki piano students that they were unable to practice their assigned piece hands together because they were too busy practicing the piece assigned by their other piano teacher. This is the first time the student was dropped off by the parent because the parent had an errand to run. The student and I were alone during this conversation. The student told me that they were going to perform in a music festival with their other teacher. The student said they were not playing from the Suzuki book, but from copied music sheets. At the preview lesson, the parent told me the student was a transfer student. However, I had no idea the student had an additional piano teacher. This is the student’s second semester with me. Similarly, I had another student disclose to me that they had another piano teacher when the student brought in the wrong set of piano books into the lesson, complete with a notebook with teacher’s notes from a lesson that was taken the day before the lesson with me. A babysitter brought the child to the lesson, so a parent was not present during the conversation. This particular student stayed with me for one semester, this past fall semester. Again, I was told the student was a transfer student and a set of circumstances that led me to believe the student was no longer studying with the previous teacher.

Sharon Brown Cheston PhD

Kate Marsch-Ellingson said: Feb 24, 2017
Kate Marsch-Ellingson
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Jamaica Plain, MA
2 posts

I actually had this happen to me this fall as well. When I discovered it and confronted the mother, and she was very apologetic. I was a bit stern and explained how confusing and overly demanding this would be for their daughter. Obviously, there are numerous issues, but I tried to keep it simple. She was a transfer student into my studio as they had just moved. After speaking with the mother, it was my understanding that they had been doing this in China first, then in LA. In my situation, this family was international and had 2 piano teachers and 2 cello teachers and had since their daughter started studying music. To them, 1 teacher was very important and beneficial, but having 2 teachers was even more important. The more teachers, the better for their child. They didn’t understand the intricacies involved with having 2 teachers, only that 2 teachers are better than 1. As it turned out, I happened to know the other teacher and contacted her. We discussed it and she also had been in the dark about the situation. Luckily for me, the other teacher and I are both Suzuki teachers and have similar philosophies. For now, we are collaborating and feel that this could actually benefit the student, as long as we communicate. Now the student doesn’t have double repertoire and I can also communicate with the mother about what was worked on with the other teacher or ask her to have her other teacher continue a certain concept.

It definitely feels awful when you discover it and there is a strong feeling of betrayal. Perhaps this is just a sign of the times and a reflection of a strong economy. Parents just want what is best for their children, no matter how misguided.

Certainly not an ideal situation, but our feelings were if one of us was to drop the student, they would just find another 2nd teacher, and perhaps that teacher’s philosophies wouldn’t gel. The student clearly had sub par teaching in the past, despite double lessons. We also discussed both dropping the student, but at the end of the day, it seemed to be an innocent situation and the student is delightful, so we are making it work.

Nataliya said: Feb 24, 2017
 
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Victoria, BC
2 posts

It has happened to me as well, and I did talk to the mom and said that they should make a choice eventually, because the child is overwhelmed and confused. Double the workload, high stress levels (for a 7 year old!), split focus, and very little improvement overall, because there is no time for in-depth learning when there is so much material to cover. Teaching becomes harder as well. My student used to bring the pieces (from a different program/method) from her other teacher to get help with in my lessons and I had to say no. That same teacher now presents my student in workshops and festivals, and I don’t even always know about it. It certainly is quite unpleasant, but it is also true that parents want the best for their kids.

I personally think one teacher for a young child is best, and any additional advice can be received through master classes and workshops.

Hope it works out for you!

Natasha

Katherine Fritz said: Feb 25, 2017
Katherine Fritz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Louisville, CO
4 posts

This happened to me also. I went on maternity leave for a few months and when I came back, I started working with one of my students without knowing that she had not left her interim teacher. I guess I just assumed she would, and did not ask. It finally came up and I was shocked and felt betrayed. I think there was a cultural issue in this situation too that the parent thought if one is good, two is better.

I discussed it with the family and the other teacher and made an agreement that she would choose one teacher. It took a while and it was very uncomfortable, but it finally worked out.

I agree that it is better to have one main teacher and to get extra instruction through master classes, workshops, and institutes.

Ghost People said: Feb 26, 2017
 94 posts

Nice Experience sharing .. thank You So much.. I’m New in This Forum and Also Piano Student..

Cheers.

Sharon Brown Cheston Ph D said: Mar 2, 2017
Sharon Brown Cheston Ph DPiano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Woodmere, OH
5 posts

Thank you, guys, for your input.

Sharon Brown Cheston PhD

Kurt Meisenbach said: Mar 3, 2017
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Chacra La Diva Maldonado, Uruguay
23 posts

In my experience, having two teachers does not work. It just confuses the student. Many years ago I had an adult student who mentioned after several months of lessons that she was also studying with the viola teacher at the local university, a fine teacher who was a friend of mine. We were both good teachers, so we weren’t telling her anything wrong, but we were telling her different things at different times. As a result, she wasn’t able to prioritize her work and manage her practice time successfully.

Once I found out about the other teacher, I immediately called him. I suggested that she stop studying with me and continue her lessons with him. To suggest the opposite would have impolitic. We all know how possessive teachers can be about their students.

Whenever I am faced with this situation, I don’t try to work with it. The only solution is to have one and only one teacher. Sometimes this means giving up the student, but to remain in this tricky triangle is not worth the problems it generates.

At a more advanced stage, it is possible to have one teacher for technique and a different teacher for repertoire, but even this approach requires careful management and an explicit understanding between the two teachers with regard to scope and priorities.

Good luck with your challenge!

Sharon Brown Cheston Ph D said: Mar 4, 2017
Sharon Brown Cheston Ph DPiano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Woodmere, OH
5 posts

Kurt Meisenbach, thank you for your feedback. I think suggesting to the parent that the student study with the other teacher is the road I will take. I love teaching this student and will miss this student very much. The student’s mom said, in this past week’s lesson, that the student cannot attend the group class I am having in 2 weeks. This student really LOVES group class. The student asked why, and the mom whispered because you have a festival and I will discuss this with you later. The mom was whispering to the student and trying to keep it a secret from me because she does not know the student told me the week before that she has another piano teacher, as the mom was doing an errand during the lesson. Now, at this point, the secrecy regarding the second teacher is somewhat awkward for me. You are right. The only thing to do is to release the student to the other teacher. However, I am not supposed to know about the other teacher. The mom does not know that I know, unless the child told her I was told in the mom’s absence. I will see if the mom will ever tell me about the other teacher. I am prepared to release the student, and your comments to my post will allow me to release the student with dignity and be able to move on with my studio. Your post has been very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

Sharon Brown Cheston PhD

Kurt Meisenbach said: Mar 4, 2017
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Chacra La Diva Maldonado, Uruguay
23 posts

Sharon, I’m glad what I said was helpful. Parents almost always mean the best for their children, but they sometimes miss the point and make mistakes. Overloading a young student with too much pedagogical input does not accelerate their learning, but sometimes it takes an experienced teacher like yourself to recognize this fact.

Best wishes and good luck.

Matt said: Mar 5, 2017
 
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar, Voice, Piano, Bass
1 posts

Dear Sharon, while I believe that sometimes having two Teachers won’t work, I think in some cases it can work, ultimately depending on the given situation and it’s specifics. If the two teachers are in communication with each other and in sync, essentially teaching and reinforcing the same material from different angles, it could potentially work. The parent would have to be onboard too of course.
I’ll admit that I am a little biased on a related issue, in that I believe that often Music Education gets shortchanged by the paradigm of just one private lesson a week. I think of the example of Math where a student gets the equivilent of 5 long group lessons per week with homework (practicing) assigned each night and I instantly see a disadvantage in the approximate 4 or 5 hours per week versus the 30 minutes per week plus one Group Lesson. If a Student has a Math Tutor, that could be 2 additional hours of instruction per week by a 2d Teacher (the Tutor). Though in Math, there would usually be one teacher at a time, the teacher would be changed each school year. I have taught Students in the past with more than one teacher, and they were always musically strong. The challenge would occasionally be to not overwhelm them.

Rebeca Padilla Martinez said: Mar 9, 2017
 Piano
11 posts

Hi, I’m having the same issue but in this case the one who suggested the students to have 2 teachers is the director of the Suzuki school I work, one of my students wanted 2 hours of class and either if the mother suggested it or my principal, they agreed, I have noticed that many of the things we had have progress with are going back, but to be honest I don’t know how to talk about this. What are your suggestions? The other students in the same position are either gone or her students so they take both classes with her.

Kurt Meisenbach said: Mar 9, 2017
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Chacra La Diva Maldonado, Uruguay
23 posts

Rebecca, there may be special circumstances that make the two teacher approach correct for a student. However, in my experience there are likely to be mixed signals given to the student. Having said that, there are always multiple solutions to the same learning requirement. I have seen the two teacher solution fail (the student is confused and can’t prioritize mixed signals from two teachers) several times, but my perspective is based on my own personal experience. Others may have a different experience.

Edmund Sprunger said: Mar 9, 2017
Edmund SprungerTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Saint Louis, MO
99 posts

I’d like to know more about WHY two lessons a week. Who is driving this decision, and what is that person hoping to achieve? Based on the answers to those kinds of questions, one could have a variety of responses.

Edmund Sprunger
sprungerstudio.com
yespublishing.com

Rebeca Padilla Martinez said: Mar 9, 2017
 Piano
11 posts

Well it was different for each one, one of them wasn’t able to go to group class because of the mother schedule, actually this is the student I was talking about in the first case, so the mother talked to de director of the school and she suggested this option. In other of the cases the mother said that her daughter asked for having two classes (the first case is 4 years old, the second case is 10 and a half) after a while, the 10 year old girl deserted, and she left the school, the four year old is still a student but as I mentioned before I can see that things she was progressing with are now forgotten. In the other case she is not my student so I can’t really tell a reason with accuracy.

Should I talk with them about it? Is it wise for me to do it? I don’t have many years of experience and the director of the school obviously knows more than me. I wouldn’t like to be imprudent.

Anita Knight said: Mar 9, 2017
Anita Knight
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Kent, WA
22 posts

Dear Rebeca,
So sorry to hear of your conundrum! These issues can be difficult to navigate.

Back to Edmund’s question on “Why two lessons, who is driving the decision?”—it sounds this is an uncomfortable and awkward position for you. If you’re planning to continue at this school under this director, I would definitely want to understand her perspectives and why she recommended two lessons any student. I personally might feel betrayed in this situation, and would want to know their perspective on it. I would also ask for honest feedback- Are there areas in my teaching that she has concerns about, would want to see improvement in, and what are they?
I then would share from the perspective of “My experience is…”, and share how it is sitting with you, and, would she consider not referring your students out to others.
I’ve found difficult conversations most effective when I come without judgement, but with open, honest conversation. Sharing my experience and being open to hearing theirs, and then making my requests clear.

Sending a prayer for your situation and wishing you the best!
Keep us posted.
Anita

Anita Knight
“Joyful Sound Violin Studio”

Carrie said: Mar 10, 2017
 
Suzuki Association Member
60 posts

Rebecca,
Has the director of the school talked with you? It seems to me that in order for this to work, the two teachers would need to be working together. I do not know how Mexican culture works. You know that better than I do. I do know that relationally, you have a triangle with the director and the mother/student. If you are not each talking directly to the other, there will be misunderstandings and may harm the relationships. Again, you have to decide what works in your culture. My guess is following Anita’s suggestions of going to the director in humility and wanting to understand before stating your concerns and requests would be the least offensive way of approaching your director.
Blessings!
Carrie

carebear1158

Rebeca Padilla Martinez said: Mar 10, 2017
 Piano
11 posts

Thanks specially for the prayers, I love both advises, I will definitely do this way! Thanks really.

Carol said: Mar 18, 2017
Carol Preston
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Damariscotta, ME
12 posts

I have known of a few advanced students who had two teachers: one for “music” and one for technique. I’m not sure at all how that works. Definitely the teachers should be communicating somehow.

It certainly seems in a couple of the cases mentioned here, that the parents are purposely keeping the 2nd teacher a secret. If this is the case, why are they? And what does that indicate to the child who must be sworn to secrecy?

I don’t think there is any reason for a young child to have two teachers. Confusion abounds. It is distinctly different than having math class in school 5 times a week or a tutor because much of that time is spent in supervised practice. Now if a parent or child wants more lesson time each week, they could come to the same teacher twice.

Dana Smith said: Apr 25, 2017
Dana Smith
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Bethesda, MD
1 posts

I have had this situation with two students-with one it worked out well in that the second teacher was more of a ‘practice coach’ who helped her practice the assignments I had given. With the other I had to ask the parent to choose one teacher, as the student was receiving conflicting messages and double repertoire. I think we need to add this to parent education at the beginning of lessons if we feel they are quite ambitious for their child—to respect our pace with their child, and to not keep secrets—it seems like it might be a cultural issue in some cases. If they want their child to have extra lessons, we could recommend they video the lesson and have the child watch it mid-week to make sure they are practicing effectively. With both situations, I found out about it from the child and immediately discussed it with the parents. I was careful to be polite and not make the child or parent feel they had done anything wrong, but let them know my preferences going forward.

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