Teacher Parent Etiquette


said: Feb 22, 2010
 3 posts

My child is about to begin violin lessons, he is very excited about music and violin. I had a referral to a teacher in our area and made contact with her. She said she had a lesson time available for us and we agreed to begin lessons at that time in a couple weeks.
My son is young and I have a habit of telling him ahead of time what we will be doing to help him know what to expect and to help him choose a good behavior when the time comes. He was excited about starting lessons, looking forward to meeting his teacher.
But two days before the first lesson I received an email back from this teacher with three short sentences that said basically:
I don’t have this time available. Here is different lesson time, what about that?

I was suprised, in part that the message came with short notice by email. But more-so because it was so brief and cold. There was no apology for the change. No indication that there had been a change—just—I am not available then. The time she proposed was totally different from what we had agreed and isn’t workable for us.

It felt like a harsh letdown to my child—that we deserved a bit more personalization. Perhaps an “I’m sorry, something has come up and I won’t have that lesson time available after all” and I think we would have seen it in a completely different way.
My husband and I both thought this very rude. When I asked friends of their opinions they agreed it seemed rude and warned against allowing this teacher a relationship to our son.

I’m ready look elsewhere but haven’t located another Suzuki teacher in our area and so it will likely be traditional lessons for us. But I’d like to understand, does this teacher think that her contact was fine? Would other parents think this was rude or not?

Laura said: Feb 22, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

This is one aspect of “e-mail culture” that is controversial. But to put it in perspective, I frequently receive e-mails like that from people, but I know for a fact that they are not blunt or rude in person, nor do the speak that way. They simply prefer to keep e-mails very short, like a little memo on a post-it note, and it’s not meant to be rude or impersonal in any way.

I wouldn’t have communicated with you in the same manner (I might have avoided e-mail altogether), but I’ve learned not to be too bothered by people who do, without knowing the person in any other way. Sometimes it really does boil down to their “e-mail style”. Not to make excuses for the teacher, though. I’m just allowing some other possibilities.

In the meantime, I would give this teacher the benefit of the doubt, and speak to her directly by phone or in person. That will give you a better idea.

said: Feb 23, 2010
 3 posts

Thank you for your reply purple_tulips. I think you are right, most folks probably do not realize the way an email might come off and it would be good to assume the best.
However when I got back with her, she suggested a school-aged student of hers could be my son’s teacher. I am a bit appalled at this. It seems odd to make such a suggestion for a very young first-time violin student.

said: Feb 28, 2010
 5 posts

I agree it is strange that she would suggest a student to teach your child. I can see using an advanced student as a coach (in addition to the teacher), but not as the primary teacher! I wonder how group lessons be handled?
Frankly, if I were in your position I would not want to pursue a relationship with this particular teacher. I hope your child stays excited about lessons and finds a terrific teacher!

Connie Sunday said: Mar 3, 2010
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
670 posts

I’m a teacher, and in similar circumstances I would certainly be more apologetic—much more, in fact. It sort of seems like this particular teacher is ill mannered, inexperienced and immature. I’d look elsewhere.

If she reacts according to type, she is likely to give you grief, but first impressions are important and you have to protect your son. I’m sure a good and loving, grown up and thoughtful teacher, is on the horizon. I wouldn’t let my blood pressure go up for this issue; when she complains (and I bet she will), just remain firm with a remark like “we’re going in a different direction.” She may eventually get a clue, but probably not. She’s not your responsibility; I wouldn’t worry about it. Who’s important here is your child (as I know you know).

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Laura said: Mar 3, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I’m sorry to hear about your experience with this teacher. Given the additional information, I would probably agree with techfiddle and hope that you are able to find a more positive experience through another teacher.

You didn’t mention whether or not this teacher was a registered Suzuki instructor, but I assume that she is, since you have consulted this discussion board. There are good and bad types of teachers everywhere, but it’s especially unfortunate when a “bad” example of a teacher is linked with a specific method as Suzuki, which is founded on mutual respect. (A “bad” non-Suzuki teacher could mean anything. But a “bad” Suzuki teacher implies that Suzuki is bad, which is too bad because it is not true!)

Just one more possibility though, for the sake of discussion. Is her speaking manner shy and reserved in general? Is she fluent in English? I know quite a number of soft-spoken immigrants who are wonderfully warm and charming in person, but don’t know the ways of the world here in North America. They may not be comfortable enough with the language to go out on a limb, and therefore tend to keep sentences very brief, particularly when communicating with strangers. Things tend to open up considerably once at the person-to-person level. I have cross-cultural experience myself and can vouch for this. Many nuances can be lost when simple direct translation is used. Not all cultures have the conversational equivalent of “Ohh! You know what, I’m extremely sorry about this. How terrible, i feel simply awful. But let me see what else I can suggest.” Conversely, some immigrant cultures find Americans (how about Canadians!?!) are way too candid and verbose.—Either that, or they find it a refreshing change!

I know this is probably a bit of a stretch, and there is no need to respond if this is not the case in your situation. I just mentioned it for the sake of discussion, as it’s always nice to keep an open mind with regards to others, partcularly those I haven’t met because of anonymous third-party discussion on a webpage. :) But you have spoken to this teacher and would have a much better idea than I.

said: Mar 15, 2010
 3 posts

Thanks to all of your replies. I found each of your comments helpful, as I was feeling like perhaps I had been too harsh but looking back all that really matters is that I find the right teacher for my son. She is a fluent English speaking person, not really shy but then I don’t know her well. I think she is ‘direct’, which to me sometimes seems ’short.’ Also, she never mentioned anything about group lessons so I am not sure if this is part of her program or teaching.

At any rate, on good advice I have contacted other teachers although not so nearby. I have observed some lessons and each of the teachers I’ve been in touch with have been friendly and helpful and so my experience really turned around.

I have decided on a teacher who was completely wonderful with the little-one I observed, really got on his level and kept him engaged and motivated. She communicated well with the parent giving advice on what to watch and work on in home practice. She also had registered training, which for me was important. I felt a special ease around this particular teacher and her enthusiasm about Suzuki training and philosophy gave me confidence that this will be more than music lessons for my son.
In all, I learned that although I had a referral to a ‘good’ teacher, when it comes to my son it’s in his best interest to do all of the research.

Joan Towles said: Mar 21, 2010
Joan Towles
Suzuki Association Member
Pasadena, CA
2 posts

I know teachers are busy; but, I do not use email to schedule lessons for this reason. I will reply using email only to set up a telephone conversation to discuss beginning violin lessons. Then as a rule, I am using the telephone. It is the parents who tend to want to email me or, text me.
It is really their decision as to which way they want to communicate regarding lessons. Now that my son is in second grade, I look forward to teaching during the day.

Mrs. Joan D. Towles

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