What makes a good teacher?
We all have our own ideas about what makes the perfect teacher. Maybe you had a favourite teacher when you were younger and that model has become your ideal. For some reason we all seem to click better with some people than with others whether it be in personal social relationships, professional relationships or teacher-pupil relationships. It will ultimately be the quality of the relationship between the teacher and pupil which will make the learning experience enjoyable and successful.
What you should consider when choosing a teacher:
1) What is the teacher’s age, experience and personality?
Older teachers have more experience and, possibly, the patience that comes with age but younger teachers have the enthusiasm and energy that goes with youth. Many music students take on a few pupils in order to earn a little pocket money and they can make great teachers. Although they may still have a lot to learn themselves they may identify with the problems that learners face and can pass on a lot of the knowledge and advice they themselves hear each week in their own lessons.
Conversely an older, more experienced teacher can be a good choice especially for students who are a bit faster or slower than average. With the experience of already having coached many students the older teacher will know how to address some of the less common difficulties that students sometimes have with learning. They will also have more experience of teaching very bright students and should know how to push them quickly and appropriately.
You may be interested in taking music examinations. If this is the case you will need a teacher who has experience of entering candidates and who therefore has a good knowledge of the standards required and the best way to prepare.
2) Where will the music lesson be held?
Some teachers work from home or from a studio and some will go to pupil’s houses to give lessons. It can be very convenient if the teacher visits your house but you will need to make sure that the room is always available when needed and that you are organised enough to always remember when the lesson is so that you are at home and ready for the visit! Lessons at the teacher’s house or studio are good for students as it enables them to get used to playing in different venues and on other pianos. It is good to get accustomed to a variety of pianos; individual pianos can feel and play very differently. Also, it is very likely that your teacher’s piano will be a very good quality instrument and having the opportunity to play on it each week can be a pleasure if the instrument at home is of only a basic standard.
Many children have the option of taking music lessons at school during the school day. Generally they are allowed out of normal timetabled lessons for the duration of their music lesson and are expected to catch up with what they have missed in other lessons, such as history, science or maths, by checking with their subject teachers or friends later on. This option can work well if your child is conscientious and is very useful for busy parents who may find it difficult to find time to take a child to their music lesson each week.
3) Does the teacher organise concerts in which pupils can take part?
Children and young people (especially very young children) enjoy sharing what they have learned by taking part in concerts. Schools usually stage concerts for students who are members of their bands, choirs and orchestras but opportunities for solo performances are often limited so many teachers host recitals in order to give their students the challenge and enjoyment of showing what they, individually, have achieved. Often these are very special concerts where parents and friends can offer mutual support and encouragement.
4) How long are the lessons and how frequent?
The standard time spent on a lesson is between 30 minutes and one hour. For beginners 30 minutes is plenty but older and more advanced students may need 45 minutes or an hour, especially if preparing for an examination or concert.
Most teachers give weekly lessons. Some teachers work only during the school term times but others offer lessons year round. It is worth asking about this before you start lessons.
5) What do the lessons cost?
The cost of lessons will vary from around £20 to over £100 per hour depending on the experience, location and prestige of your teacher.
Before starting lessons make sure that you are clear about how the teacher wishes to be paid. Many teachers prefer to be paid for a number of lessons in advance and you may be expected to pay for missed lessons, so ask whether you are able to re-schedule lessons which you are unable to attend for any reason.
6) Where do I find a teacher?
Now that you know what to look for you need to start searching. Here is where you might find them:
Get a referral from a friend or teacher (by far the best option)
Your local music store
Public bulletin boards where the public can post flyers
Online internet search