Once your child has requested to have music lessons, you are faced with the chore of finding a music teacher. A good instrumental teacher is often difficult to find. Although there are several qualities that you should look, for it’s not possible to give a checklist of exactly what makes a good teacher. This is because when people think of someone being a “good teacher” there is more than just professional knowledge involved. With all that being said, how do you choose a good teacher? There are several questions you need to ask as you go through the process of choosing a teacher.
Things to consider:
What is your goal for learning that instrument?
What kind of personality does the student have? What kind of personality does the teacher have?
How long has the teacher been teaching for?
What certificates or degrees does the teacher have? What professional development have they done?
What is the teacher’s philosophy on practicing?
What age group does the teacher specialise in?
When you are looking at learning an instrument, or having your child learn an instrument, what is the end goal that you have in mind? Does the child want to be a performer? Is the parent wanting them to get into a good university? Does the parent want the child to have a love of music throughout their adult life? The end goal is an important question, as it will determine how many minutes or hours the student will have to practice for. It will also determine how much sacrifice is needed to reach the goals. The answer to this question will also be important for choosing a teacher, as some teachers will push a student in a particular direction that may not be the same direction that the student or parent wants.
The personalities of the student and the teacher are very important. A student who gets on well with their teacher will work harder for them, and will also want to work for them. Practicing won’t be as much of a battle, and the student will have more respect for the teacher. Similarly, a teacher who gets on well with a student will be willing to go a little further to help them succeed. This may take the form of finding pieces of music that they know the student will enjoy or giving a few extra minutes at the end of a lesson to make sure the student understands the task set for them.
The length of time a teacher has been teaching for can have both positives and negatives associated with it. Someone who has just started teaching may make more mistakes as they are a beginner. However, new teachers often have knowledge of the latest teaching methods and teaching psychology to allow for the greatest successes with their students. A teacher who has been teaching for a number of years will be secure in what works and what doesn’t work for teaching methods. Unless they have been taking extra courses though, they may not be up on the latest teaching techniques and methods. One is not necessarily better or worse than the other, both are factors to take into account when making decisions.
Look at what certificates and degrees a teacher has. Just because they have a Masters of Music Performance, does not make them a great teacher. It means they are a great performer. Teaching and Performing are two very different careers and just because you can do one, does not mean you can do the other. So look at their degrees, look at the professional associations that they belong to, and see what professional development they have done to make their teaching better.
Ask the teacher about their teaching philosophy. Question them on what they feel is necessary, practicing, examinations, and what makes their lessons fun. Yes, Fun. It has been proven over and over again that people learn more and do better if they enjoy themselves while doing it. A child needs to have more “fun” built into their lessons than an adult does. For example, learning note names through a game is more fun than learning them through flashcards and rote memorisation. A child will have more patience when something is fun. Just look at how they will play the same level of a video game over and over until they pass it. By contrast, they won’t willingly put that much time into their memorisation of something for school. Not everything can be fun, but it is an important factor to consider.
Ask which age group the teacher prefers or specialises in. Some teachers do better with beginning students, and some do better with intermediate students. Some teachers do better with young children, and others prefer teenagers. This relates back to the teacher’s personality too. A teacher who has mostly teenage students may not be the best teacher for a beginning seven year old child.
Finally, don’t forget to check out the references. You may also request to sit in on some lessons of other children, so you can see how the teacher interacts with them.