When A Music Teacher Doesn't Work Out

Sometimes a parent's best intentions go awry. Here's how to know if your child's music lessons ought to continue with a particular teacher.

One of the common rites of passage that children pass through while growing up is the period of a few years sometimes when they take private music lessons. The teacher might come to your home or your child might go there or study at another location, such as the school after hours. Parents should monitor these lessons to be sure that they remain productive and that your child has a successful working relationship with the instructor. Here are some signs that it may be time for a change.

1. Your child is not making progress. Each pupil is unique and learns at his or her own pace. But over a period of weeks or months, parents ought to be able to discern a sense of progress as the child moves from simple to more sophisticated exercises and pieces. If your child is not making progress, it may be time to discontinue lessons temporarily or look for another instructor. Sometimes personalities just don't mesh as smoothly as one would like. You could ask the instructor for a progress report first to see how he or she feels about the child's musical development, but keep in mind that a music teacher may be tempted to offer reassurances in order to keep the position.

2. Your child dreads each lesson. While some disinterest in formal study is natural, obvious distaste for the lesson or the instructor may be an indicator that something is wrong. Ask your son or daughter specifically what is liked or disliked about the lesson format or about the teacher. Instead of criticizing his or her opinion, be a patient listener and provide a neutral environment in which concerns can be aired. Sometimes the personalities clash or perhaps the pace is too fast.

3. The teacher lacks instructional aptitude. This can be revealed in a number of ways. From a discreet position in the next room, like the kitchen, if lessons are given in your home, observe the interactions that occur between teacher and pupil. Is the teacher clear in explaining lessons and expectations? Do you see evidence of patient guidance? Does the teacher expect more from your child than someone of his or her age is able to give?

4. Is your child ready to music lessons? It may be that your son or daughter is not musically inclined or perhaps is trying to juggle too many other things in a busy schedule to give serious attention to musical instruction. Is that is the case, you can always stop the lessons now and pick them up again later, perhaps in a year or so, when your child shows more eagerness to practice and schedules have wound down a bit.

5. Has school instruction changed to add or enhance music study? Perhaps a new teacher has come on board and offers after-school lessons. Or your child may be getting enough instruction during the school day so that he or she isn't interested in continuing private lessons. Maybe the school music teacher has added informal classroom instruction or performance on certain days of the week and your child no longer is that interested in private lessons.

Just because you start to pay for private lessons doesn't mean you will have to do it forever. Evaluate the sessions periodically for factors like those outlined above. Be prepared to make changes if need be to protect your child's best interests.

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