At the MTNA Conference this past March, Phillip Keveren presented a showcase sharing about his newest compositiona from the past year. He started by saying “A woman came up to me and said ‘You really composed a lot this last year!’ And I replied.
‘Well you know what, it’s not a hobby.'”
I love that sentiment. Mr. Keveren shared how he schedules his time for compostition each day and this really is a structured job for him. Sometimes I feel like I need this quote for myself when people say “oh, so this is like a full-time thing for you?” Or when parents say “oh, I thought you had a day job.” Piano teaching has not always been considered a professional job, but we can change that! Many of today’s piano teachers have Master’s and/or Doctoral degrees in piano pedagogy. Many are also nationally certified as qualified teachers. But, unfortunately, a lot of the perceptions about piano teaching are still the same. It’s up to us to change that perception! I see a lot of teachers complain about parents struggling to follow their policies, respect boundaries, and pay tuition on time. If we want parents to treat us professionally we need to act like professionals.
Whitney covered a few of these ideas in her post last week, Advice to My Younger Self, but I’ll go into a few more details for you today.
5 Tips for Professionalism in the Piano Studio
Be timely. If you teach away from home, be there at least 15 minutes before your first lesson starts. It doesn’t make a good impression if you are always rushing in right at the lesson time, or even late. If you teach at home make sure you’re ready to start on time. I also think it’s important to end lessons on time and maintain your schedule. Running consistently behind schedule is inconsiderate to parents and students. If you have trouble keeping 30-minute lessons running on time schedule breaks in between or lengthen lesson times. It’s important that you can stick to your schedule.
Stick to your schedule. I feel that teachers should only cancel or reschedule lessons when absolutely necessary. Sometimes it is unavoidable, illness, family emergencies, etc., but keep your schedule as much as possible. It’s hard to enforce a no make-up policy if you are frequently asking students to reschedule. Rescheduling for personal convenience is not professional.
Dress professionally. It’s a little cliché but “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” comes to mind for this one. If you want to be treated like a professional, dress like a professional. While I do allow myself to wear jeans occasionally on a Friday or on the last day before a break, typically I avoid jeans when teaching. Also consider, if you wear jeans every Friday, your Friday students only see you wearing jeans. Most professional workplaces have a dress code, but as independent teachers we have to set our own standards.
Be involved with MTNA. Many professions expect that you will be a member of the relevant professional organization. As piano teachers we must take the initiative ourselves to join MTNA and become involved at the local, state, and national levels.
Continue your education. We should be lifelong learners! Attend state and national conferences. Become nationally certified if you aren’t already. Never stop learning and growing as a teacher. We can always become better at what we do. Better teachers become more sought-after in the community. The more sought-after you are the more you can expect from your students. If students have a strong desire to stay in your studio they will be more likely to follow your policies.
Hold yourself to a high standard. Expect a lot from yourself and parents will notice a difference. Act like a professional and others will treat you like a professional. It is up to us, one studio at a time, to change the perception of the piano teaching profession.
Spring Seals, NCTM, teaches 60 piano students ranging from age 3 to 70 in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as the Director of Certification for TMTA. She is passionate about helping teachers become more effective in their studios through professional development, new resources, and fresh ideas.