The first few years of my career as a full-time piano teacher have included a lot of transfer students. At my first full-time job out of grad school I took over a studio of about 25 students at an existing music school and then added about 10 more new beginners. In January of last year I added about 15 students at a homeschool group in the area when their teacher left to stay home with her first baby. Then, this past fall I changed studios for my afternoon teaching to teach closer to home, giving me another group of transfer students! Most of us would prefer to start our own beginners and teach them for many years, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Here’s some tips for helping ease the transition to a new teacher from my experience with transfer students.
- Take time to get to know them and learn about their previous piano experience: I always feel like I want to get to the music quickly and not “waste time” on too much talking, but with a transfer student you can learn a lot by just talking to them. Everything you can learn about their previous lesson experiences will help you be a better teacher to them.
- Ease into changes: If your teaching methods and style seem to be very different from the previous teacher, don’t try to change everything all at once. Some students may be used to a very light practice load and slow progress. If you think they need to move much quicker make the adjustment slowly over time, don’t shock them by expecting them to suddenly practice 5 times as much as they were before! The same applies to technique issues, make note of what you would like to change, but don’t expect it to change overnight.
- Compliment them early and frequently: Make them feel smart and valued. If you are making lots of changes to their playing they may need a confidence boost. Find things to compliment and praise frequently so that they feel valued in your studio.
- Be slow to judge their previous teacher: How would you like your teaching judged based on one student who left your studio? You can’t get the full picture of someone’s teaching based on one transfer student. Be slow to judge and don’t speak poorly of them to others, especially your new student. We all have weaknesses as teachers, but hopefully we are all striving to continually improve.
What are your some of your experiences with transfer students? Share with us any important tips we missed!
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.