What Qualities should a parent look for in a teacher?

This question is very important to me, because it should align with the things that I look for in a teacher when I’m in the process of hiring new ones, so I have plenty to say about this topic.  So I’m going to speak from a parent’s perspective as it is similar to mine. 

Here are the things that a parent should look for in a teacher:

1)    Education – While having a college degree is not always the most important thing, it does show that the teacher has dedicated a good part of their academic life to studying music.  And while plenty can be self-taught, the fact that a teacher has a degree from a university shows that he or she is serious about his or her craft, and passing knowledge onto their students.  There are always exceptions to the rules, but I generally like to look for candidates that have a degree in music.  While I taught piano for many years and tended to fall back primarily on my experience learning music while growing up, I learned things in college that I never did while just studying piano and violin, and adding those things into my bank of knowledge was incredibly useful when I was teaching full time. 

2)    Ability to teach – Now this is an interesting one because sometimes the performers and musicians that are the most prodigious, are not always the best teachers.  If a student isn’t able to break down topics into bite sized chunks of information, then they aren’t going to be able to teach a student anything.  When teaching a beginning student, a teacher needs to systematically introduce them to individual concepts, and then build upon each once a solid foundation is established.  If a teacher isn’t able to break the complicated aspects of music and reading notation to a student, then they aren’t going to be able to get very far in the lessons.  This is sometimes why very talented musicians don’t make great teachers (and many make wonderful teachers) because they either can’t recall what it was like to be in this stage, or they just don’t know how to convey the complexity of these concepts into a way that a student can understand.  So the ability to teach is very important!

3)    Being a great person - The qualities that make a good teacher make a good human being!  Parents should look for someone who is kind, caring, communicative, enthusiastic and with the right amount of flexibility.  It doesn’t help to have a teacher who will be cranky, moody or yell at a student.  Contrary to the drum teacher in Whiplash, most young, beginning students wouldn’t benefit from that type of teacher!  Maybe when they are older, in college, and have developed a solid sense of self and a thick skin, then that kind of educational experience would be helpful, but the jury is out on that.  So, look for a teacher who you would want to have around your kids that is warm and supportive, but with the right amount of firmness so they can handle any behavioral issues that may come up.  It’s all about balance.

4)    Being a good service provider – The best qualities after a teacher’s personality to look for are their abilities to be a good service provider.  I look for teachers that are responsive to communication, professional, reliable, on time and that I feel confident about in their teaching abilities and them as a person.  It’s always best to trust your instincts and you can get a good sense of a teacher from meeting them, but also if it is possible to follow up on their references, that is one of the best ways to learn what they really are like as a person.  This is something I do with every teacher I hire, because it is so important to find a teacher that has all of these qualities!