Dear inconsiderate, disrespectful and selfish parent of my soon-to-be-former student,
I would like to inform you that I can no longer teach your daughter, effective immediately. It has been a pleasure to work with your child in the past month. But after four lessons, I am confident that we are not a good fit.
Not your child and I, but you and me.
There’s an old Chinese saying, and there are several different ways to translate it, so here it goes:
You can say the action that leads to our current situation is “A single slip that causes a lasting sorrow.” or “A false step that causes a lifelong regret.”Or, you could also say that “The error committed on impulse may turn out to be the sorrow of a whole life.” In any case, this ancient proverb portraits how I feel about my decision of admitting you into my studio.
So for the sake of my sanity, it’s time. Time to let you go.
When I agreed to fit your child into my already filled Saturday schedule, I regretted right away. I know that was my problem. We agreed on having lessons on Tuesdays, and I sympathised that your daughter vomited on the way to her trial lesson due to the rough traffic and car sickness. It’s understandable that Saturdays work better for you, and I know that since your child is taking another class nearby, having a lesson on the same day is simply more convenient.
Unfortunately, it’s not convenient for me. In fact, allowing you to “fit yourself” as the last student in my long day honestly took a toll on me. Please note that with you in my schedule, I am teaching 10 hours straight with only a 30 minutes lunch break. Every Saturday. It’s exhausting.
It was partly my fault. I should have just put you on the waitlist, and I shouldn’t lead you to believing that you can do whatever you want.
I kindly saved the Tuesday spot for you because I like teaching your daughter. Heck, I even put another perspective student on the waitlist and gave you the priority so that you could make the change.
But dear parent, that is not the only problem anymore. There’s so much more.
I shouldn’t let you manipulate me into giving you a 60 minutes lesson when your free-trial-lesson should only last 30 minutes. I should have seen the red flag when that happened.
Perhaps THAT led you to believe that I would ALWAYS give extra time to teach YOU after the 45 minutes lesson I already had with your daughter. Please don’t get me wrong – I believe that communication with parents is crucial, and I don’t mind spending extra time to help parents. In fact, I always do so when it’s needed. Yet, I can’t keep on giving you extra time each week, especially when you are ALWAYS 10 ~ 15 minutes late. (And giving you extra time especially doesn’t work when I already told you I need to attend a student recital after your lesson.)
Sometimes, we just have to realise that not everything works in one’s favour.
Yes, I am unable to make up the time YOU missed, and this is our studio policy. You can complain all you want and say I am uncompromising. I believe that “compromise” only works for people who know what respect means. I am not sure if you fall under this category.
Speaking of respect,
I’ve listened to all your concerns and tried my best to work with your expectation since the beginning. You told me you worry about your child’s hand shape when playing the piano, and you are not sure if she’s playing with a proper posture. Hey, I heard you, but perhaps, you need to realise that as a little human being, her physique is still growing. It also takes a period to change a previously formed habit, especially since she is only five. The dramatic change you are hoping for will not happen over a week.
Also, please note that voicing your opinions and bossing me around/telling me what to teach in lessons are two different things.
As a piano teacher, I believe that my responsibility is to build a well-rounded musician. My students don’t need to be perfect in every aspect, but being able to read the notes on their own is one of the basics. I can’t have you to shout out the note names when she is having trouble reading it by herself, and I can’t only focus on her hand shape during lessons as you demanded. (Read my post on how to deal with Chinese parents.)
Perhaps, you should consider teaching her yourself if you don’t trust my judgement.
No, just no. The world doesn’t revolve around you.
Thus, I can’t accommodate your needs and demands when you don’t know how to respect my principles. As much as your daughter is intelligent and adorable, YOU do not worth my energy and time. I wish you the best in finding a slave who can please all your desires.
Your daughter’s former piano teacher (not yours.)
I wrote this letter after a recent encounter with a former student of mine. My purpose for writing this letter is to give the public a general understanding of what could irritate me as a piano teacher. Or perhaps, all piano teachers in general. Typically, I try to iron out issues as much as possible, and this was the first time I let go of a student due to teacher-parent compatibility. I’m glad that I did it.
As teachers, we need to take care of our mental wellness. Give your energy to families that know what respect means!
Also published on Medium.