Just one of the ‘staff’ – or not?

I don’t teach cello privately much these days. Not at the moment. There are parts of it I don’t really like – and I was reminded of it a few days ago.

I’m a very good cello teacher, in particular for children in primary school. These children interest me – I like solving their learning problems as they learn to play the cello (which isn’t that easy to learn, if you are wondering). I like watching them learn to love the cello. I like watching their brains spark as they trust their creativity. I like getting to know them – hearing about what is important to them, what has made them happy or sad. Because that’s part of being a good one-on-one music teacher. (Actually, it’s part of being a good teacher in general…)

You see, if you are a good instrumental teacher you have a number of jobs to do. You are building your student’s skills on whatever instrument – but also their sense of self-belief, their creativity, their courage and their humour. You are part counsellor. You are part friend. You are part teacher. You have to instil a want to get better without being too strict. You have to allow your student to feel OK when they make a mistake  both in a lesson, and in a concert. You are teaching them resilience, and delayed gratification. You are teaching them to love something.

So my question is this…. If you ARE doing all these things, as a music teacher, why do parents think it’s OK to treat you like you are no better than say, a caterer for an event. (I’m sorry if there are any caterers out there reading this. I wasn’t sure what else to write. An un-trained car-washer?) Why do they think it’s OK to pay you late? Why do they think it’s OK to ask you to accompany your ex-student at the drop of a hat, (well, that part’s fine), but then get offended when you decline (that part’s not)? Why do they think it’s OK to demand, demand, demand?

I have friends who are one-on-one instrumental teachers, and they all have stories like this. It’s why I walked away and stopped teaching. Not because of the kids, but because of the parents. And you know what? I reckon these particular parents wouldn’t talk to their surgeons, or lawyers like they do to teachers – and yet we are the ones looking after their kids.

Or maybe they would.