How Can I Find A Teacher I Trust?

Here we are at the end of 2014, looking ahead to a fresh new year. I'd like to thank everyone who has visited my blogs and supported my writing this past year. At this time many people make resolutions, or plans for the coming new year. From questions I receive, many people are looking to study their instruments more and advance their skills. So at this time spanning the changing year, I will post a few blogs about finding a teacher, and also about self study.

The big question: How can I Find a teacher, especially one I trust?

The following ideas can apply to finding a teacher for anything—music instruction, Yoga, meditation, arts, crafts, writing, cooking, etc.

Yes, there are plenty of stories of pushy, driven teachers pushing and driving their students to excel, but those tend to be more stories than anything. If you like to get yelled at and abused, well, maybe that will work for you. Each of us is different, so no teacher can work for every type of learner. I'm not saying you should find a teacher that won't push you, but the best thing is to find someone who matches your own learning style.

  • Ask a friend or someone you know for a recommendation. If someone you trust has something positive to say about a teacher, then that teacher would be a place to start.
  • Look up their website/blogs/reviews—anything that will help you get an idea of how they think, what their philosophy is, and how they teach. You are looking for someone that you can personally work with. If you can't get along with your teacher, then you may find yourself resisting what and how they teach. If you don't like what they do or who they are, why would you want to study with them?
  • When you find someone you are interested in, see if you can arrange for a trial lesson (paid for of course). That way you can audition the teacher and see how things match. Depending on the situation, you may need to sign up for one month of lessons at a minimum. This can be good, because you get a more indepth look at the teacher and their methods. Even if you decide not to study with them, you will most likely come away with having learned something of value, so it's not a total loss.
  • Avoid initially getting locked into some sort of long term lesson plan unless you are sure things will work out.
As a side note, I look at things from the same perspective as a teacher. I audition students and look for people I think I can help and work with. I've even sent prospective students to other teachers who I thought were more in line with what they needed. I don't want to just take someone's money every week. I do teach some at home, but I have cats. So I always have to qualify people with, “Are you allergic/afraid/against cats?” It's only fair to both of us.

  • Other things to look at: do you like the atmosphere where the lessons are taught? I've taken lessons in tiny, cramped music store studios, huge college halls, basements, living rooms, and everything in between. You are paying your hard earned money, so you should feel comfortable wherever you are taking lessons. If you are a non-smoker, yet the studio reeks of cigarettes, you may not enjoy taking lessons there.
  • Are they teaching you what you want? There are times we need to learn and work on things we might not want to, just to learn specific techniques or ideas, but overall, are you learning what you want to in your lessons? If you are interested in rock drumming, yet the teacher keeps presenting jazz drumming lessons to you, then maybe they are not the right teacher. 
  • How is the gear you are learning on? If the drum equipment is a mess/wreck, then you can expect your lessons may be the same. Look for decent gear that is maintained. You can't learn as much when things are falling apart. Sometimes compromises have to be made due to location, studio size, etc.  But things should still be viable to learning.
  • Finally, go with your gut: if anything feels icky, then it's not right for you. You need to feel comfortable AND safe. They could be the best teacher in the world, but if you don't feel comfortable at your lessons, you won't learn as much because you will always be on guard. Don't compromise yourself.

See you in 2015!

~ MB


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