Transferring to a new Suzuki teacher is not an uncommon occurrence, and it can be a very good thing. There are many reasons why you might be changing teachers. Your teacher retired, you’ve moved to a new area, or it is time for a new perspective. No matter your reason, changing teachers is surprisingly difficult. As adults, I think we often underestimate the emotional upheaval we all experience when a child changes teachers.
I’d like you to imagine for a minute what it is like to be your Suzuki child. They have seen their teacher one-on-one, at least once a week, for a long time. Years, even. What other adults do they interact with so consistently? As a Suzuki student, I think I saw my teachers more often than my grandparents, or aunts and uncles! While, yes, the teacher-student-parent relationship is a professional one, a bond is created. It is so important to be sensitive to this relationship if you want the transition to go smoothly.
As a teacher, I have been on both the sending and receiving end of students transferring studios. Sometimes, I do a better job helping fmailies make this adjustement than others. Here’s what I believe parents can do to make the experience a little easier on everyone.
1. Respect your former teacher. This means, make sure you’re not damaging the relationship in your exit. The Suzuki community is tight-knit, you will likely still see your former teacher at Institute, play-ins, graduations, etc. You should also respect your former teacher in front of your child. Speak kindly of the former teacher, and express gratitude for the work they have done with your child. Show your child your pride in their work by respecting their mentor.
2. Take your time to choose your new teacher carefully. You want to make sure the new studio is a good fit for your child and your family. It’s great to have a trial lesson, but it may be more useful to observe other students’ lessons, group lessons, or recitals. The worst case would be to join a new studio, and then find it isn’t the right place, and change AGAIN. This kind of upheaval leads nowhere is fruitless and unnecessary. Take your time.
3. Manage your expectations, and prepare your child to do the same. When we change teachers, there are a lot of adjustments. Every teacher is different, has a different vocabulary, activities, styles, and expectations…This is a good thing! Be aware that the first few months with a new teacher may be spent on just getting everything. Fortunately, we all have our common repertoire, so you may spend some time on review while everyone adjusts. This is normal, and should not be met with frustration. Prepare your child ahead of time for the possibility of a period of slower progress before things pick back up again.
4. Respect your new teacher. Your new teacher will be different from your former teacher. This is hardly news, I know, but it needs to be said. If you have concerns, please let your new teacher know over the phone or email. Do not speak critically of your new teacher in front of your child. Doing so will sabotage any efforts your teacher makes in lessons. If you do not trust and respect your teacher as the authority, your child will not either. No progress is ever made in a situation like this. Speak kindly and gratefully of your new teacher in front of your child, and show them how important their musical education is to you by deferring to the current teacher. Establishing a relationship of trust with the new teacher is priority one for you and your child, please don’t sow any seeds of doubt during this process.
5. Get excited! Focus on the positive. How amazing is it that we got to work with such an amazing teacher, and now we get to work with another amazing teacher? Model a positive attitude, and look for the good in your former teacher AND your new teacher. For me, I feel so privileged to be a part of this supportive and loving community, and to help parents nurture and develop their children into fine human beings. Truly, where love is deep, much can be accomplished. We are so much better off if we cultivate the love in our hearts for ourselves, our children, and their teachers.