An Open Letter to the Inconsiderate, Disrespectful, and Selfish Parent From a Piano Teacher

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 can cause a lasting sorrow.” or “A false step may cause 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.
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When I agreed to fit your child into my already filled Saturday schedule, I regretted right away. I know you wanted to change your original schedule because of the rush hour traffic you had to go through. I sympathised that your daughter vomited on the way to her trial lesson due to car sick. It’s understandable that Saturday works better for you. 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 understand I wouldn’t even offer you a trial lesson if I knew that was the time you would be requesting. And 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 believe that you can do whatever you want.

I’ve kindly saved the Tuesday spot for you because I would really like you to change your lesson time. I even put another perspective student on the waitlist and gave you the priority, so 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 sacrifice my break time to teach YOU after the 45 minutes lesson 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 assist 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 right 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. But in my dictionary, “compromise” is only suitable 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. You are not sure if she’s playing with a proper posture. I gave your five years old child a compatible supplement material to her current studies, and we work on it every week. But please do 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 staffs independently is one of the basics. I can’t allow you to shout out the note names when she is having trouble reading it on her own during our lesson. And I can’t only focus on her hand shape during lessons as you requested.

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 are not worth my energy and time. I wish you the best in finding a slave who can please all your desires.

Sincerely,
 Your daughter’s former piano teacher (not yours.)


I wrote this letter after a recent encounter with a former student of mine. My purpose of 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. This was the first time I let go of a student due to teacher-parent compatibility. Typically, I try to iron out issues as much as possible, and usually I wouldn’t call it quit because of the student.

The particular parent would never see this post since the great firewall of China most likely has blocked my site :D

I currently teach the piano in Shanghai to the expat community and local Chinese children. Here is another post regarding my experience teaching students from different cultural backgrounds.

If you are interested in my expat living in Shanghai, you can check out my other posts here.


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Originally published at Notes of Jo.