MTNA 2012 Conference | Session on Ethics for Music Teachers

Wednesday morning of the conference, I attended a session called “it’s More Than Just Being Nice” by Kathy Strickland, the Washington State Ethics Chair with help from Amy Grinsteiner.

Kathy covered a variety of topics about our responsibility as teachers.  Here’s some of her points:

  • Treat students with respect.  Don’t accept just the talented students.
  • Teach concert etiquette to parents and students.
  • Do not copy music!  It’s legal in the case of a one-time educational session (after which the copies should be destroyed).  But in most other cases, it is illegal.  And when teachers pass on illegal copies to students, we make them complacent in the crime. 
  • Support cultural life in the community: serve in your local MTNA association, organize events that involve and support the community, and consider joining your local chamber of commerce as a small business.
  • Always return phone calls from inquiring parents, even when you can’t accept them.
  • Charge professional, fair rates.
  • If a student who is currently taking lessons with a colleague inquires about taking lessons with you, tell them they must first finalize things with their previous teacher.  When they call you again, call your colleague to confirm that things are indeed finalized.  If your colleague feels hurt or strange about the situation, it may be best not accept the student in respect of your colleague.  If things are alright, schedule an interview.  If you decide to accept the student, send your colleague a thank you note complimenting them on some aspect of the student’s training.
  • When adjudicating, never ever criticize another teacher no matter what.  It is unethical.
  • When adjudicating, never try to steal a student or encourage them to take lessons with another teacher.
  • If you find that a student of yours have been taking lessons with another teacher alongside of your lessons, the best thing to do first is to bring it in the open.  Contact the other teacher and let them know if s/he wasn’t aware already.  Then you simply have to make the decision about whether you wish to continue teaching the student.
  • Never gossip about another teacher.  If others gossip about a fellow teacher, insert something positive in the conversation about that teacher.  Stive to keep the air positive and be supportive to even younger, less experienced teachers in your association.  Be a role model, and encourage defending one another.
  • In your local association, publicize the code.  Print and read it every year.  Now and then, have a presentation and discussion about ethics.  You could even consider having someone from another profession come in to speak about ethics.
  • Each state should have a State Ethics Chair.  Submit a request for one if you don’t have one.  MTNA has a process for dealing with unethical situations.  If you have questions or problems, MTNA members should not hesitate from inquiring.

In closing, Kathy made the point that piano teaching is not just about ouselves as individual teachers.  And it’s more than just being nice.  Ethics is about maintaining a strong organization and being responsible to the student!

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