Written by: Suzanne Greer
Spring has definitely sprung! Soon your phone will be ringing (or your inbox will by chiming!) with parents of prospective students. How do you handle a transfer from a different teacher? If handled poorly, you lose respect among your colleagues. I have experienced both sides of the transfer student dilemma. When faced with this circumstance, one must practice integrity. Webster’s defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”
The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) provides a Code ot Ethics that addresses this issue in its Commitment to Colleagues section:
The teacher shall maintain a professional attitude and shall act with integrity in regard to colleagues in the profession.
Furthermore, the last two bullets in the Commitment to Colleagues section speak to the ethics involved in transfer situations among students, parents and teachers:
The teacher shall respect the integrity of other teachers’ studios and shall not actively recruit students from another studio.
The teacher shall participate in the student’s change of teachers with as much communication as possible between parties, while being sensitive to the privacy rights of the student and families.
Direct communication is definitely the key. When I get a call from a parent transferring from a different studio, I try to find out as much as I can about why the student is leaving their current teacher. I ask if the parent has spoken with their current teacher about leaving. If they have not, I urge them to do so and ask if it is okay if I contact the teacher. The reason I do this is because someone did it for me. I have had students leave my studio to study with a different teacher for a variety of reasons. One of the first times it happenned, the teacher that the parent had contacted called me and asked if I was okay with the change. I developed a deep respect for this teacher because she took the time to call me. It felt good to have everything out in the open and I felt that the teacher displayed common courtesy towards me. Thus, I have implemented the same response when students want to transfer to my studio from a different teacher.
I have experienced the opposite – where the parent hasn’t been honest about why they are leaving and I discover that they left to study with another teacher – and I wonder why the teacher would not have contacted me. I feel an obligation to my fellow colleagues to act with integrity and professionalism because students will come and go. Relationships with colleagues are long-standing yet delicate. It is important to strive for a very high command of ethics in our interactions with each other. I challenge you to think carefully when faced with any problematic situations this spring. Use the MTNA Code of Ethics as your guide and practice integrity with your colleagues.