Tips for Hiring Fantastic Teachers

Tips for Hiring Fantastic Teachers

Contemporary Art

Building a better studio is one of the primary goals we each want to do. That’s one reason why Studio Helper was developed in the first place.

Here’s an area you might not have explored, one where creative thought and planning can make your studio stand out from the crowd.

We all want the best teachers in our studio

It’s not uncommon to think that the best performers are great teachers. “It ain’t necessarily so,” as the Gershwin song says.

First, let’s think about the makeup of a successful performer

  • Obviously highly talented
  • Very dedicated to their art form
  • Able to analyze their own challenges and self-correct them while practicing
  • Willing to spend an incredible amount of time mastering their craft

So far, so good. These all seem like positive attributes.

let’s think about traits that can work for positive or negative

  • Are communication skills strong, given a superb performer’s ability to focus intently (often in isolation)?
  • Can this person relate to students by providing age and skill appropriate examples?
  • Will high level teacher expectation create frustration towards the student? (Why can’t they get it?)
  • Will this person be able to provide consistent compliments on incremental improvement? Parents appreciate positive response to their children.
  • Are repertoire and tasks based only on the teacher’s personal learning experience?
  • Can this skilled performer lay out logical curriculum at the most basic levels?

Where does this all lead?

It’s not unusual for high level performers to only relate to exceptionally talented students. That leaves lots of students getting less than ideal instruction, leading to potentially unhappy customers.

Maybe the teacher can say “do it like this” with a demonstration but not explain what to do.

I remember seeing jazz saxophonist Art Pepper do a “Master Class.” He would say, “Well, I just… uh, it’s probably… uh.” Then he’d put the mouthpiece in his face and play a wonderful phrase.

Was he able to perform at a world class level? Absolutely. Able to communicate with students? Not in the least..

Here are the real questions to ask yourself

Three dancersCan a teacher think in terms of varied curriculum materials spanning multiple styles? Does the teacher know a variety of beginning and intermediate level materials? This would be critical if a student “doesn’t get it” and needs to spend more time at the same level before advancing.

How about being able to build essentials in multiple ways? If the teacher had a weakness while learning (arm flow for ballet), was their personal instruction so focused on the problem that their future teaching focuses on the same issue, even if the student has other challenges?

How is the teacher’s “positive attitude” when dealing with lesser skilled students? Is encouragement part of the process, or are there negative words and phrases used?

Are the teacher’s technical fundamentals sound in the area being taught? There are sometimes excellent teachers on one instrument whose background is with another. As long as they know how to teach what they teach, success is probable.

Can this teacher put together an email, letter or face to face discussion to show parents “Your student is progressing wonderfully in skills a, b, and c. The next challenge to work on is…” Negative words (isn’t, can’t, should be, won’t) have no place in parent communication.

There are some performers who are wonderfully gifted teachers. Those folks are the ones you’d love to have in your studio… encouraging your students, educating parents, providing the highest level of artistry.

That said, there are excellent teachers who may not be the most highly skilled performers. In a sense, their “high level performance skill” is the ability to teach.

Just what can you do to learn more about teachers?

Here’s what is often done at the university level, perhaps it might give some ideas for hiring within your studio. When applying for college teaching jobs, my interviews (exhausting as they were) typically included the following components:

  • Meet with the top level administrator… that would be you, of course!
  • Meet with faculty (other teaching staff, in your case)
  • Meet with current students in the subject area (their feedback can be quite revealing)
  • A brief performance or recital open to those involved in the studio
  • A Master Class, teaching one or more students (this will reveal teaching style, communication skills, use of positive reinforcement, ability to pick up on issues and prioritize them).
  • Providing a sample lesson plan or curriculum for beginning and intermediate students.

While it seems overwhelming, these steps would give you a complete picture of the potential teacher.

What does that process really show?

  1. Can the teacher relate to colleagues and managers?
  2. Can the teacher relate to and guide student progress?
  3. Can the teacher communicate with parents?

Thinking about hiring new teachers with these ideas in mind can really add value to your hiring process. Any change on your part hires better teachers.

Here’s another reason to use “planned pre-screening” techniques

arts martiaux 5With the knowledge you gain, recruiting students for the teacher becomes very easy. Singing the praises of a new teacher catches attention quickly, and you know from personal observation that what you say is true. It helps whether prospecting through emails, posting notices on community bulletin boards and blogs or placing announcements in newsletters.

Give this approach some thought. It may help you hire the best and make your studio “best in class.” Always try to hire the best teachers. That is the critical thought to keep in mind!

Use all the tools at your disposal: Studio Helper, thoughtful hiring, community outreach, creative marketing. Possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Meanwhile, stop by the blog periodically to learn new ideas that may spark your own creative thinking.


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