You're not the piano man
June 15, 2018 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Please help me write an email to fire my daughter's piano teacher. I'm a more than a little angry with him and I can't figure out if I want to let that come through in the email, or whether it's best to let it go.

I was at the end of my pregnancy and sick with a horrible virus while my husband was sick with pneumonia over the last few piano lessons of this (school) year. Which means that my daughter who is seven didn't practice much, if at all, during that time - because she isn't super mature, not enough to practice piano without my help and without being told to. And then baby was born late pre-term and she and I spent 11 days in the NICU (I was not at home, I was boarding with baby. Baby is doing fantastic now) - and my husband was travelling back and forth to the hospital twice a day and holding down the fort at home. At the last lesson before her piano recital, piano teacher stopped the lesson and pulled my husband aside. Despite knowing our circumstances he said it was clear daughter had not been practicing and that she probably shouldn't attend the rehearsal. My husband said - 'No, she's been looking forward to this and she is GOING. TO. THE. RECITAL. SO PRACTICE WITH HER NOW'. This teacher is from England, and he then said in that stereotypical smarmy, cowardly tone, like straight out of a movie, 'Well, I guess the recital is back on, then.' That's just to paint a picture for you.

I was pretty hormonal and vulnerable when I heard this, so much so that I cried and couldn't bring myself to even attend the recital because I was so upset/angry. And then, he spelled her name wrong on the program and, unbelievably, said her name wrong when introducing her. It's been a year that he's been teaching her. Furthermore, she's learned very little all year, maybe 7 quite easy pieces.

So. I got an email from him asking whether I want a refund for the year's missed lessons, or whether we will add them to next September. There will be no next September with this asshat. My goal in writing him back is to get this out of my mind so that I never think of this person and this crappy experience again. I seriously want it exorcised; I have a beautiful new baby daughter, I am struggling a bit with a traumatic birth and a lot of rumination over various things. I really don't need something else to be sad and angry about. So would the best way to write back to him be to say sometime polite and non-confrontational (this would be the Canadian way) - 'Thanks but we won't be needing your services next year' - or to give him a bit of a piece of my mind? Not lose my shit, but just be quite frank with how deeply unimpressed I am with him? I'm not sure which will lend me better mental health. Thank you.
posted by kitcat to Grab Bag (85 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry that sounds stressful and I think your decision to focus on the positive is a good one. I would seriously say something that was curt and to the point

"We were very displeased with the way our daughter's recital was handled and we will not be sending her back to you in the Fall" or something. Not to open a conversation just to be like "Come on, guy, that wasn't cool" and take him up on the refund obviously.
posted by jessamyn at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2018 [22 favorites]

I don't think there is any advantage to "giving him a piece of your mind".

I have some sympathy with your teacher with regards to your daughter attending the recital. It doesn't really matter why she hasn't been practicing, but if she hasn't been practicing and isn't ready then she shouldn't go. The reasons why don't enter into it.

OTOH, misspelling and mispronouncing her name are either passive aggressive or an indication that he's a dipshit. I'm with you there.

But, no. If you don't want her to continue with this teacher then just say that and move on.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2018 [74 favorites]

I think the best wya to deal with this is to be as dispassionate as possible in a direct email and then leave crushingly polite, accurate, and cold negative reviews online
posted by bq at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2018

Write the nastiest letter you can possibly write, read it a couple of times, tear it up and write:

"For a number of reasons we have decided to discontinue lessons. Thank you for your service."

I'm sorry you were dealing with everything you had to deal with. None of that needs to be the concern of the teacher, however. He's paid to teach a kid how to play the piano and to prepare her for the recital. Part of the deal is that your daughter has to practice. I totally get that she was unable to do this, but the why of it really doesn't matter to him. Keeping her off the recital might have actually been the teacher trying to do her a favor, so as not to embarrass her if he really thought she wasn't ready.

As for the misspelling on the program, I would chalk this up to an honest mistake. My son does recitals (drums) a couple of times a year and they're always getting things wrong on the program, or leaving kids off, or whatever. The teacher is a busy person who likes teaching piano, setting up recitals and getting programs printed is probably not his forte.
posted by bondcliff at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2018 [110 favorites]

I think two sentences will do: Refund, thanks. We will not be resuming in September.

If he has any response whatsoever other than "Here is your refund" I would unload on him, however.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2018 [29 favorites]

I'm with jessamyn here: cut him off at the knees, get your money back and be shut of him. Short and curt.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 10:25 AM on June 15, 2018

You seem pretty angry about this. Simply, you all had a ton of unexpected life emergencies going on and helping child practice went to the wayside. It happens. The piano teacher probably deals with stuff like this regularly.

But I suspect that the teacher suggested that your child not perform in the recital because she was not prepared. He may have been doing this to be kind. I've seen this happen in my own kid's various classes often. It is deeply embarrassing for a kid to be on stage or in front of a lot of people and mess up. Heck, this is also the general rule of thumb for graduate students and their advisors - if the student isn't ready, we don't have them go up to defend or whatever.

Just reply to the email and say "Yes, we would like the refund. Thank you. KittenCat will not be taking piano lessons next fall." If you're ever in a situation where someone in the neighborhood asks for a piano teacher recommendation, you can say "We didn't have a great experience with THAT GUY."

It isn't cool that he misspelled and mispronounced her name and it is a good idea for people that do that kind of work to pay attention to such things. But it isn't the end of the world.
posted by k8t at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2018 [61 favorites]

It is best to let it go.

She's learned very little because she's seven and she didn't practice for the quite obvious reasons you list above. It's not like Hugh Grant can "PRACTICE WITH HER NOW" and resolve that. That part is nobody's fault. It's not her fault, it's not the teacher's fault, and it's not your fault. So drop that from your consideration.

He didn't want her to go to the recital because she might perform in an underwhelming fashion and be embarrassed and regret it. Maybe he thinks he's back at Eton? He appears to have forgotten about the cultural mores of North America, land of the participation trophy. (Actually, I'm on your side on this one. Come on: seven. Seven years old, even without a brand new baby sibling and harried parents. Come on.)

He spelled her name wrong, you boycotted the recital; let's call it a draw. I'd be polite and brief, get that sweet sweet refund money, and spend it on a clarinet or a cello or a bmx bike. To hell with this guy and to hell with the piano.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:27 AM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

I might be a little rubbed the wrong way by your English comment (just kidding, as I'm sure you were!) but I have some sympathy with the teacher here too. Not the name-forgetting - that's terrible. But he may have been trying to spare your daughter some embarassment if he thought she might not be up to the recital.

I have several friends who teach young kids music and/or theatre, and you have no idea how many pushy parents they have to deal with, day to day. Insisting that their kid can or should do this or that, when the (qualified, experienced) teacher feels otherwise.

However, you're totally at liberty to feel otherwise. But after such a traumatic time, do you want to put negativity into the world right now? I agree with the posters above suggesting writing the letter and tearing it up, and sending a short and curt reply. Particularly if you're still feeling a bit wobbly right now. I suspect if you don't, you will feel embarassed about it somewhere down the line when you're feeling better.
posted by greenish at 10:27 AM on June 15, 2018 [18 favorites]

Just one thing - if he cared about my daughter feeling embarrassed, he would not have told my husband she shouldn't attend the recital right in front of her. My husband just told me that; I had thought it was out of her hearing.
posted by kitcat at 10:27 AM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

also "Furthermore, she's learned very little all year, maybe 7 quite easy pieces."

I... think that's fine for a seven year old? It's unwise to measure her progress in number of pieces anyway, IMO. Measure it on whether she's enjoying it, and wants to continue.
posted by greenish at 10:29 AM on June 15, 2018 [49 favorites]

I would just reply, "Yes, we'd like a refund, please" and leave it at that. If he asks about September, just say, "We haven't decided yet." If he follows up later in the summer, either don't reply or just say "no".

There are two sides to every story (even if one side is totally delusional) so if you're not interested in litigating the past I would just forget about this loopy piano teacher and move on.

You have a limited amount of emotional energy. Invest it wisely.
posted by JamesBay at 10:30 AM on June 15, 2018 [12 favorites]

if he cared about my daughter feeling embarrassed, he would not have told my husband she shouldn't attend the recital right in front of her.

He may also be socially clueless and lacking any sense of tact.
posted by bondcliff at 10:31 AM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

BlahLaLa's is best: Refund, thanks. We will not be resuming in September. Leave it at that.

I think he was totally in the right to hesitate at including her in the recital. To me, this is something the teacher decides, based on the child's readiness, not the parents. And I think his email to you is fine, reasonable, and even thoughtful. But it sounds like he may not have the best-developed social skills to deal with the parents of small North American children.
posted by Gnella at 10:31 AM on June 15, 2018 [26 favorites]

this doesn't explain or excuse the name mistake business, but I don't think the recital withdrawal suggestion was anything either bad or to be angry about. different kids mind things differently, and I suppose some kids would be upset about missing it. but the trauma of fucking up a public recital performance due to insufficient practice is the kind of thing that can put you off music/give you lifelong performance phobia issues. if he had reason to believe it might not go well, it's a favor to all concerned. that he was wrong is great, but he could have been right.

I mean it doesn't matter why she didn't practice much, it's not a question of it being someone's fault, either yours or hers. it's just that if she wasn't able to practice enough, there's great risk of it going badly.

you can still yell at him if you want, he can take it. and you're the ones paying for her lessons so you can fire him based on your own personal dislike. but I don't see anything here about your daughter liking or not liking him as a teacher, or wanting/not wanting to quit or switch teachers. run it by her first?
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:32 AM on June 15, 2018 [16 favorites]

Never, ever, ever express your anger to someone directly, especially in text these days. He's not going to learn his lesson from your expressing your anger and it could really backfire on you if you say anything and he shares it with the world. Say the bare minimum you can and that's it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:32 AM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

He sounds like he's not good with kids. Is it his first year teaching?

The fact that he's come straight out and asked you which option you prefer (credit or refund) says, to me, that he realizes that he's screwed up and that you might want to stop lessons with him. Musicians are sometimes not good at talking, so that could be a factor, and it was probably a little excruciating for him to even write that.

That said, even the best intentions behind such hurtful clumsiness don't change that your daughter needs to be protected from stuff like that.

I can totally imagine that tone you describe. It's not great... but he may have been surprised/a little freaked out by your husband's (justifiable) intensity, and the weirdest, creepiest tones sometimes come from oddly skewed fear. Reason enough to get your daughter to another teacher.

Seven easy pieces isn't nothing, considering the circumstances. Congrats to you and your daughter on getting those done. That's significant.

It's good (but not shockingly so) that he's offering a refund. Maybe just write a short letter getting the refund and thanking him for that (so he doesn't decide to be meaner to other parents in the future). Then a separate one canceling future lessons.

You're also setting an example for your daughter of how people should be treated when they make mistakes or aren't good socially.
posted by amtho at 10:34 AM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Re: mentioning the lack of preparedness in front of your daughter- private embarrassment is better than public embarrassment? That does sound a little insensitive, especially considering her age. Stepping out in to the hall and having a "gee, I think she's not quite ready for this, etc. " talk with your husband would have been better. It does seem like offering a refund for the missed lessons is a positive gesture, I think many teachers would not.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 10:34 AM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I'll shut up after this, but I don't know guys. Maybe you're right but she had been playing this piece since December. She just needed a quick brush up. And as her teacher he should have realized this - they're not strangers to each other. She played wonderfully at the recital. Ok, I'm listening again.
posted by kitcat at 10:39 AM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I.. so the recital went great? Your daughter managed to pull it off perfectly in the end? Everything was fine except you weren't there and there was a typo on the program?

Listen I have ALL the sympathy in the world for your postpartum experience. I have been there. It is the worst. It is so hard. People sometimes become suicidal even in uncomplicated postpartum scenarios, much less something as stressful as yours. I gently suggest that you're feeling a lot of things due to hormones and stress and not so much due to anything actually bad that happened. Maybe I missed it, sorry if I did, but all I'm seeing here is that the guy thought your kid wasn't ready to play, and said so?

You're coming up on the far side of your hard time. You have a healthy baby, a 7 year old who managed to pull off a beautiful recital despite challenges to her practicing schedule, and a piano teacher who's offered you a refund for lessons your kid didn't attend. You're ok. I think maybe chalk this one up to just a time in your life when you were way overwhelmed. And if you don't want to deal with the guy next year, for any reason at all, even if it's just he reminds you of a bad time or you don't like his accent, that's fine too. Take the refund and put it behind you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:52 AM on June 15, 2018 [115 favorites]

I say let him have it.

This person has no business being a teacher.

Something like: 'after having our daughter as a student for an entire school year, you got her name wrong on the recital program, and introduced her with the wrong name at the recital itself. Consider yourself fortunate that I am choosing not to write the parents of your other students I happen to be acquainted with a detailed account of our experiences with you.'

But don't mention the refund, and see whether he'll run true to form by not sending you one.
posted by jamjam at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2018

My kid is that age and has been unprepared for performative things because he wasn't practicing. He was told he would not be participating, by his teacher, in my presence, and I supported the teacher 100%. Sure, he was looking forward to it. That wasn't the teacher's fault. The idea of putting a child into a high-stress situation, against the direct recommendation of a knowledgeable person, and yelling at the knowledgeable person in the process, is kind of horrifying to me. You treated someone you pay like shit and he offered you a refund and let you go to the recital?

You guys have been under a lot of stress. It's showing. Just ask for the refund and be done with it and enjoy your family.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2018 [85 favorites]

I've taught music lessons. I understand and appreciate the idea that the music teacher should aim for results and sometime be a little pushy. I taught wind instruments where the end result was more oriented at success at auditions or in a school band, not a recital that I had control over, so I am less familiar with the etiquette (or lack thereof) of an in-house recital and whether or not a student should be "invited" to said recital. But I do have strong opinions. :-)

Those caveats out of the way, I think that the teacher was completely, unbelievably out of bounds. You push an older student differently than you do a 7 year old - at 7 it should be ALL about praise, building fundamentals, and positive reinforcement. "Maybe you shouldn't be on the recital" should NEVER be on the table at this stage.

I've attended recitals of this sort, and freaking hell, many of the kids can just barely get through the piece. This does not reflect badly on the teacher. It's all about preserving a sense that the child is doing great long enough to motivate them through the 2-3 first years of playing when, unless they are another Mozart, they will not be objectively playing great.

All of this should have been the case without your very difficult life circumstances going on. Those additional stresses only amplify the sense that any decent human being, let alone a teacher who was supposed to have gotten some training and experience in how to deal with students by now, should have handled this quite differently. Right or wrong, I'd have probably handled the teacher about the way your husband did, and he has nothing to apologize for there. From the sound of things, without that intervention your child would have been kicked off the recital, which would have had the potential to be the story she still told when she was 50, the one that begins "Well I remember the last time I touched a piano..."

My advice:

- either take jessamyn's script as a guide, or request the refund without comment. Neither is a wrong choice; it's not your job to reform this clown or offer free business consulting, but you would not be wrong to let him have it a touch. I'd probably do something like that myself. Don't get into a dialogue with him; my guess is it will only lead to more stress on your part, as he's bound to end up 'defending himself' in a way that will be highly irritating.

- please enroll your daughter in lessons with another teacher as soon as possible. You are 95% likely to get a better one next time. It's also fine to interview a prospective teacher on these points. Without dissing the previous teacher, which would be counter-productive, you can certainly ask how the teacher handles similar situations. You will not be the first parent/student situation where there has been past "trauma by music lesson" and you deserve to know going in how they handle it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:00 AM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

Kitcat, with all due respect, your reaction to this is very overblown. I understand how upsetting the last year has been, but the way you're describing everything is extreme. Is this piano teacher the reason you had a hard pregnancy towards the end? Is he the reason your husband got sick? Is he responsible for every little last thing that has happened that has left you wanting to forget all of this ever happened? I get it, this situation sucks. But to this outsider, I think you may be using this man as a person to project all your upsets onto in order to feel like There Is Someone To Blame For All of This. Email him, thank him for his services and say that you'll be discontinuing your daughters lessons with him, and yes, a refund can be deposited here.

Then focus on you, your health, your family's health, and work through all the stressors that are wrecking with your well-being. Leave him out of the picture.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2018 [51 favorites]

Yeah, reading your post I’m not really seeing why the teacher is so horrible. If she wasn’t practicing much and he could tell, it makes sense that he was concerned about the recital. He might have been wrong, but he could have been right, too. I don’t think he asked you to call off her performance as a punishment, just as a normal consequence of not practicing. Unless he was a real jerk to you about it.

You’re within your rights to “fire” him but I would not give him a piece of your mind as it is quite possibly the case that you took things more personally than they were intended.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2018 [11 favorites]

Congrats on your new daughter!

And congrats as well on the special pride of watching your kid do well under pressure! It's all awesome. As for names and programs, don't read too much into it. Teacher probably did up the programs 16 seconds before the recital. And I've been know on multiple occasions to forget my own sons' names and they're 22 and 25.

But about your question: I'm married to a professional musician who gives private music lessons. And I'm in Cowtown, so the music milieu is much the same as where you are.

I'm really glad you wrote what you did to AskMe. If it's still bothering you, write some more -- feel free to MeMail me. But I would advise you not to be anything but polite and non-confrontational with the teacher. "Thank you for the refund. We won't be returning in September" is fine. If the teacher asks why you're leaving, you can say that the fit between Teacher and Student is not quite right.

The music world in our province is incredibly small and tightly-knit. The six degrees of separation is more like two. The teacher may not be a jerk about this, but I'm not encouraged by what's happened so far. The last thing you want is Teacher to say to Another Teacher, "I wouldn't take KittenCat if I were you; kid won't practice and still expects to go to recitals." Teacher may indeed have wanted to spare your daughter the embarrassment of a poor performance. Teacher may also not have wanted to have a less-than-stellar performance which might reflect badly on himself. But even though they teach different instruments, I would bet a large box of Timbits that my husband knows someone who knows Teacher.

It seems to me that your priorities for music lessons are somewhat different than Teacher's. I may be missing something here, but I'm inferring that you and your husband primarily value your daughter's experience of learning and performing, while the Teacher seems primarily to value mastery. It's not an either/or thing but I think your family is a little bit closer to one end of the continuum and the teacher is closer to the other. And maybe it's tied to your daughter's age: she's only 7 and focused (disciplined, sometimes unpleasant) practice is itself a skill she's just learning irrespective of whether it's music or tidying her room. And while Teacher doesn't seem to be a good fit for KittenCat, he may be ideal for a different type of student.

Have this sort of discussion with any prospective teacher. My husband always does the first lesson for free to see about fit, and to have this discussion with the student (if old enough; most of his students are adults) and the student's parent. Everyone's expectations need to be aligned. It's not that one set of expectations is better than another, but they are different. Ask the teacher what their preference is about practice-mastery-performance requirements. It's not unusual for teachers to require a certain level of performance before participation in a recital or festival. Other teachers are more flexible. Get clear on what you hope KittenCat will get out of music lessons, and make sure the teacher is onboard.

And keep supporting live music!
posted by angiep at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2018 [40 favorites]

I dunno...not taking the huge amount of stress you were under into consideration - I‘m underwhelmed by the lack of positive energy he put into teaching your daughter and I would probably look for a different teacher too. Someone who enthuses my daughter, cares about her progress and looks forward to her participation. He seems decidedly meh on all counts.
The super intense way you responded tells me that you‘re kund of dumping a lot of anger on to the guy that actually stems from other things.
I get being irritated, but not to the point of crying, boycotting the performance and writing firy missives of fury for all the hurt and wrong you endured!

And maybe you just failed to mention it, but there‘s nothing in there about your daughter crying, being disappointed or upset by him? (In which case , yeah. I have a 7 yo. Someone makes her cry, I rip his head off and bear a grudge to the end of my days!) So this makes me think all this emotion is very much about you and the things you had to endure as as a whole.

I think that you might be trying to manage your emotions by letting loose all your rage on the piano teacher, but it‘s not really justified. I hope things get better for you and that your daughter finds better teachers who inspire her.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:03 AM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

My take on this as a half-Brit who's taken some piano lessons and has some piano teachers as friends:

He knows you're angry/displeased/miffed, and that's why he's written to you offering you a refund on the missed classes (in my experience, this isn't generally given, let alone offered) as well as giving you a graceful out for the coming school year. "Would you like a refund, and will your child be joining me for lessons next year?" gives you a low-stress way to say "Yes please and no thank you." He knows you're unhappy and is taking the onus off you to request a refund and inform him that you're no longer seeking lessons with him.

Also, I don't know how much experience you have with British accents & British speaking styles, but I've heard North Americans wildly misinterpret intent when interacting with British people (I think largely due to the type of movies you reference in your question). I'm trying to imagine a smarmy & cowardly way of saying, "Well, I guess the recital is back on, then." and I'm just not succeeding.
posted by pammeke at 11:05 AM on June 15, 2018 [63 favorites]

It's worth saying "we're unhappy with your services," rather than a nebulous "we have decided to discontinue" - while he's likely to convince himself that he did nothing wrong and you are just terrible at supporting the arts, he'll have a harder time convincing himself, "all my former clients/students were very happy with my services" if you tell him outright. Make him work for his denial.

But don't waste time or energy on venting at him in detail--it won't make anything better.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:12 AM on June 15, 2018

Ugh, I'm sorry but isn't it clear - the reason I cried and am angry is that this is my child we're talking about. He expressed a lack of confidance in her, and forgot her name at the recital. She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel? I'm a mom - is it really a strange thing to feel protective of her feelings?
posted by kitcat at 11:18 AM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Be polite. I'm frankly quite concerned that you feel like the wronged party after your husband behaved in what I would interpret as a threatening manner. Your judgement of the piano teacher's behaviour based upon your apparent views about his background is upsetting to me.

If it had been me I'd have quit on the spot.

I think you should be polite, because now's a good time to start.
posted by howfar at 11:18 AM on June 15, 2018 [42 favorites]

I'm trying to imagine a smarmy & cowardly way of saying, "Well, I guess the recital is back on, then." and I'm just not succeeding.

Oh, this is absolutely within the repertoire of a British person. In fact, I'd say that it's one of their specialties--that condescending "well, I'm rather embarrassed that you don't realize how inappropriate it is, but, if you insist on [x], I suppose the show must go on!" sort of tone. Try doing something that's "not done" at an Oxbridge college and you can gather your own samples.

Nonetheless, yes, it sounds like this guy is being made to take the weight of your entire awful, traumatic experience of the past year. I do this, too--but, man, I am glad when I manage to make myself wait out the initial rush of feelings instead. I am always relieved I didn't lash out. If for no other reason than engaging in such a confrontation usually prolongs the conflict and makes me dwell in the bad feelings more than I would have otherwise. Just tersely request the refund and tell him your daughter won't be returning in the fall. Then put this behind you and enjoy your new baby!
posted by praemunire at 11:21 AM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

She is 7. Ask her. Do not project YOUR anger about it on to her. Those emotions are YOURS and will taint her ability to express her thoughts. If she says yeah that sucked, DO NOT jump in with oh he's a terrible person. Reaffirm to her directly: I understand. That was hard. It has really been a crazy year! You did such a good job at the recital and I am really proud of you. Let's find another teacher for piano lessons next year. I love you.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:25 AM on June 15, 2018 [41 favorites]

It sounds to me (as a nonparent, but as a person who was a child musician and did a bunch of recitals, which I was prepared for to varying degrees, so add grains of salt as needed) as though his actual suggestion was not unreasonable, but shouldn't have been made in front of your daughter. And it's annoying as hell that he screwed up her name when announcing her!

That said, I don't think either is worth spending too much of your energy on crafting a letter about. I'd aim for something along the lines of Jessamyn's response at the most harsh. Or just: "This arrangement no longer seems like a good fit for our daughter. We would like the refund and will be finding a new teacher for her in the fall. "

That said, I'm saying this partly because I don't have any sense that your daughter was upset from your posts, only that you were. If your daughter has expressed any ongoing sense of upset about the way the recital panned out or the conversation she overheard, I might add something about that in the spirit of hoping hell treat future students differently.

I'm really sorry this has been so upsetting for you at a time when you did not need anything else to be upset about. I hope that writing whatever response you decide on helps you get this out of your head and move on to enjoying your newly expanded family and your daughter's future musical endeavors.
posted by Stacey at 11:25 AM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

kitcat, you are treating this like it's some traumatic event that your child will never recover from. Can I gently suggest that you are projecting far more on to this one incident than it deserves? It's OK to want to protect your child, but this is ridiculous. Honestly, it's more harmful to your child’s mental health to be making such a big deal out of what ought to be a trivial incident.

Treat it like as a humorous thing that happened to your family & move on: It's another story to tell your friends ("That rude piano teacher who couldn't even manage to pronounce your child's name correctly at the recital!") in the future.
posted by pharm at 11:27 AM on June 15, 2018 [62 favorites]

I am a huge supporter of music lessons and arts education. Music lessons changed my life - challenged me to think continually in new ways, control an unfolding of events over time, remember things, be specific, not to mention hand-eye... Arts education is probably the best investment you can make in your child at a young age, if they're interested. I'm a professional musician, and have never had a real job since college. So, I'm a music booster.

BUT, if your child isn't practicing, you're just paying for a really expensive play-date every week. To get any of the cognitive benefits of learning how to play the piano, she needs to do at minimum 20 minutes a day 6 days a week for 6 months. If she is not doing that much, you're wasting her time and your time, and you're wasting a lot of money.

She didn't learn anything this year because she didn't practice, and of story. That isn't on the teacher, unless she doesn't get along with him during ththe lesson. That's on you as a parent.

And if getting her to practice is like pulling teeth, then piano lessons are not right for her, at least at this time.

My suggestion is that you find a new teacher who does not do recitals. I started with a lovely local piano teacher a few blocks away from where I lived, and she was very patient with me. A few years later I moved on to the high school music academy at a local university. But the first local teacher never organized recitals for her students, so I never felt pressured when I was taking from her.

Putting your daughter in a position where she has to perform at a recital unprepared is incredibly nerve-wracking for her, and possibly humiliating. And then you didn't even show up... I'm kind of astonished.

So, get a new teacher who doesn't do recitals, and make sure she puts in 20 minutes a day. If those requirements aren't feasible then piano lessons aren't right for your daughter at this time.
posted by stewiethegreat at 11:28 AM on June 15, 2018 [31 favorites]

She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel?

I‘m really trying to understand snd like I said I have a seven year old, too! However, we skew more central European, so feel free to disregard the following:

It is not a sure thing that your daughter felt terrible upon hearing this. She may have felt slightly embarassed, or disappointed or even relieved. My kid would have completely shrugged it off. I myself as a kid would have felt like I’d disappointed people, and maybe I wasn’t as good as my parents had told me I was, but it wouldn’t have bothered me for long. That‘s why I asked if she gave any indication of her feelings.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:29 AM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]

Perspective: Me, former 7 year piano student, daughter of mother who got profoundly, irrationally angry at a music teacher for what was crummy but not actually a traumatic experience over a recital. I stopped music lessons because of my mom going into the mode you're in, where she was projecting disproportionately huge amounts of energy onto something that didn't warrant it. I didn't quit because of the teacher saying something rude. I quit because my mother overreacted.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:29 AM on June 15, 2018 [64 favorites]

Yes, it's perfectly clear you're upset on behalf of your daughter, but your husband already allcapped Hugh to a frazzle in front of her. She's been well and truly defended, and now you're taking her out of his sphere. She's safe now, right? And she aced her recital. All is well with her, now, but if you get blacklisted with all area music teachers, she may have to take up the BMX for real. Just accept the offer of the refund politely and without any emotion and never speak to this guy again. If you try to teach him a lesson, it's going to come off like Parker Posey in Best in Show.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:30 AM on June 15, 2018 [14 favorites]

forgot her name at the recital. She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel?

How did that make her feel? Maybe it was a big deal to her, I don't know. At that age, though, I was oblivious to stuff like that. If she was focused on her performance, she might not have noticed at all. OTOH, you were there, you know her, you're better positioned to know her actual feelings.

That doesn't make what he did right, just maybe you don't have to worry about her recovering at this point. It sounds like she had a triumph more than anything else.
posted by amtho at 11:31 AM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

He expressed a lack of confidance in her, and forgot her name at the recital. She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel? I'm a mom - is it really a strange thing to feel protective of her feelings?

Was she, by herself, upset by these things?

I really want to deter you from thinking that it is your job to get upset and defensive every time someone expresses some doubt or criticism of your child, even if it hurts her feelings. Obviously, there are more and less appropriate ways of doing so, and some are out of line and merit resistance or rebuke. But the idea that expressing a lack of confidence is in itself an offense that requires expiation--you are going to do real harm with that. Harm to her character and harm to all her teaching/coaching relationships. Sometimes criticism is both merited and painful to hear. That is a lesson everyone has to learn. Sheltering your child from that will do her no favors. None.
posted by praemunire at 11:32 AM on June 15, 2018 [50 favorites]

Oh, yeah, HermioneGranger's comment made me remember how my Mom's interactions with my teachers had a profound effect on my educational experiences. I'm pretty sure my life would otherwise have been a lot easier.

She didn't really ever tune in to my actual feelings, I think, unfortunately, which was understandable because I remember her always being very stressed.
posted by amtho at 11:35 AM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

My short answer is that you should bite your tongue, take the polite out that has been offered to you, and save the recriminations for later, when your body has recovered and your family has established a good new normal. Venting to the teacher won’t solve problems and might cause new ones. And once you’ve had a breather and made a new hire, there’s always Yelp.

But it’s definitely fine to break up with him. You may well have mismatched expectations of what's reasonable at this age and how big a priority piano should be compared to other stuff, and there’s probably someone out there who fits yours better. I wouldn’t much mind about how many pieces my kid was learning (actually I doubt my 5yo has learned that many in her two years, tbh) but I do think the philosophy matters. My kid’s teacher expects her to practice regularly, but wants to preserve the joy that made her beg for lessons, too. So she praises the work even if it comes out wrong, and each time focuses on one thing to make more beautiful. If that’s the kind of music education you want, teachers like ours are out there.
posted by eirias at 11:49 AM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

The combination of your updates (“Why does no one understand that I’m right to be this angry?!!!”) weighed against the fact you posted this question in the first place (“Do you think I should get angry at him or let it go?”) suggests to me that you are both in the sway of huge emotion but also have an inkling in the back of your head that it might be disproportionate - or at least unproductive.

It’s rarely a good idea to act on intense emotions. I say send a short, calm, matter of fact response now, like those suggested above, rage to your nearest and dearest, or journal, and move on. Or at most a one sentence “To be honest, I was not happy with your handling of the recital, and so we won’t be returning.”

Oh and on the name thing, I’m not clear if it was your daughter’s first or family name he got wrong, but if it was her surname, if you’re after some perspective: I’ve had good friends I’ve known for years - I mean years - friends I’ve lived with, and people who have been my boss for years, mispronounce my name in public. I’ve just learned to roll with the “Your name is pronounced like THAT? How do I not know that?” conversation. It happens. The pronunciation of my name just doesn’t come up in conversation and it’s not of as much importance to other people as it is to me.

If it was her first name, which he’s presumably been using to talk to her all year, yeah, that is kinda shitty. But probably not worth more than two curt lines of text at most.

Wishing you and your family the best after a tough year. Write this dude two lines and go enjoy them.
posted by penguin pie at 11:50 AM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

How would that have made her feel?

I have no idea, I don't know her, and you weren't at the recital, so you'll have to ask her how it went and take her word for it. but she's young enough to still be learning from her parents how it should make her feel, and that is a parental power to be careful with.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:50 AM on June 15, 2018 [42 favorites]

forgot her name at the recital. She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel?

Did you ask her?
posted by rhizome at 11:56 AM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

she's learned very little all year, maybe 7 quite easy pieces.

That was about my pace of musical learning when I was eight -- honestly, that's a bit more than I learned when I was eight, and I actually kinda liked practicing. Unless these were intensive lessons, that sounds about right for a seven year old, particularly one who, as you say yourself, is less-than-enthusiastic about practicing on their own. So maybe it's not the teacher -- maybe your expectations are a little high? Or, maybe she's just not that into piano? Maybe she'd be happier with a different instrument or a different hobby altogether.

My husband said - 'No, she's been looking forward to this and she is GOING. TO. THE. RECITAL. SO PRACTICE WITH HER NOW'.

If your husband's delivery and attitude in this interaction is accurately reflected in your representation here, I think it's pretty understandable for someone to react with a 'cowardly tone,' because that sounds pretty menacing. I don't teach music, but I have tutored kids of this age in other hobby activities, and if a client's parent ever took that tone with me, I'd take my leave politely and walk out on the spot, frankly. Tempers flare and people get heated in times of stress, of course. But I think the tutor would be well within his rights to decline to keep you on, and is perhaps offering a refund as a way of signaling this without getting screamed at.
posted by halation at 12:05 PM on June 15, 2018 [48 favorites]

I don't think 7 is too young to hear from your teacher that if you haven't practiced, you don't belong in the recital. This would have been the case for me in ballet and piano at that age. I'm not sure why you would prefer the teacher to tell your husband and then your husband to tell your daughter -- this seems like a consequence that should come from her teacher, for it to be worth anything.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:06 PM on June 15, 2018 [25 favorites]

> He expressed a lack of confidance in her, and forgot her name at the recital. She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel?

How *did* it make her feel? Like I said, my 7 year old has been told pretty much exactly what your child was told a few months ago. He cried and stomped and pouted for a few days. And then he started practicing more, and with less complaining, because he saw that his lack of effort showed and he wanted to improve. His teacher noticed, and he gained some real confidence without floating along on some Dunning-Kruger bias. YKMV, but the kid who responded in this way is super sensitive to perceived slights, has diagnosed anxiety, and cries over many things, so I'd guess that most kids would handle the natural consequences of not practicing better than he did.

As for names, my name is not a difficult one yet it gets messed up all the time. As a small child, I'd get annoyed and correct the grownup and that would be the end of it. These are not things that rile up my mama bear instincts.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:07 PM on June 15, 2018 [12 favorites]

Yeah, the teacher possibly thinks that allowing child into the recital without practicing only teaches her an entitled attitude about getting things she hasn't actually worked for (which husband's threatening tone sort of backed up).

Additionally, the secondhand and sneering caricature of the teacher signals that you're probably not really in a place to be professional with him or exhausting any more emotional energy on this matter. You've had a bad few months and yours and teacher's philosophies are not a good fit. Put this all behind you with nothing more than a "we will take the refund, thank you."
posted by TwoStride at 12:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [20 favorites]

I'm with angiep and randomkeystrike. I think the teacher fucked up the handling of the recital in a number of ways, but I also don't think those fuckups demonstrate the kind of gross negligence or malice that warrants an angry letter. You are right: they should have let your daughter perform if she wanted to, they could have expressed their doubts about her readiness either in private or more tactfully, they should have gotten her name right. Those are all fuckups, but I think it is perfectly reasonable to assume good intentions (or at worst cluelessness) in each of those situations. It is awesome that even with everything else going on in your life you are able to stick up for your daughter - a lot of parents end up not paying enough attention to their older kids in similar situations - but the bottom line is showing your anger doesn't help here. Write out an angry letter, throw it out, and quit in a businesslike fashion.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:12 PM on June 15, 2018

I’ve had my name misspelled and mispronounced by multiple teachers for entire SEMESTERS. Your kid will be fine. The teacher doesn’t seem to soft or sympathetic but not awful. Ask for the refund, find another teacher. But overall I agree this is nothing extreme or anything you should yell at him about. Take a moment to pull back from all the stress for a bit.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:17 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

I'm sorry to have offended with my caricature of the teacher - I believe it's a stereotype and I've never heard anyone speak that like except in comedy films. I don't believe the British are smarmy and cowardly. I thought he pulled it from the movie playbook in order to be passive aggressively condescending, as was sort of suggested by someone else above. Again, apologies.
posted by kitcat at 12:24 PM on June 15, 2018

Hey, I'm sorry for how shitty this year has been, and that you're getting piled on here. That can't feel nice.

I get why others are saying you're overreacting, but I also know what it's like to feel like when someone else's completely unnecessary, completely avoidable behavior makes an already-crappy time even crappier. It's incredibly frustrating. I'm not a mother but like... I feel this way when people are unnecessarily rude to my friends, I can only imagine what it feels like when it happens to your own kid.

My take: The teacher may have had good intentions when he tried to pull her out of the recital (wanting to spare her any embarrassment), but his execution (talking about this within hear earshot) was poor. I'd have been sad to overhear that as a 7yo. (Hell, I'd be sad if I overheard something like that now, at age 27, although I'm not sure under what circumstances I would.) The misspelling and misstating of her name is obnoxious but it's the sort of thing you unfortunately need to teach her to be unfazed by.

What I'd do: I'd write back and say, "We'll take the refund, thanks. Our daughter won't be continuing her lessons with you in the fall" or similar. Simply because, as cathartic as it might feel, sending a harsh email won't affect his behavior and may just leave you more riled up.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:26 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

This teacher is from England, and he then said in that stereotypical smarmy, cowardly tone

Hugh Grant [...] Maybe he thinks he's back at Eton?

Oh, this is absolutely within the repertoire of a British person. In fact, I'd say that it's one of their specialties [...] Try doing something that's "not done" at an Oxbridge college and you can gather your own samples.

It would be lovely if people would knock it off with the lazy, insulting, and clichéd national stereotyping here, thank you.

EDIT - kitcat, your latest comment posted whilst I was typing mine - thank you for apologising.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 12:30 PM on June 15, 2018 [34 favorites]

I think the best that can be said about the teacher and your husband is that this is a rudeness draw. If I were your daughter, I would have been more upset by my father's response than what the teacher said. (At your daughter's age, I did not tell my mother that my piano teacher hit my fingers with her pen when I made mistakes because I preferred getting hit to dealing with my mom's reaction. The problem was solved when my mom told me she had signed me up for another year and I burst into tears. She just called the teacher then and told her I was quitting.)

Spelling your daughter's name wrong on the program may not have been the teacher's fault (pretty much everyone has spelled my name wrong my whole life, including my own grandmother - it's at most a mild annoyance) . Pronouncing it wrong isn't great, but I don't see any indication that your daughter was as traumatized by it as you seem to be.

Offering you a refund is not at all normal, and is a kindness.

Tell the teacher your daughter won't be continuing. Telling him how awful you think he is will only make you look bad.
posted by FencingGal at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

How would that have made her feel?

To echo others: well, did you ask her?

But beyond that, the issue is not actually that your child may have felt bad or embarrassed (though of course I understand that it's a parent's instinct to shield their child from such feelings). The more important issue is: if she did feel bad or embarrassed, what kind of coping skills did you model for her? Having a parent essentially say "feeling embarrassed is terrible and your teacher is a monster for suggesting you weren't prepared, and we're furious on your behalf" teaches a very different lesson than "feeling embarrassed is awkward and your teacher could have handled it better, so we'll move on to a different teacher and figure out how to help you practice more so that you're better prepared in the future." One of those lessons shows her how to be reactive in the short run. The other shows her how to be resilient in the long run.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:52 PM on June 15, 2018 [31 favorites]

Nthing to just say "refund, thanks, she won't be returning next year for lessons" and leave it at that. And move on. If I were in your shoes, I'm sure I'd be offended by this situation the way you were, but I also know that kids pick up on their parents' stress and anger and it stresses THEM out. So, let it go. This is a business relationship with the teacher, you're voting with your feet, and kiddo can try again with a teacher that's a better match for your family.
posted by desuetude at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Several people have mentioned that the teacher could have handled himself better in the conversation with your husband, and this is true ... however, your husband could have comported himself much better as well. Instead of asking if there was another way to approach your daughter's lack of practice, if the teacher was able to give her some extra attention due to the circumstances or if he as a father could do something — making sure she was practicing/taking time to sit with her whilst practicing — he got threatening with the teacher and basically made your daughter's lack of preparedness the teacher's problem and ordered him to make up for her lack of practice, potentially at other students' expense. That entire exchange reads as pretty entitled, and I'm not sure I'd have been able to hold back a bit of sarcasm in response either.

Speaking as someone who did a load of activities as a child that involved performing (piano, dance, figure skating), I can completely understand where this teacher is coming from in saying that an unprepared child should not perform; it's paying mind to both the child's potential embarrassment and not rewarding an unprepared child along with those who have put in the effort. Even at that young age I would have understood that actions have consequences and would have learnt that in the future, if I wanted to be in the recital I would need to do the work. These are the sort of lessons kids need to start learning at this age.

I would agree with those who think the teacher is sensing your unhappiness with the situation, and is doing you a kindness by preemptively offering a refund. Accept that refund gracefully, take the out he's provided by enquiring about next year, and if you encounter this person in public in the future, be cordial/civil.
posted by myotahapea at 1:08 PM on June 15, 2018 [28 favorites]

It seems to me that you have had a very VERY very very trying and hard couple of months. And everything is okay now, but you're still hormonal and I wouldn't be surprised if you have some low-level PTSD from all the stuff you went through! And you're probably still working through all the trauma of having a premie and whatnot, emotionally. In my experience, when I've gone through an upsetting experience that has given me all kinds of negative feelings, sometimes it's emotionally easier to take all those feelings and direct them at someone or something that I can feel PRODUCTIVE about being mad at. Like, obviously you can't be (and aren't!!!) mad at your baby for being a premie, or your husband for getting pneumonia, but that doesn't mean you don't have all kinds of stress-y, negative emotions about that time in your life, because it was so HARD. And I wonder if some of that totally normal emotional energy that you still have floating around inside you, tied to this period in your life, is being directed at this piano teacher, because it's so much cleaner and easier to be mad at him than it is to just have free-floating BAD FEELINGS about how hard that time was for your family. When you say that you want this experience exorcised, I suspect you're not totally talking about the recital -- you're talking about that traumatic birth and those tough weeks you all suffered through. It's just all tied up together in your head. (I also wonder if you feel so protective of your seven year old now because you just went through a scary experience with the health and safety of your baby.)

I'm not saying you're not actually mad at this teacher, because I'm sure you are -- but I think there's some transference here, and that's why you're having such an emotional reaction to something that under other circumstances might not have affected you as much. So I would not tear him a new one in your next communication, for a lot of reasons but also because I don't think it will really make you feel that much better, anyway, because this isn't ultimately about him at all. It's very Metafilter-y to suggest therapy and I don't think that's ever a BAD idea after someone goes through having a premie and a traumatic birth experience, but I also suspect as your new baby continues to thrive at home, and you get further from this rotten period in your family life, you will feel less upset about this, and not have as strong an urge to go off on him.

Good luck to you all and congrats on your new baby!!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2018 [15 favorites]

If this is an RCM teacher, be aware that they talk amongst themselves all the time, and so the satisfaction of lighting into him is probably not worth it, as it may set you up for some bias going forward.

Disclaimer: I no longer work with the RCM, but I used to and heard lots and lots and lots from teachers. I'll give you my perspective.

I don't know that this teacher is the best match for your family and your approach. There are indeed lots of teachers who will have their first year or very young students play at a recital no matter what the state of their practice or pieces are and that is just fine. However there are also lots who would have made the same decision.

The reasons for this are many but include some things you may not have considered:
- personal memories of times they messed up or hadn't practiced that are deeply embarrassing to them and they genuinely want to spare their students that experience
- a use of recitals like a mini-exam or a bar for students to meet or not (not punitively, but as a part of the music tradition of demonstrating expertise before performing)
- experience with parents freaking out - some parents would be so upset if their child were allowed to play in public when they weren't prepared
- their recitals are their own showcase of their teaching ability and they will sometimes leave students out who have had unusual difficulty not related to their teaching

I don't think it's really fair to say if the teacher rehearsed with your daughter she would be ready. Usually students perform better in lessons than under the pressure of a recital, and it's really not uncommon (although again, it might not be your preferred way of doing it) for a teacher to have a student run through a piece and then decide at the fairly last minute. If your child is the kind of child who gets crushed by that, then this is a great question for your next teacher or a request to check in a month before, or whatever.

For the feedback in front of your child, again it's kind of a matter of taste. Some teachers want all the communication to be transparent. Some don't. Having the feedback at the last minute was a bit lousy but if the lessons, practicing, and recital period were all a bit chaotic I can see how that would shake out.

There are also stricter teachers and less strict teachers when it comes to practice. There are teachers who would have ended the lessons entirely when the student wasn't practicing, and teachers who are happy to stick with kids for years just to inculcate a love of music.

In summary, there isn't really one right approach to these questions (as long as things are respectful), just better or worse matches between teachers and families.

Now, having said all that I've had a 6 year old and a baby in the NICU and I wish for you the entire world would deal with your family in the gentlest way for the whole year. But I don't think this teacher was that out of line. I'd just take the money, find a new teacher, and add a "how do you handle recitals?" question to your screening process.

Hang in there. Get a new teacher and a fresh start in September! Music education is a great gift to your child.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:13 PM on June 15, 2018 [17 favorites]

I'm really surprised by all the justifications for the teacher here. There's no question that he might have had good intentions. But a fundamental part of being a professional is knowing how to work with people - in this case, with very young children and with their parents. Both of those things take skills; those skills are an integral part of a teacher's professional ability, not an incidental nice-to-have feature.

Someone who has been teaching young kids for any length of time knows that there will always be some who don't practice enough, catch on very slowly, just plain lack talent, and so forth. If that teacher wants to hold public recitals, then they have to decide, in advance, what to do in such cases. If participating in a recital is a privilege that has to be earned, then they in turn have to convey that expectation in advance to both students and parents. If the teacher instead prefers to advertise a recital that everyone can participate in, then they have to figure out a way to ensure the students' success as much as possible, even given constraints like those described. These are basic thing that would be reasonable to expect of any teacher with more than a year's experience.

I'm saying this not from the perspective of a parent. I'm coming from the perspective of someone who has failed to take into account, and communicate well about, various weaknesses and needs of people I work with. I see that as a failure of my own professionalism, and it's something I try hard to improve because it is a basic and fundamental part of doing my work well.

I think a terse 'refund please, we'll not continue' is probably the best way to go. I also think it's very possible the teacher is not a bad guy. But I don't think you're mistaken to feel that something was not well done here. I think you're right to expect more of a professional.
posted by trig at 1:23 PM on June 15, 2018

This is not going to help you decide what action to take, but in second grade, I was awarded a trophy that misspelled my name for 2nd place in a spelling bee. So, again, it happens.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [12 favorites]

If your daughter played "wonderfully" at the recital, that's really good and perhaps there was less real harm done than one would think.

Thinking of various tasks of a responsible music teacher, it's actually not a bad thing to show concern about not exposing the kids to traumatizing on-stage experiences; it's part of good music pedagogy to decide whether they're ready to perform. This is always a judgment call, and sometimes one judges wrong and students perform better than one would have thought. Saying "you're not ready" is also (stereo)typically a matter that parents have a hard time accepting. I recall the last day of a summer course for classical ensembles, when we found an anonymous letter on the desk of the chairman with threats and wild accusations, just because someone's cherished kid hadn't made it to the final concert. It happens all the time, and no manner of actual musical expertise can help to solve such conflicts.

So there's that: the teacher's informed concern about the kids not making a fool of themselves on stage. But hear me out, I'm not done yet.

Looking at this situation from another angle, it can be irksome if one tries to teach one's students something, and there is no response in terms of the student practicing (and hence advancing). It's not only that the music kind of halts and that one hears oneself saying the same old thing over and over again every. single. lesson. A student's not-practicing also easily translates--for the teacher-- into a feeling of not being appreciated, no matter her/his knowledge of a possible backstory (like in your case).

All that said, the fact that this particular teacher found it necessary to tell your husband in front of your daughter that she wasn't ready for the recital, in connection with the apparent easy turnaround ("Ok the recital is back on, then") suggests to me that this story is less about pedagogical values, and more about that irritation got the better of this person. It seems that a good dose of passive-aggressiveness is in fact buried here; add to this the Freudian (or Other-ian) slips of misspelling/mispronouncing your daughter's name, and you might well consider moving on to someone else.

I don't think, however, that venting your anger will make any difference to how this person is going to behave to other kids. So I'd just write something like "sorry, but we have other plans for the fall" and leave it at that.
posted by Namlit at 1:43 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, too, Morfil Ffyrnig, for calling the poor guy "Hugh Grant" and implying that I think he's a snob. My actual sense is that he's a much more Laurie breed of Hugh. I think his behavior was inoffensive and gentle, and that his use of humor in response to getting yelled at and his offer of a refund are examples of stereotypically English excellences, rather than flaws, but I indulged in caricature because I rather agree with Countess Sandwich that the piano teacher is useful right now as a punching bag. Recently kitkat and her whole family have been through what sounds like unbearably sustained and terrifying hardship, and it can be useful to have somewhere to put perfectly understandable extreme emotional reactions to that. Luckily, someone has darted onstage and inadvertently blabbered out something that made him seem indifferent to their family's shared hardship. The piano teacher is a useful place to put all the fear and anger right now, and magnifying whatever traits seem loathsome in him seems like a useful exercise, as long as it stops with kitkat and her husband. It shouldn't get bandied about in front of the kids; it shouldn't get back to the piano teacher; it shouldn't go on Yelp.

I had a similar rage response to a person once under much less strain, when I was infected with a rhinovirus and locked in a filthy hotel room for a week to be a paid subject in a cold study and also write horrible graduate level literary criticism papers at the same time sans distractions (I unplugged the TV and put it in the closet like in Poltergeist, hello, all my references are movies today) and eat awful food, including "scrod," a bland whitefish I didn't know existed before the cold study and haven't eaten since and wish I could have died in innocence of. I survived by hating the study's lead doctor, a jerk, to be sure, but not actually Doctor Mengele, as he seemed to me at the time. I left the cold study determined to end his career by calling up the university and citing the many and varied and obvious breaches of medical ethics he committed to person after person after person until I got satisfaction. He really did suck--got drunk with the study subjects down in the hotel lounge, for instance, and said--really yelled at the top of his lungs--insulting and bigoted things about some of them. There were worse things, too. I used to have a comprehensive list but have since forgotten what was on it because I left the hotel and went home and packed and flew to Frankfurt. I spent the cold study money in Germany and France and Holland, and when I got back I no longer wanted to end his career; I no longer called friends to harangue them about him until they faked emergencies to get off the phone. He was no longer important to me, at all.

This piano teacher didn't do anything wrong. But there's nothing wrong with hating him anyway for as long as you need to. Just keep it on the nice safe green.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used to teach piano, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt, but.... Think of it from his perspective. He's just doing his job. His job is to teach children piano. If he was a schoolteacher, his job would be to teach kids math. If a kid doesn't study math, they fail the test. If a kid doesn't practice piano, they fail at piano. The point of taking piano lessons isn't for every parent to watch their kid walk on stage and feel like their kid is so amazing for playing 4 notes. The point of piano lessons is for kids to learn music which requires discipline, focus, and dedication. It's definitely possible your kid is too young for piano, and that's why you can't get them to practice.

But don't blame the teacher. Their job isn't to tell you your kid is a genius when they aren't, or to let them play in a recital if they have nothing to play (or humiliate themself because they can't play shit). Also, a piano teacher is not a babysitter that you pay to look after your kid once a week. A piano teacher is a private tutor whose job it is to teach children and let them showcase their work in a recital. If your child has nothing to show case in the recital, then they don't play in the recital. It doesn't matter that you paid him. You paid him for the lessons, which he provided. The rest is on you. It's not your kid's fault, it's just the way things unfolded, but don't blame the teacher, because he actually did his job.
posted by winterportage at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2018 [24 favorites]

People misspell and mispronounce my name all the time. Yes, the ones that are nice eventually learn how to pronounce it right, and I appreciate them for making the effort. But I had teachers as a kid that didn't even attempt to try, and a manager now who repeatedly says it wrong after a year of working with me 40 hours a week and hearing others say it aloud. It grates on me, but it is such a minor issue compared to all other ways people can wrong you -- even when you're a kid -- that bringing up would seem clueless and petty.
posted by redlines at 2:51 PM on June 15, 2018

So, I work for a company that has a couple of studios with several different private music instructors, and I think you're right to find another teacher. This one doesn't seem to be a good fit for you as a family, and quite frankly once that bad impression of a teacher is formed, there isn't a heck of a lot either of you can do about it. I don't think he did anything that wrong (other than mispronouncing the name), but he's just not right for your family. Which, not everyone wants the same thing from private music lessons, and not every teacher can cater to every kind of student. This guy will probably tweak some things he does as he gets more experience, but chances are he's unlikely to change his pedagogical philosophy based on one parent writing a nasty note.

So, my vote is just send a polite note saying that your daughter won't be attending in September, and asking for a refund. I can pretty much guarantee that if he asked that question he knows you're probably going to quit and knows why, and after your husband yelled at him, is probably glad. He is doing this as an olive branch, and probably in sympathy for your situation. Something to consider, depending on how much notice you gave him about the missing lessons, he's being pretty generous. My institution and most teachers I know have a cancelation policy similar to Dentists, you're on the hook for most\all of the cost of the appointment if you don't cancel early enough. That's because your daughter being on the schedule and then not showing up means that he potentially lost income from the student he could have scheduled as well as the income from your daughter, and potentially has to pay rent on the room he teaches from.

When you look for a new teacher, make sure you ask explicitly about recitals, and listen to what the teacher says and consider if that's a good fit for what you're looking for. If you want your kid to perform in every recital, say so. If they say "sure, our recitals are for everyone!" you've found a good fit on that front, but be aware, they're much more likely to be more relaxed than teachers who expect a certain standard of performance. So if having a teacher who really pushes your daughter is important, you'll have to balance those two things.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

If you want the piano teacher to have some inkling of why you're unhappy, you can go ahead an communicate that. But what's your goal? To make the teacher feel bad? If so, I'd be as brief as possible, because why increase the net misery in the world? If your goal is to give the teacher feedback to improve then do that - constructive criticism.

Me? I'd say, "I appreciate and accept your offer for a refund. We are not intending to continue working with you."

When my oldest brother was starting out on piano, my mom (a very competent pianist herself) found a teacher. My bro showed up to a lesson and instead of the music that was in front of him, he played by ear in a different key. They teacher told my mom something to the effect of "he will never be a pianist." Mom fired her on the spot and found another teacher. Turns out mom was right and the first teacher was wrong.

Point being, not every teacher is right for every student and if you feel the relationship isn't working, it's OK to find another.
posted by plinth at 3:02 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

No need to hire this guy again and absolutely take him up on the refund, but your time and energy will be better spent working on forgiving yourself for being human and having a crisis, and for that crisis affecting your daughter's life, because I would bet eleven donuts that that's the root of it.

If I'm totally off base, then I would suggest using this situation (in which someone told your daughter she couldn't do a thing, and then she did the thing very well) as an opportunity to teach your daughter the deep, deep joy of proving skeptical jerkfaces wrong about her.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

my child's (loving) grandmother routinely mispronounces her name. Name-mispronounciation is a thing that happens all the time in the world. It is not something to take as a personal affront, and definitely not a thing to train your child to take as a personal affront.

It is also just fine for your kid to hear that if she hasn't prepared for a recital then it may not be a good idea for her to play in the recital. It's good for kids to understand that practice is necessary for mastering anything. Nobody is entitled to an audience just because they feel like performing.

You've all had a lot on your emotional plate. Forgive yourself for not going to the recital - it sounds to me like that's maybe at the root of your upset - your kid won't remember any of this in six months if you don't keep discussing it. Leave it behind you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:49 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

A thought: as someone who definitely grew up in a participation-trophy environment, my stricter music teachers were some of the ONLY adults who held me accountable for what they knew I could do, rather than rewarding me for what I was already doing. It certainly made me much better at music, but more than that, it was a way to learn about hard work, about (public) pressure, about taking responsibility, and and about what I was actually capable of, all in an environment that was ultimately still forgiving of failure when the inevitable sometimes happened. You said she’s not mature enough to practice alone - this seemed like a wonderful teaching moment for her to *become* more mature (seven is absolutely old enough to begin to take responsibility for practicing, with parents’ support) rather than a reason to prevent her from being held accountable in an age-appropriate way.
posted by mosst at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

"Gently, I'd say in the future that you shouldn't boycott important events in your child's life"

Well, I basically said that, too, and not gently, but I have since rethought. The piano practicing was going well until there were multiple health crises and everything went haywire. Kitkat had been the main force ensuring that the kid practiced. Then she had the crisis and her husband got sick and the kid, absent someone to encourage her to practice, did not miraculously age five years and develop a yen to practice piano without parental reminders. It was the family crisis that caused the child to miss lessons, too. Kitkat might've read "She hasn't practiced so she shouldn't come to the recital" as punitive, like: "mothers who don't make their kids practice don't get to watch their kids play in recitals." But it's worse than that because he didn't say it directly to her but to her husband in front of her child. So it's not even punishing her for something she coudn't do anything about but punishing her child for something the child doesn't even understand, much less have control over. It's "children of mothers who don't make their kids practice don't get to play in recitals." That might reasonably have made kitkat want to strangle the guy.

I don't think that was what he meant. I think he simply meant to do his job and that he was saying, "She's understandably rusty because she's missed a lot of practicing; let's have her wait for the next one." But that's obviously not what kitkat heard, and it's not beyond the pale that she heard a heartless person trying to deprive her daughter of a thing she had worked for simply because for a few weeks kitkat couldn't maintain her usual high standard.

I don't think anybody behaved unreasonably, here. That's what's so knotty about it. The piano teacher tries to do the conscientious thing to encourage practice in a student plus spare the parents from having to disappoint the kid by doing the disappointing, himself. The husband, having had an exhausting bout of illness and worry over his wife and baby and seeing his child about to be deprived of something she's looked forward to, a thing she would have been prepared for had it not been for the family crisis, leaps to the defense of his kid and hollers at the piano teacher. Kitkat, having had a terrifying 11-day bout in the NICU, then hears that some guy who sees her kid once a week thinks she's a lazy mother. She might have decided it was in the piano teacher's and everyone else's best interest for her to give the recital a miss. Don't feel bad about that. There'll be plenty of recitals. (Or BMX races if you write that Yelp review.) (Don't write that Yelp review.)
posted by Don Pepino at 4:04 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

[ Couple deleted. Folks please take it easy here, maybe not a great time to be offering wide ranging critiques of OP given the context. And OP please take a step back, you've asked a question and people are answering; you can mark the answers you find helpful and just pass by the ones that miss the mark for you.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:29 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

it's not beyond the pale that she heard a heartless person trying to deprive her daughter of a thing she had worked for simply because for a few weeks kitkat couldn't maintain her usual high standard.

This is exactly what I was trying to get at with my "forgive yourself for having a crisis and that crisis affecting your daughter."

It sounds like mostly you are just still blaming yourself a lot for basically everything that has happened recently (which is completely bananapants-level incorrect, but understandable because of culture and maternity and hormones and etc).

And here was one guy who could have given everyone a "by" and pretended that everything was fine and nothing bad had happened and all was completely normal and right with the world AND THEN HE DIDN'T, AND HOW COULD HE NOT UNDERSTAND HOW BADLY YOU ALL NEED A BY?!

Except that of course he couldn't, because really, even "knowing the context" isn't the same as truly truly knowing the context, and maybe as others have said, he was thinking "boy the last thing they need is an embarrassed kid crying because she borked a recital, maybe everyone just needs more time!"

It won't be the last time in your kid's life that someone who doesn't really know what she's going through has insufficient tact and sympathy. Luckily, this seems to have had a pretty good outcome for her, and it's a chance to model taking the high road and also being prepared to have resilience when people won't cut you very deserved slack. So when her college professor demands she take the final even though the family dog just died, or when her boss needs her to attend a conference even though she's in the middle of a bad breakup...she's going to be the kind of person who dries her eyes, forges ahead, and secretly always thinks that guy is kind of an asshole. ;)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:48 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Every time I've wanted to send an angry email and refrained, I've been glad later. An understated email can be a thing of beauty. I have one that I like to reread. While you're still angry, you can think of it like "we're good people (unlike him!), so we handle things tactfully." Later, in my experience at least, the feeling changes to more like "we handled that so much better than he deserved" and eventually to something more like "I'm glad we just moved on and didn't bring more drama and pain into our life or the world." The angry emails I've sent have often had parts that I looked back on with mixed feelings, like "hmm, well that part wasn't really fair." I'm sorry you ran into this unsupportive person at a time when you so needed support and care.
posted by salvia at 6:18 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Final thought, I wonder if he'd have handled it differently if you were there. Sometimes men are weird with each other, and your husband may have not given off quite as much of a "this is a sensitive time for us so please be kind" vibe as you would naturally have, being so recently post-partum.

I say this because I feel like you need protected from all angst and negativity right now, and maybe you'll start to give yourself that feeling by mentally distancing yourself? I know it's your daughter you want to protect, but I feel like if she was super upset she wouldn't have done as well at the recital as she did, so it might be okay to kind of mentally remove yourself from this upsetting situation by reminding yourself that you weren't there and that your husband stood up for your daughter. (Forgive me if this comment comes off as presumptuous.)
posted by salvia at 6:25 PM on June 15, 2018

Similar to a comment above, but how do you think you will wish you had handled this when you look back on all of this in ten years?
posted by ewok_academy at 6:26 PM on June 15, 2018

Any time I’ve fired off a screed, it’s never exorcised the anger; only prolonged the issue, invited the recipient to fight back (see how even uninvolved people like to pick apart your arguments?), and made me feel and look like a crazy asshole. Instant regret.
posted by kapers at 6:28 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Exorcism idea: Maybe schedule a SUPER fun day just for you and the 7 y/o.
posted by kapers at 6:31 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

She heard him do that. How would that have made her feel?

I would've been immensely relieved! Performing in front of an audience when you may not be ready is horrible. Glad it turned out well.

My husband said - 'No, she's been looking forward to this and she is GOING. TO. THE. RECITAL. SO PRACTICE WITH HER NOW'.

This is incredibly inappropriate. It's understandable that your husband would go off given the immense pressure he was under. But you don't mention anywhere that he apologized to the teacher.

If the missed classes were your cancellations, and if they were done on short notice, then the teacher lost income and is being quite generous with you. It wouldn't surprise me if he's hoping like hell you don't re-up for more lessons. You can send him an angry email if you want, but it won't reflect well on you.
posted by Mavri at 7:17 PM on June 15, 2018 [18 favorites]

Both of you are being irrational and mean to the piano teacher, because you are in a stressful patch of your life. He gave you his professional opinion that your daughter is not going to be ready for the recital at which your husband, by your account, screamed at him. He then verbally agreed to do what you want.

All the perceived malice in your account is a projection of your own stress and quite frankly some really toxic racism against the English.
posted by w0mbat at 8:12 AM on June 16, 2018 [14 favorites]

Email him that a refund would be best, thank you, and no we don’t expect to be signing up for lessons this fall. I can’t see anything productive coming from lighting into him except possibly feeling sheepish a few years down the line when you think of this episode.

I took a season of piano lessons around the same age, I don’t think I EVER praticed and never played in any recital. I’m sure I stunk bigtime. My teacher regularly fell asleep and snored as I played. All I remember is taking one seaon of lessons and that was it. My mother the Queen of Dramaz never said a word about it other than too bad you don’t have the natural musical ability like your eldest brother, he can play anything by ear. Don’t blow this out of proportion, it’s a blip on the radar that you’ll barely remember in the future.

(And her name being written and spoken wrong is really really not something to bitch about. I’m often called the wrong first and last name and my husband’s Italian last name has been said as a type of pasta by telemarketers! It’s not even close to any pasta but Italian-can’t pronounce-he must be Mr Macaroni then! It’s an annoying and also silly part of life, let your daughter learn early to roll with that or she will spend her life irked by dummies who don’t mean any harm. Heck, give her a dollar every time someone says her name wrong, she’ll love that.)

You’ve survived a hellish period in your family, don’t waste precious energy and emotion on this.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 9:53 AM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sometimes the high road is just un-fucking-palatable.

But it’s the only one in front of you.

Send the email today, so the scent of it doesn’t linger in the air longer than it has. In six months you won’t remember any of it.

Acting out can feel good in the moment, but it never is in the long run. (Even though sometimes I would REALLY like it to.)
posted by crankyrogalsky at 11:51 AM on June 16, 2018

Adding my voice to Hermione and a few others who said: please talk with your daughter about how she feels and what she wants. And I know it's been a tough time, but please try to keep an open mind while you listen to her answers.

If she really likes this teacher, and wants to continue specifically with him, then please consider prioritising her feelings. If she likes piano but would also like to consider new teachers, then a brief and polite letter to the current one is the way to go.

You are doing a great thing for her by getting her piano lessons, and I'm glad her recital went well.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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