Ethics in a Nutshell

Your business is only as good as you are. You'll know what kind of person you are by how you handle temptation when no one is looking or no one ultimately will find out.

Criticism of Your Competition

Don't knock the competition (other teachers). Anything negative you say will come back to haunt you - if only because you look petty in the eyes of the student or other colleague to whom you made the remark. Please resist the temptation to say something negative about another teacher.

Similarly, don't criticize a student's previous teacher, even if you think the student's preparation is wretched. Such a remark doesn't help the student feel confident about continuing study and insults the parent that he was such a poor judge of teachers.

If another teacher makes a gossip-tinged remark to you, perhaps hoping to draw your agreement or to elicit more "juicy details," say nothing (or "Hmmm." or "You don't say?") and change the subject.

A true professional is secure in her ability to carry out her job and need not tear down others to build herself up.

Your mother was right: if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Basics of Copyright

Don't violate copyright law. You may not copy anything that has copyright protection, even if "I'm not going to sell it," "my duet partner needs a copy, too," "it's out of print," or "I can't locate the copyright holder."

If you circumvent copyright protection, you reduce income for the publishing house. If they don't make a profit, they'll go out of business, and then we won't be able to buy the materials we need.

The composer/editor/arranger also loses money when copyright is violated. Again, if there is no financial remuneration, these people will quit working, thus narrowing the range of materials that are available to teachers and students. The average royalty is 5-10% of the cover price. On a $5 book, that's 25 to 50 cents per unit. Is it worth cheating the author out of that amount of money?

A Few More Watchwords on Ethics

1. Teach the full lesson time. Don't spend more than 30 seconds saying hi each week. This can be especially tempting with adult students - there seems to be so much to chat about. If the conversation wanders, redirect it to the lesson material.

2. Give 110% value for your fee.

3. Don't inflate your credentials.

4. Report all your income (including cash) and pay taxes due on it.

5. Don't solicit students from another teacher's studio, either overtly (sending a letter) or more subtly (hinting to the parent that the child would be "enjoyable to teach").

6. Don't claim as your own any student who has studied with you less than six months. Until at least this point, your influence on this student is not substantial enough for you to claim his successes were influenced by you and your methods.

copyright 1997, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me about reprint permission.

Piano Home Page | Pedagogy Topics | Home Page