Battling Imposter Syndrome and Becoming a Confident Piano Teacher

Do you ever feel like you’re not a “real” piano teacher? Like somehow you’re an imposter? Are you lacking in confidence in your teaching and your business?

Battling Imposter Syndrome and Becoming a Confident Piano Teacher

Battling Imposter Syndrome and Becoming a Confident Piano Teacher3

This is certainly how I felt for the first 10 or so years of my teaching. I mean, who was I to teach this stuff? It hadn’t come naturally to me and I was far from an amazing performer.

Turns out I now see this as one of my superpowers. Yes, a lack of natural ability is a superpower – because I can actually understand what my students are going through when they’re struggling.

You might feel imposter syndrome for a complete different set of reasons. But there are a few things that are important to know if you’re going to overcome it, not matter where it stems from.

Know that You’re not Alone

I hear from piano teachers with some version of imposter syndrome ALL. THE. TIME.

I think there are several reasons why this is so prevalent in our profession:

  • It is often not considered by the others in the community as a profession.
  • Many piano teachers came to this career from a mixed background, not necessarily from a specific piano pedagogy degree.
  • Part of learning an instrument involves constantly pushing for better and (let’s face it) being hard on ourselves. We’re never good enough – so how can we feel good enough to teach others?

Another big factor is our isolation. People in many professions actually feel this way starting out, but they get into the industry, they work with colleagues and they come to realise that they fit right in.

Most piano teachers exist in their own little insecure bubbles.

They don’t know how many teachers are just like them. How many also have no degree, or always struggled with their own technique, or are still terrified of sight-reading/playing by ear/***insert skill here***.

I wouldn’t have known this either if I hadn’t started blogging and connecting with so many teachers online.

Reach Out

The first time you reach out can be scary. If you already feel like an imposter, it can be really hard to make that move.

But I truly promise it will be worth it.

If you’ve never connected with any other teachers, I highly encourage you to go post in my Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook right now. We’re the kindest most supportive bunch around so let us know what’s troubling you and we’ll help you out.

Connecting with other teachers

If you already connect online, then I want you to take the next step and attend an in-person event.

Yes, yes, even scarier. I know.

Despite how intimidating it can feel to walk into a room full of “pros” when you feel like a fake, I 100% assure you that at least one other person in that room feels just like you do.

Instead of worrying about being found out yourself, just focus on learning and listening.

(And if anyone is rude to you then let me know and I’ll fly over there and have a chat with them. 😉 )

Keep Learning

There’s a balance to be struck here. What I don’t want is for you to feel like you haven’t learnt enough and you’re not a good enough teacher/pianist/person yet.

But part of becoming a really confident piano teacher is continuing to learn new things, no matter where you’re at or how long you’ve been teaching.

We need to see this as part of our profession – we should all be lifelong learners.

When you see continued learning as part of what makes you a great teacher, all that stuff you don’t know yet becomes exhilarating, not intimidating.

We’re all about lifelong learning and inspiration in the Vibrant Music Teaching community. Find out more here and see if membership might be right for you.

Are you a confident piano teacher?

Are you secure in your abilities or do you feel like an imposter?

Share your experiences in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers on Facebook or in the comments below.

22 thoughts on “Battling Imposter Syndrome and Becoming a Confident Piano Teacher”

  1. Thank you for this, Nicola! I heard a woman play just the other day who was AMAZING! I thought about my own playing and felt so inadequate! I regularly have to remind myself that being an amazing performer doesn’t necessarily make one a great teacher and vice versa.

    • Yup, compare like with like but certainly not teaching with performing. I’ve certainly had teachers who were great performers but couldn’t teach well and clearly didn’t have a passion for it.

  2. I’m always a little “taken aback” when a parent compliments my teaching!! It takes me by surprise that someone thinks I’m a good teacher…that’s how serious my case of “imposter syndrome” is!! I AM a life-long learner and take part in many professional development opportunities, but sometimes with all the information out there it makes me feel even more inadequate:(

    But then there are those days when I feel like I’m absolutely doing what I was put here to do, and that I wouldn’t have 30+ students if this isn’t the right path for me. AND, I ENJOY IT:)

    I totally relate to Carmen’s comment above, and agree that great performers don’t always translate into great teachers.

    Thanks for bringing this subject to light, Nicola. It does feel like you’re the only one feeling like a fraud, so it’s great to see this discussed in this way!

  3. Thank you for this timely word! I have realized it before- that my natural weaknesses are my greatest teaching strengths but I needed this reminder. As a vocalist who plays piano, I often feel intimidated by “real pianists” but even as a vocalist, I often wonder if my lack of performance resume diminishes my teaching appeal. It’s such a vicious cycle! And one I am actively working through- Learning to realize that compliments and good reviews are actually founded and true, that I can rest in knowing that I do know what I’m doing and am providing a good education for students instead of allowing that imposter feeling to drive me to incessant improvement and the feeling that there’s always something different that I could be doing so that must be better… (I’m not talking about mediocrity- just a healthy confidence in what I do!) thanks to everyone for sharing!

    • Yes, a healthy confidence is exactly what we should have, but it’s so hard to achieve. I’m sure you bring things to your students that a piano major or concert pianist wouldn’t!

  4. I found this to be true when I tutored algebra in college… I had struggled with it in high school, so who was I to tutor others in a paid position?
    The same syndrome attacks sometimes now with my teaching. But I have to say that over the past year in particular I have personally grown so incredibly much as a teacher — and as a pianist. The VMT community has had a major role in this growth.

  5. An important topic, and encouraging article for many, many piano teachers.
    It is interesting, I think, to compare with elementary-high school teachers. They are expected to be great teachers- not necessarily to present scholarly new research in science, math, etc. or aiming for a Nobel price…

    But somehow- many piano teachers are met with the expectation to be a performing artist at the same time as being a dedicated educator. Sure- there are some fine examples here, but my point is that they tackle two very different jobs; that of the piano pedagogue and that of an artist/performer.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes exactly. It’s mostly a result of the way they get to teaching though too right? Most piano teachers do not go into college thinking they will be teachers…that’s just the viable career option they fall into when performance becomes unrealistic or unreliable. But school teachers actually chose teaching!
      I think a teacher of any subject should be a good teacher with a love for teaching first and foremost. The expertise (although important) is secondary to that.

      • It is so reassuring to have you verbalize that. That is exactly how I came to be a piano teacher. I loved teaching – and had my first piano student when I was in third grade.;). I taught a little girl new to our school what I knew on the piano. She loved it an I loved teaching her. Love the “ah-ha” moments. It connects you to another person in such a unique and gratifying way.

  6. Thank you Nicola. I’m meeting up in person tomorrow with a group of local teachers and am slightly nervous to say the least. One is a full-blown concert pianist (a peer of mine from over 30 years ago, and the others all have music degrees, dip[omas and at least 40 students each. I am flattered that I’ve been asked to join but definitely feeling the ‘imposter syndrome’ as a relatively new teacher with 12 students, 2 years teaching experience and a Grade 8, done in 1990. Eek! Guess I just need to feel more confident with what I can bring (2 years’ teaching experience in another subject, 10 years in business, plus a love and passion for piano teaching!). Best wishes, Charlotte

  7. This is a great subject. I feel like an imposter in many areas of my life, but now in my 40s I’m realising that I’m quite good at hiding this! I agree with Barbara,there are days when I think actually I’m good at this, then there are days when, helpful as it can be, I see online all the great ideas and strategies that other teachers are using and I feel just a bit inadequate. I have been looking recently at your blogs on avoiding overwhelm recently Nicola, and I’m finding that I can let some of it go as I work out what my priorities are. Also I have never advertised and never really had empty slots to fill, so I must be blagging it well!!!

    • Haha, Fiona, I’m sure you’re not actually “blagging”! You’re right that it’s an ongoing thing and I think we’ll all have days, weeks or moments where we feel like we’re not enough. Hopefully, the more we talk about it and recognise the feeling, the more quickly we can talk ourselves out of it each time we feel this way.

  8. Such a relief to read this blog and realize that it’s okay that I don’t have great performance skills or a piano degree! Thank you, Nicola. I turned 60 this year and JUST started a part-time piano teaching studio for the first time. I currently have only 2 students. In college (SO long ago…) I majored in general Elementary Education and minored in Music. But I never really taught in the public schools as at the time it was difficult to get teaching jobs. My career changed to working as an admin. assistant in the finance business, which I continue to do.

    So now, with my desire to delve into my passions of music and teaching, I look on professional online sites designed to help secure piano teaching jobs (i.e., Thumbtack.com). Almost all of the teachers’ profiles show that they have Masters and Doctorate degrees in Music or Piano Performance, which is highly intimidating. I don’t have near those credentials, even though I’ve had bits and pieces of music teaching experience here and there, and even with toddlers :-D. Also, although I was a very good pianist and accompanist in my school years, I have developed debilitating arthritis in many of my fingers and have had surgeries on both thumbs. So it will take some time to build back some of my piano-playing ability, and I’ll never be as good as I once was. All of the above adds to my Imposter Syndrome. However, I feel that I can be (and am) a good teacher, because I relate well with children, I’m patient, and I truly want to learn and grow, even at my “advanced” age. Plus, I LOVE music and kiddos, and I love your relatively new and fun ways of teaching! I may not get new students by advertising online, but my students and parents love me – I will be happy to get students, maybe more slowly, from word-of-mouth references.

    • So glad this was helpful for you and I promise, although it seems like all the teachers around you online have multiple PHDs, there are many more that don’t! I’m sure you’re a wonderful teachers and your students are lucky to have you.


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