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Friday, January 18, 2019

Weekly Mission #2: Clarity in Our Physical Spaces

Our second weekly mission is to seek clarity in our physical spaces. What’s important about getting clarity about our physical spaces? It will help us to focus our attention and efforts better. Our pathway will be clearer to us. Instead of a jumbled, tangled growth over the path that we need to clear out that mess in order to find and follow our trail. Do here are some questions that might help us:
  • What is my purpose in this space?
  • Are there things in this space what will further my purpose, or will they distract me from my purpose and get in the way?
  • Are there things here that need to be returned to their proper homes, or do I need to find or create new homes for these things?
  • Can I declutter or simplify the things that occupy this space?
  • And finally, I find it helpful to make a bullet point list of small tasks or observations about small tasks. Then when I have a minute before beginning my work, or in between students, or at the end of my teaching period, I can select one item from my list and do it. When I follow this 5th step, I am always amazed at how quickly my physical space begins to look neat and orderly. Before I know it, my space is clear again.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Teenagers: How to Keep Them Motivated?

[The following article is excerpted from a presentation given at the 2018 IMTEX conference in
Remscheid, Germany. If you would like to listen to the podcast episode, click here.]

Motivating young children can seem simple. Sometimes it is just a matter of smiling a lot, showing enthusiasm, having fun, and turning most activities into a "game." To motivate the older student is different, because the older student looks for other kinds of things than the younger child.

Teenagers have needs like all of us, but what young people once received from their parents when they were young children, teens now need from others, such as: love, support, encouragement, nurturing, acceptance, and attention. Teens no longer need their parents to direct them as much. Instead, teens need helpful attention; they want to work alongside others.

Teachers can play an important role at this stage because teachers are more removed from the teenager's personal life and are more objective. A teacher's success depends on:
  • giving encouragement
  • guiding the process
  • acknowledging and respecting the teen's choices
  • allowing the teen to learn from his or her mistakes
  • asking questions
  • entering into discussions
  • experimenting together
The key word in this process is together. The teen has a strong need to work alongside and together with others.

I believe it is possible to begin this process from the very start of lessons. A teacher can create a learning environment to allow opportunities for the teacher and the teen to learn together. Once the teacher establishes this "together" environment, the process can grow and expand as the teen matures.

Situations change as the teen grows older. The teacher will need to engage the teen and encourage him or her to consider more choices. The teacher can offer more in the way of guiding principles, as long as the teacher is receptive to the teen's own discoveries or suggestions of different approaches or execution. Sometimes my teen students come up with ideas of alternate ways to practice, perform, or solve technical problems that I have not discovered. As a teacher, I need to honor and respect that possibility.

Our responsibility as teachers in this process will be to show our teen students these things:
  • How to make wise decisions
  • What kinds of questions to ask
  • What kinds of decisions to make
When working with teens, keep in mind that teens want to claim more space in the world and be bigger in the social arena. They want to be treated as adults. Although teens think that they are ready to take on the world, we adults know in actuality how scary and difficult the world really is. Teens lack the experience that we adults have, although teens think they are ready. We adults recognize in actuality that teens may be ill-prepared for the challenges that they will face when they live in an adult world.

What will be important for a teacher to do during this time is to foster good communication and a strong personal relationship in order to weather any difficult storms later. The teacher needs to be a "safe haven" during any time that the teen struggles to handle life's problems. The teacher needs to offer helpful guidance that will steer the teen back into conversations with the teen's parents. Overall, the teacher must show the teen respect and that the teacher cares.

We teachers have a useful perspective when it comes to working with teens because we do not share the same emotional and family experience. We can therefore offer objective critical and analytical advice to help teens enter into further conversations with the teen's parents.

Along with emotional changes, teens also experience many physical changes as their bodies mature. Many of these changes are chemical and affect the teen's moods and emotions. These chemicals can cause the teen to experience inadequate sleep and become moody. The teen may sulk and engage in other disrespectful behaviors.

There are two ways to handle such unpleasant interactions:
  • Direct confrontation: Many parents and other adults engage in this option, but the result is generally that the teen will become more rebellious and uncooperative.
  • Engage differently: Parents and adults can interact differently with the teen and do these things:
    • listen more actively
    • show more respect for the teen's desires and preferences
    • share concerns but continue the conversation in a respectful way

When a teenager gets into trouble, it is usually because the teenager did not
have an opportunity to learn how to control that part of the teenager's life.

So how do we help a teen to learn how to control more areas of the teen's life? We can structure things to gradually allow the teen more opportunities to become more independent. Most importantly, we can allow the teen to learn and grow into independence. Rather than giving instructions and commands, we can allow the teen to take on more responsibility and gain more experience, including the experience of analyzing problems, finding solutions, and taking personal responsibility for outcomes and decisions.

What are some examples of areas that we teachers could offer a teen a gradual experience of taking on more personal responsibility? We could put the teen in charge of certain areas of the teen's home practice, such as maintaining the practice handbook records or completing the assigned review program. For many of my older, more tech-savvy students, I have found that scheduling issues related to lessons and makeups are better handled by the students rather than the parents. I also regularly engage my students in discussions about goal setting and supplemental repertoire choices. The teacher can play a big part in offering opportunities for the teen to stretch the teen's independence muscles.

In the beginning of this article, I wrote that teenagers need helpful attention. How can we teachers provide that? We can build a close and cooperative relationship. We can show our teens that we care about them, and that we will respond to their questions and needs. We can enjoy them and be interested in the persons they are and in what they are doing. We can listen to them talk and solicit their ideas and suggestions. Dr. Suzuki asked us to show everyone respect, and I believe the this means to show respect to everyone, even teenagers. We adults are so accustomed to take on the caretaking role so completely with younger children, that sometimes we forget how to loosen the reins and allow our children to mature into the independent adults they need to be to survive in the world. When we show our teenagers respect, we are showing them that they are important people. ("You're not the boss of me").

When things seem difficult with our teens, we can remind ourselves that they will not be teenagers forever. They will grow into different people with different opinions. We can choose to accept who they are in this moment with enthusiasm and without judgment ("Don't judge me").

Teens have special needs. They desire to be distinct individuals ("I'm my own person"). For music teachers, we can easily help teens fulfill this need merely by encouraging the teens' music pursuits, since this subject is distinctly individual. Teens also desire to be treated separately from their parents and their childhood ("I'm not a baby anymore"). A teacher is in a special role in this instance because teachers and other providers of instruction outside of the home stand outside the home and are therefore more closely aligned with the outside world.

We can recognize and encourage the teens' needs to have meaningful relationships with friends, classmates, and others outside of the home. Summer camps, institutes, workshops, conferences, youth orchestras, and school programs and groups are some of the many experiences that will provide teens with the opportunities to make friends and find emotional support outside the home.

Perhaps the most important thing a teacher can do is to serve as a role model for the teen. In this role, teachers help shape students' attitudes toward life and others. Teachers can demonstrate the best ways to handle typical life situations: conflict resolution, positive outlook about life, belief in the potential of life and the future, and positive impact for others. We can model the philosophy that Dr. Suzuki advocated -- that we serve something and someone greater than ourselves. We can role model how to serve our community and the world that we live in.

I sent a survey of questions to several teenager students, and I would like to share the answers from six of them in a future installment of this blog article. So stay tuned!

If you are interested in further discussion about the "overparenting" and "helicopter parents" issues, I have produced several podcast issues on these topics and reviewed the book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (click here for the book).


How to Raise an Adult (Avoid Overparenting, part 1) (podcast episode)

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2019 by Paula E. Bird

Monday, January 7, 2019

Monthly Focus and Weekly Missions

With the new year, I thought I might add a few new features to the podcast and blog. I am using these features myself, and I thought that I would share what I am doing with my listeners and readers and see if they receive a benefit from doing these same things.

One of my main new ideas is a Monthly Focus. Each month I want to set up a sort of theme or idea to use as a centering focus for the month. For this month of January, I have chosen the focus of clarity. I recently read something about the value of having clear spaces, that we need the tools and space around us to be clear physically so that we have our best chances for creative thinking. As I though about this idea of clear space around us physically and mentally, I thought that a better word for me would be clarity, because the value of the clear spaces would be to bring me clarity of thought and provide me with clarity of tools available for me to use. My word focus for January is clarity.

Clarity can mean many different things, so try it on for yourself and see where it might lead you. That leads me to my next new idea, and that is to offer a weekly mission. For this week I suggest that we consider getting clarity about our calendars for this semester. Here are some questions to help us get started:

  • Do you have your dates set for the semester?
  • Do you have your studio recital or other events calendar dates set up and scheduled?
  • What are your plans for the summer break? Have you registered for music camp or Suzuki institute?
  • Do you have any instrument maintenance chores to take care of, like getting a different instrument size, rehairing the bow, replacing supplies, or getting new strings?

If you have any ideas about a monthly focus, or if you have any ideas about weekly missions, I welcome your sharing them with me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 IMTEX Conference (Remscheid, Germany)

IMTEX Conference 2018
A Walk in the Woods at Remscheid, Germany
[This article is excerpted from the most recent Teach Suzuki podcast, which you can listen to here.]

Recently I attended the  2018 International Music Teachers Exchange (IMTEX) Conference in Remscheid, Germany. I have attended this conference for the past three years, and this year's conference was as exciting and satisfying as in past years. I teamed up with my friend Sue Hunt from Great Britain to present a talk about motivation. Sue offered ideas about motivating smaller children ("Waking Up Beginners") while I tackled the issue of motivating teenagers ("Keeping Teenagers Awake").

My reason to attend the conference is greater than my need to present a talk on a particular teaching topic. I attend for personal as well as professional reasons, both as a teacher and as an individual. I have discovered since my first conference in 2016 that I need to attend this conference for several reasons.

Community


We teachers sometimes lead an isolated existence. We certainly see people all the time and every week when our students and their family units attend lessons and group classes. I have discovered, however, that this is not the same as actually having relationships that go beyond the teaching experience. My interactions with my students and their parents are very pleasant, and we do often exchange personal pleasantries and good wishes about our personal lives. Still, a really close connection does not always come from my teaching interactions. And so my existence seems a bit isolated because most of my social interactions stem from work-related activities: teaching performing, rehearsing, faculty meetings. My personal interactions -- a few minutes here and there before and after lessons, in university hallways, at rehearsal and performance intermissions -- are momentary in time, and therefore not as in depth as I may need them to be to feel socially connected.

When I first attended the conference in 2016, I was immediately welcomed by so many strangers from all over the world. Sometimes we had a language in common, but just as often we did not share a common language and would have to resort to hand gestures and stuttered words of a language that we might understand only slightly. Still, the warmth and acceptance I experienced were genuine, and I found the social connection that I craved.

We were teachers -- all of us. We shared a common vision of teaching to change the world. Some of us taught traditionally, some of us with the Suzuki Method. It did not matter. All were welcome here. I cannot stress enough the importance of welcoming everyone here, something that I believe personally is one of Dr. Suzuki's cornerstone philosophical principles. No one was excluded because of a lack of training or credentials. No one was excluded because of location or experience. All were welcome to come and share. And what a rich experience we all got as a result!

My first year I may have hugged closely to my friend Sue Hunt from Great Britain. We had a common language, and I had interviewed Sue years before for this blog. [You can read that interview here]. We knew each other from that interview and got to know each other even better at the conference. Sue knew the ropes at the conference and was able to steer me to the pathway entrances outside the academy so that we could enjoy long walks together in the nearby forest area, and Sue could indulge her iPhone photography skills.

I gained confidence as time went along, and I would sit down at a table with someone I did not know and ask, "Deutsch oder Englisch"? ["German or English"?]. Usually everyone was happy to talk in English. One of my most memorable conversations took place with someone who spoke only German. I did my best with my rusty high school language, but I finally broke free of my grammar worries to talk in single word phrases. I started talking about my eight miniature long-haired Dachshunds; I can talk about them in several languages. I wound up grabbing my iPhone and illustrating my conversational forays with photos. Between my photos, my stilted and stuttered Germany vocabulary, and the generous spirit of my new friend Ina, we were able to have a conversation and enjoy being together. She asked me questions about my students, and I had photos to show her to demonstrate my teaching ideas and methods. We had a lovely time together!

I recall describing one of my dogs -- the only short-haired miniature dachshund I have -- and I attempted to explain how his personality was different than the other dogs, that short-haired dachshunds have this personality quirk of stubbornness. I could not recall the German word for stubborn (stur), but I managed to describe his typical stubborn behavior to my new friend Ina.

"Dummkopf!" she told me. (fool!). Yes, my Kaiser dog was certainly a dummkopf! And so my emails from my German friends would thereafter end with, "Give my best to Dummkopf!"

Fast forward to the 2018 conference. I sat down once again with my friend Ina, who was sitting with another young woman that I did not recognize from previous conferences. My friend introduced her and then we got started with our usual conversation. This time I had practiced my German, so I had much more language confidence to speak up, but before long, out came the iPhone and new pictures to share. My friend Ina announced to her friend, "See?" followed by a German explanation that I would show pictures of students and dogs and how I use special toys and teaching aids with my students. Then my friend declared that she had brought me some special toys to give me to use with my students, and I exchanged the one that I had brought for her.

That relationship that I have just described is one of many very special conversations that I have with my IMTEX conference friends. I have similar stories to relate about teachers from Italy (Arjada, Silvia, & Sara) and Albania (Marjana), Ireland (Noelle) and Spain (Isabel), Switzerland and Sweden (Eva), and Nigeria (David) -- just a few of the many places represented. Along with special relationships, the conference offered a rich experience of information sharing and opportunities to discuss teaching problems and create solutions.

Information and Education


The keynote presenter for a second year was Mimi Zweig from the Indiana University String Academy. Mimi spoke in depth about the foundation of string playing (physical set up, teaching philosophy, basic bowing strokes, left hand shape, shifting, vibrato, double stops, and ensemble playing). Conference attendees observed Mimi as she taught several lessons to students of various ages and levels. We explored the teaching points in several Kreutzer études. We asked questions. We explored our own physical set ups with our instruments, and under Mimi's watchful eye, many teachers explored changes and new ideas. You can learn more about Mimi's pedagogy at her website stringpedagogy.com.

Along with Mimi's thorough presentation, other presenters offered informative sessions: the many teaching points of Corelli's La Folia, the building blocks of the Suzuki Method, Paul Rolland's Principles of Motion, rhythm, basic teaching points for Suzuki violin book 1A, left hand preparation and scales from books 1-3 (introductory and advanced student levels), shifting-trills-vibrato, musical preparation exercises, arpeggios, repertoire and technique, music instruction with ADHS, prevention of lower back pain in violin playing, using technology for successful home and lesson practices, and whole bow training.

New Teaching Resources


My First Technique Book, My Second Technique Book
by Kerstin Wartberg
There were several opportunities to collaborate with other conference participants. One evening, we gathered to present two new books by Kerstin Wartberg -- My First Technique Book and My Second Technique Book. One again, Kerstin has produced books that will supplement any teaching program in terms of violin technique for young violin students. I will spend more time exploring these books and Kerstin's contributions to string pedagogy in future articles. We enjoyed our few opportunities to work together to present material from these new works.


Little Things for Little Strings
by Eva Belvelin
Eva Belvelin from Sweden also presented her new book in English, Little Things for Little Strings. Available in the past in Swedish, this new English version book is also an excellent addition to beginning string pedagogy. I have interviewed Eva for the Teach Suzuki podcast to tell us more about her new English version of the very popular Swedish teaching book. You can listen to that episode and examples from Eva's materials here. I will also post more information about Eva and her new book in a subsequent blog article when the books become available here in the United States.

Approximately 125 teachers from 23 countries attended the 10th annual IMTEX conference in early November 2018. This is a diverse group of teachers with a vast body of knowledge, experience, and ideas. I came home from the experience with pages of notes about new ideas, new solutions, and new Facebook and email friends. I am never the same person when I return, and I look forward to sharing my wealthy experience from the conference with my studio families and teaching colleagues.

I know that our dear director, Kerstin Wartberg, will provide us with videos from the conference, and I hope my readers have an opportunity to share in my joy of attending. I highly recommend Kerstin's new books as well. They are currently available in Europe and in the United States (Shar Music). I plan to spend more time in the future talking about the wealth of material contained in these books, and I know that many teachers will be so grateful for the help that these books will provide. Recently Kerstin has posted videos and announcements regarding the recent conference, including a statement from Mimi Zweig and videos that demonstrate a few items from Kerstin's new books. Visit the IMTEX Facebook Announcements to enjoy these videos.

There is a way for us teachers to stay connected through the year. There is a healthy Facebook community (IMTEX) and an online library of resources available here.

I look forward to this conference every year because of the renewed enthusiasm and sense of global connection that I receive by my participation It is one of my favorite events all year, and I already look forward to next year.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Breaking Up: How to Sever the Suzuki Triangle in a Positive Way

Never is there a good time for a teacher-student relationship to end. Let us discuss this important issue and identify ways to minimize the emotional damage for the parent, the student, and especially the teacher. In my experience the parent is usually the quickest to end the teaching-learning relationship, and sometimes a parent is unaware of the teacher's emotional connection. Teachers often hang onto a teaching relationship longer than perhaps they should because of the tremendous amount of emotional investment the teacher has made.

The teacher's relationship with a student is a very personal one. In order to effective and influential, the teacher must give something of him- or herself. A good teacher does not just give instructions, advice, and directions. A good teacher addresses the whole personality of the student and mentally prepares a program that will encourage, strengthen, and nurture the student to reach his or her greatest potential. Although some teachers may fall short of this mark or may not be the best fit in a particular teaching situation, I believe that most teachers would agree with me about this purpose of good teachers.

How does one break up this teacher-student relationship and in many cases the teacher-parent relationship in a positive way that does not wreak emotional harm and damage? Is there a good way to end a relationship of this type?

Three persons share a part of the Suzuki teaching relationship, so we should consider all of these several perspectives. The typical teaching-learning relationship will include the teacher, the student, and the parent. In the Suzuki world this is referred to as the Suzuki Triangle. Each point of the triangle is important to the growth and potential of the learning situation. If one person along the point of the triangle is not doing his or her job, the shape of the triangle will be altered in a way that may be detrimental to the student's continued learning success. The most optimum teaching-learning environment is one in which each point of the triangle is at its strongest.

Each part of the triangle is important:
  • The teacher's responsibility is to teach the parent how to be an effective teacher or coach on the home front during the student's home practices. The teacher also teaches the student all the technical aspects of making a good sound on the instrument and of effectively expressing a musical idea or emotion. The teacher has typically attended many institutions of higher learning and taken many different levels of teacher training in order to be effective in this aspect of teaching.
  • The parent's responsibility is to teach the child at home in the teacher's stead. The parent is responsible for playing the listening assignments and for practicing the assigned homework material. In addition, the parent assists the child in learning a new piece (fingerings and bowing) and in practicing effectively.
  • The child's responsibility is to simply be a child. We allow the child to attend to his or her learning through the child's senses, at the child's optimum pace, within the framework of the child's ability to concentrate, and helping the child achieve skill development through effective review and repetition as the child focuses on one thing at a time.
At some point in the process, the distinctions between the various triangle roles disappear and the parties take on added or different roles. The teacher strives to guide the student to be his or her teacher in many respects as the student attains the advanced stages of musical development. The parent fulfills the role of a coach and fan and functions more in the realm of waving flags and shouting hoorays from the balcony. And the student assumes more and more responsibility to make and implement his or her own decisions about expressing musical ideas and what technical means to use to accomplish the best expression of those musical ideas.

All of my discussion to this point is to help others understand how involved everyone becomes in the process. The longer the relationship has gone on, the deeper the relationships and emotional connections. When a parent, teacher, or student makes the decision to break the connection, there will be emotional upheaval and hurt, and sometimes anger as a way to express the hurt. In many situations, the teacher will emotionally grieve the loss of the relationship, and the student will feel abandoned, even if the teacher is not the reason for the breakup. The student will be watching the adults and how they handle the situation, so be aware of the role you choose to play in the scenario. Remember, as teachers and parents, we are always role modeling for the child how the child should behave as an adult. Please be responsible in your behavior and show the child what is the mature way to handle this type of situation.

There are a few possible ways to handle the difficult conversation about the future of this relationship, whether it is by email, phone call, or a personal face-to-face meeting. Whichever method you choose, find a way to do it without having the students be involved. Perhaps you have observed a change in the situation or the other person's behavior. Focus your attention on the other person as a friend, and express your concern and care about the other person. 

Ask if there is anything that you can do to help the other person. Keep the conversation in a positive place. If it comes to that, you could gently explore the idea of whether another teacher would be a better fit for the current situation.

Perhaps the situation will dissolve into tears. Tears are a sign of healing and are a healthy way to share a compassionate moment with each other. Perhaps the conversation will explode into anger. Keep calm and reassured that the anger belongs to the other person. Continue to speak positively and express your concern and desire to help.

My rule of thumb is that these difficult conversations are better to held in the open than to allow them to lie silent and fester emotionally. 

Here are some more suggestions for ending the relationship in a positive way:

Acknowledge the past history in a positive way.  Avoid complaining. Avoid blaming. Avoid any negativity. Recount the history of your relationship together with gratitude and joy. Criticism and judgments offer no positive benefit to either person. Remember that your child is watching how you handle this situation, so be sure that your behavior and message is the one you want your child to learn from observing you.

Avoid blaming the other person for your decision. Avoid accusing the teacher of falling short in some way. Stay focused and positive. Being negative or making nasty remarks do not accomplish anything positive. Keep in mind as a parent, that most new teachers will call the previous teacher to get the "whole story." If there was a nasty breakup, the former teacher may find it difficult to cast the historical information in a positive light. So, take personal responsibility for your choice and state your reasons in a positive, logical (unemotional), and non accusatory way. As a teacher, I spend several months and several conversations or emails trying to fortify the relationship and bring everyone back to the same positive teaching-learning environment. 

Avoid complaining. Stay upbeat. Do not use the breakup as an opportunity to air your stored grievances. Expressing your complaints now will not change anything or improve the future situation. Remember that your child watches to see how you handle this situation, so act well. Do not pull out all the "kitchen-sink" grievances, which would be a poor demonstration to your child or student of how to handle conflict.

Allow the other person to "save face." The other person may become upset, but nothing useful will come from an argument. Since it takes two people to make an argument successful, take the higher road and refuse to argue. Just accept the other person's anger and agree with them. The argument will eventually fizzle.

Apologies are worth extra points. If you can find it in your heart to do this, you can walk away from the situation with a well deserved pat on the back. Accept responsibility for the problem and sprinkle your apologies liberally throughout the conversation. Borrowing the philosophy of the famous cinema star Clark Gable, apologize for your shortcomings.

Thank the other person for the experience that you had with them. Whether you deem the relationship to be worthy of continuing or not, the fact of the matter is that the teacher did invest his or time in the teaching-learning relationship and deserves to be thanked for the time and effort that he or she put forth. The parent was involved in the lesson process and made contributions in terms of driving, practicing, and finance that are worth acknowledging.

Next time, do your homework. Choosing a teacher should not be a quick decision. A parent should speak to the teacher, ask the teaching community for recommendations about the teacher, observe the teacher in the teaching-learning environment, and provide the child with an opportunity to interact with the teacher before entering into the new relationship. Teachers do much more than provide "babysitting" services. Many teachers view their profession as a calling on a grand scale that will have a positive, changing, and lasting impact on the global community. Teachers spend a great deal of time honing their teaching skills in order to provide the greatest service to their students and their parents and families. Do your homework and find one of these teachers.

Whatever you do, do it with class. I got this advice when I was a youngster about to quit my first major job in a fit of anger. I heard this advice two hours before I was about to stage a royal blowup. I considered the wisdom of the advice and instead completely reconstructed my resignation plan. I followed all the steps I outlined above. I acknowledged all the persons in the organization by name and listed their contributions to my personal growth in the workplace. I thanked everyone for all that they did to help me on the job or in my growth. I stayed positive and avoided complaining. I did not work up a frothy blame game but instead focused on what I had learned and what value I would take from my work experience and put into my future endeavors. I chose my positive and grateful attitude and expressed it liberally and in a public manner via a memo addressed to all the partner-directors of the organization.

Let me tell you the benefits I received from taking this "high road" of ending the relationship. My employers and fellow workers made their good-byes with big smiles on their faces (and tears in their eyes in a few cases). I got big bear hugs from some of the top dogs. I got acknowledgment in return for all that I had contributed to the firm. The firm actually sent me a sizable amount of outsource work in the month that followed, which really helped me out financially. And because I showed that I had class, I was included in their recommendations to others.

Most of all, I felt good about what I had done and the way I had handled it. I felt like a grownup.

Please show consideration and thoughtful reflection in your relationships, whether it is with your students, your children, the studio parents, or the teacher. Please show some class and professionalism in the manner in which you end a teaching-learning relationship.

The Teach Suzuki Podcast broadcast a more in depth discussion of this topic in episode 100. You can listen to that episode here.


Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird




Friday, February 23, 2018

Étude Concentration Game

A young student and I put together a memory concentration game for Étude in Suzuki Violin Volume 1. We followed the format of the free download about peanut butter sandwiches, which can be found at the Practice Shoppe.

We made up a flash card for each snippet or phrase of the song and laid out our cards in the following array:



We put a number for each card on the reverse side so that we would know what order the song pieces came, in case we dropped the pile of cards on the way home from the studio.

My student has worked to pick out the notes that the cards represent,  and she had pretty much figured out by ear what the notes of the song were. There were a few sticky spots. Here is how we found the cards to be useful.

As my student worked through the song, I turned over those cards that I thought she had learned well enough that she would no longer need to refer to the card. What was then left on display were those portions of the song that needed more work, as you see:


My student can now focus on the remaining cards until she is able to turn them over as well.

We also thought of other ways to play with this game. We thought of organizing the array in a different display format, such as top-to-bottom or right-to-left column. The possibilities can be as many as we can invent.

Using a spaced repetition technique, every few days my student can attempt to play the song without reference to the notes side of the card. Any cards she forgets, she can leave up for a review on the n next day.

I generally do not like to encourage note cards like this, but I accept that this song can be elusive for some students to figure out by ear alone. This little game made the task fun!


Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird