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Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: the Finish Line

I ran a half marathon in San Antonio on Sunday. It involved getting up very early on two days so that I could pick up my race information and other racing paraphernalia on one day and return to run the race the next day. I finished the event and received my finisher's medal, which is quite neat. I have decided that I enjoy doing half marathons better than full marathons because the shorter distance run generally does not take up an entire day, although yesterday, the event certainly seemed as if it was a full day.

Finisher's Medal

One thing I enjoy while running these events is the direction that my mind takes during the run. There are the typical moments when my mind flits from one curious subject to another puzzling one. There are also those instances when my mind seems to think about nothing in particular and is more receptive to what my senses take in, such as the small flock of about 15 birds that kept changing direction overhead on one stretch of the race. I just watched without any specific thoughts about what I witnessed, other than the beauty of the coordinated movements.

Despite these fleeting moments of non-thinking, my thoughts do generally make observations, and sometimes quite a lot of them. Later I then take these thoughts and try to transform them into lessons that I learned from my experience. Please indulge me as I share some of my lessons from today, because I promise that I will connect them up with teaching and parenting.

There are a lot of people around. A lot of them. I do not know how many people were signed up and present to run this event, but there were enough to fill up 32 corrals or starting points. It took 40 minutes  after the start gun before my corral finally reached the starting line.

We are all different. As I looked around at everyone, I realized that we are all different. Really different. There were short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, tall ones, big ones, round ones, muscular ones, freckled ones, birth-marked ones, tattooed ones, young ones, old ones, bald ones -- well, you get the idea. We had so many differences between us. I entertained myself during the hour and a half wait before my group began running by watching the people around me.

We share many things in common. While I noted that there are a lot of people and that we were all different, I also had the presence of mind to note how many things we all shared in common. I cannot say that we completely shared these things all together. It was more like a wall map with straight pins pushed into the map to represent all the people, and strings being tied here and there between the people to represent common connections between them.

Some of us wore the same brand of shoes or clothing, while others shared a different sense of fashion with another group of runners. There was an Elvis impersonator (a bad one, and I think he garnered himself some television attention), a Mad Hatter, and several tutus. Some preferred to walk most of the distance, some to run, and some to do a combination of both. Some talked and walked in smaller groups, while some of us preferred to concentrate more on a solitary pursuit. Some of us shared the same training plans, and some of us shared the same race strategy. Some of us suffered from the heat of the warm and humid day, and others seemed to do just fine. I spent most of the race making all of these observations, and I was never at a loss for thinking up new ones.

We share a common purpose. Despite all of these differences and similarities, we did all share one common purpose, and that was to get to the finish line. We shared the same activity, although we approached it and performed it in different ways.

Now, let me relate that to teaching and partnering with our students' parents. There are many of us around. There is never a shortage of parents around, and there are plenty of teachers available, especially with the handiness of the Internet and Skype. We are all different though. We are unique in our teaching styles, learning styles, personality styles, approach to problem solving, emotional background, and desire to learn. And yet, there are many commonalities between us. Some of us have shared many of these various traits with each other, although not all of them.

As a teacher with a great deal of experience, I have to remind myself periodically that one size does not fit all, and that there will be times when my great ideas do not work for a student. These moments are great puzzles for me, especially when my ideas work for 99 other students except for this one student who stands before me. These are the moments when my teaching and analytical skills are honed. These are the moments when I make new discoveries about learning, about the Suzuki repertoire, about parenting, and about teaching.

Sometimes this period of time in the learning-teaching process can be quite frustrating and puzzling. This is when I remind myself that despite our differences and commonalities, which do not appear to be working at the moment, there is something bigger and more global that will see us through to success.

We share a common purpose.

My studio parents and I share the same common purpose, and that is my teaching philosophy that all children can learn, that talent is not inborn, and that parents are the most important influence in their children's lives and have the most impact on their children's development, motivation, and desire to learn. We are all different in our pace and approach to learning, but we are all on the same road to the ultimate goal: to grow the child into a fine human being with a good heart. This is the finish line in my studio.

Yesterday, as I ran (or walked) alongside all the other runners in the San Antonio Rock 'n Roll Half and Full Marathons, I celebrated the great number of us who shared a common purpose, and that was to reach the finish line. Thanks to all my friends who supported me on this latest running journey.

This week, consider what your "finish line" is. Do you have a stated teaching or parenting philosophy? Take a few moments to write out this statement in one sentence. Post this philosophical statement in a prominent place where you will view it daily.

Would you be willing to share your philosophy in the comments below? Consider visiting the Teach Suzuki Facebook page and liking us.

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