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Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Morning Check In: Connections and Community

Written by Paula E. Bird, copyright 2014

When I think about goal setting, I typically think in more traditional terms: linear progression and areas of responsibility. For example, linear progression refers to steps 1-10, and areas of responsibility refers to physical, mental, spiritual, or business, personal, and family. Lately though I have been involved in some planning of projects that I expect to spend a long period of time developing. I find that my traditional thinking is not serving me well in this process, and I have been considering new perspectives.

I came across an interesting article written about one couple's work to become completely self-sustaining and self-sufficient on their property. Aside from the details that result from that sort of project, what caught my attention was the authors' choice of words to describe how they measured progress on their goals. The authors preferred to employ the term "sphere" to describe any of several areas of projects or concerns that the authors deemed important enough to develop. In this particular example of homesteading, the authors outlined six spheres that would demand their attention over a span of many years in order to ultimately reach the authors' goal of complete self-sustainability on their homestead, which meant that the authors would no longer need to supply their needs with outside sources.

The term "sphere" caught my attention, because of the nature of the word's description. Somehow this term changed my perspective in a different way than I experience when I think in traditional, straight-line thinking. Because spheres are round and three-dimensional, my thinking has to alter in order to fit this new picture that I have in my head. Yes, sphere also refers to influence or activity, but it is the roundness of the object that I picture in my head that has changed due to this new word use.

Now that my perspective and my way of thinking has altered, I have been considering  my own life in terms of spheres. What are the spherical areas that my life might contain? As I develop this picture, various ideas come to mind, and I want to mention two that came to mind yesterday: Connections and Community.

I have long known that I have a tendency to isolate myself. I am perfectly happy spending large amounts of time alone (or at least in the company of a nonhuman), and I have to monitor this tendency and guard against allowing too much time to pass before human interaction. Yesterday I realized that this tendency may be harmful if I give in to it at all. Instead, I feel a need to not only combat the inertia of aloneness but to develop a plan to eliminate it, if at all possible.

Yesterday I was able to join in a group meeting of our local Suzuki organization, the first meeting that I have been able to attend since the group formed over a year ago. I became better acquainted with several wonderful teachers with whom I have not developed a relationship before, and I renewed my friendship with several teachers whom I have not seen or talked to in quite some time except through electronic means. Most importantly, I met with several teachers for the first time. Rather than be quick to move back into my comfort zone of isolation though, I embraced the experience and found many things to enjoy about my new activity and the new connections that I made.

I found it entertaining to listen to others talk and express their ideas. At times, something someone said would spark an idea in my own mind. Other times I would think about how I could help the group with my own knowledge. Most of the time though, I was content to listen to what others were interested in and how they expressed their concerns and ideas. I learned much about the teachers personally, and I came to understand the group dynamic better than I would have through electronic communication alone.

I realized during the meeting that although my isolationist tendencies are pleasant and serve to recharge my energy and enthusiasm, for the most part my aloneness may not be adding anything more useful to my life. I need more connection and communication.  I need to spend time with others outside of my work sphere, even if the time spent is in a work-related meeting. This is valuable time for me to spend broadening my thinking. I also need to develop a stronger community within my studio. We need more of a studio "identity" if you will, which will come about through our connections within our own local community and the larger Suzuki community. Although my studio is located in a rural area, we need to join forces together with other students and teachers and studios outside of our area so that we can share and broaden our larger Suzuki community vision.

The homesteading article talked about community as a sphere, and I believe this is an important area of concern for teachers. We need to stay connected with each other, for encouragement, motivation, and creativity. We need to develop relationships beyond ourselves and our studio in order to bind ourselves more closely to the larger purpose behind what we do: ability development and talent education. This sphere of community is not limited to direct connections between teachers, but opens up the connections to include any relationships: teacher and parent, teacher and student, parent and student, parent and parent, teacher and teacher. Further, our educational purpose can spread to include others outside our direct sphere of interest, such as extended family, school administrators, and community and business leaders. These types of connections will strengthen the likelihood that our global message that "Any child can" will mean more than merely one teacher's attempts to teach a few students. The type and number of connections are limited by our ability to imagine possibilities.

Take a few moments this week to consider your sphere of community and connection. What relationships can you broaden? How can you strengthen your bonds of connection within your studio and your community?

Let us change our world -- one child, one student at a time.

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I am pleased to announce that Sue Hunt (musicinpractice.com) has a new app in the iTune store! If you recall, I interviewed Sue about her review program ideas two years ago (article). The app is free (a paid version with premium features is in the development stage). Please check out Sue's contribution to our Suzuki community: iTunes link).

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