Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Year Yet

Are you disappointed with last year's results? I look forward to inviting my annual guest to visit at this time of year. I do a Best Year Yet analysis in the month of December as I anticipate the start of another year. The results always surprise me.

The Best Year Yet analysis comes from a book I read back in 1994 by Jinny S. Ditzler:

This book sets out 10 important questions, and the answers will help to shape and guide you as you plan for your next fabulous year of accomplishments. As you consider and answer the ten questions, you will celebrate your accomplishments, consider your disappointments, identify honestly the way in which you limit yourself, explore your personal values, determine which roles you wish to include in your life, and create a new empowering paradigm to achieve your goals for the year for each of the roles.

This is a very thorough process and is not an activity that I do quickly. I begin in early December by pulling the book off my shelf and skimming the parts of the book that I have outlined over the years. Sometimes I read parts of the book again, because I find that each year I discover new things within the book that appeal to me in different ways. This year is no different.

If you turn to the goal setting process at this time of year, as many of us do, and you seek a different perspective from the goal-setting hype and noise that shows up daily in our email inboxes, consider exploring Jinny Ditzler's 10 Questions. I am certain that you will discover some very surprising things about yourself in the process.

I have written about this subject in previous years. If you would like to review those articles for more inspiration, here are some links to help you get started:

Your Best Year Yet!: This is an updated article about the BYY program and the 10 questions.

Just Desserts!: This updated article focuses on the first question, which looks at what we accomplished during the year. This is a step that many people ignore or forget, and yet the answer to this question may provide the necessary power to fuel goals for the next year.

Disappointments and Life Lessons: This updated article focuses on questions 2 (disappointments) and 3 (what did I learn).

Limits and Complaints: This updated article focuses on question 4 and any beliefs that may be limiting goals progress.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

The above book link is an affiliate link (Amazon), which means that I may receive a small benefit at no additional cost to you. As always, you never need purchase anything, but if you are in the market to do so, consider using the provided affiliate links in order to support the time and efforts of writing and producing the Teach Suzuki blog and podcast.

Friday, December 16, 2016

8 Things to Do Before the New Year

The end of the year already? Yes, and it is time to get things ready for next year. If you are like me, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all that needs to be done before the year ends and by all that needs to be readied for the coming year. Here is a list of eight things that I find helpful to address this time of year:
bookcases, music books
Teaching Materials

Clean up the studio area. This is a great time to put away music that has found its way into the teaching space. File music away and gather up old papers and notes and file them or dispose of them. Be sure to make a note on your master list of to do items if the item has an action step associated with it. Then once everything is back where it belongs, give the space a dusting and the floors a vacuuming or mopping. You will be so happy once you return to your teaching area to find that it is ready for you to start teaching without any extra steps. Everything will look so nice and clean. If things are in crooked disarray, take a minute to square everything up with nice straight lines. Try to get rid of all your piles of things. Put everything away somewhere. Do not spend too much time on this. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and be done with it!

Clean up the toy area. I keep an area for quiet toys for students or their siblings to play with while waiting for lessons to start. Some students play with the toys after lessons are over as a reward for the hard work during a lesson. This holiday season is a great time to look through the toys and identify broken items. Do not be too quick to throw away "broken" toys, however, as children's imaginations can still invent colorful games with these "broken" items. When the tinker toy has a stick that clearly cannot be used any longer, I throw it away; when the action figure is missing one or two small items on the figure's super powers belt, I retain the figure in the toy area. I make sure that the toy area is clean, and finally, I wash the toys. No need to spread germs from one year to the next when it is a simple thing to wash everything.

Order new supplies. Take inventory of the supplies you have on hand, and order anything that is in short supply: wedge sponges, violin polish/cleaner, rosin, stickers, tape, counters, etc. Anything that you use in teaching, make sure that there is enough to supply the next semester of teaching. You may need to make a few box violins to get ready for new students. I usually need to buy packages of pencils and pens, as I seem to lose them pretty easily. I sharpen what pencils are still in the studio and make sure to throw away pencils that have used up their effectiveness.

Plan the coming semester. Sit down with a cup of your favorite beverage and plan the upcoming semester. I use my bullet journal for this, and I map out a rough outline of a six-month calendar to help me get set for the summer months as well. Then I add important dates to the planning calendar:

calendar, planner, bullet journal, sketchbook
Planners & Bullet Journal
  • studio recital
  • graduation recitals
  • institute dates
  • special performances
  • holidays or vacation weeks or days
  • any conflicts that I anticipate due to my performing schedule with the local symphony or my teaching responsibilities with the university
  • group class dates
Rearrange the furniture. You do not have to rearrange the furniture, but I find that this simple thing really brightens the look of the teaching area and students seem to respond to it. I know that I enjoy the "new" feeling that I get from a rearranged space. It may be just a chair or bookcase here and there, but these simple things can make quite a difference. Even a new plant or piece of artwork will help to spruce up the place. I remove any leftover holiday decorations and take down any student signs or other items that have outlived their novelty and sentimental value.

Organize the teaching materials. Take a few moments to review your teaching materials. Generally this happens because I am also putting things away or refiling music that has been taken out of music cabinets. I make new lists of possible group class themes and activities as well as special themes to incorporate in my teaching for the coming semester. When I select a particular theme for a semester, I find that teaching and group class activities may be simpler to plan. In any event, a reorganization of my teaching area, materials, and methods will help to keep my enthusiasm levels high and charged.

Email students about the coming semester. This is a great time to send out reminders to students and their parents about the upcoming semester schedule (which is why we took time to plan the semester earlier!). Over the years I have learned that parents are more apt to read shorter emails, so I might "divide and conquer" my messages. I might send one email about scheduling issues and another email about special events to consider. It might take a few minutes of extra thought to email in this way, but I think this method is more likely to encourage parents to read all my email messages.

ledger sheets
Bookkeeping System
Put bookkeeping matters in order. Tax season is upon us! Time to collect any outstanding tuition payments or other reimbursements due and make bank deposits. Gather the tax records and begin the process of getting ready to meet the accountant or other tax professional. I use this time to also get my next year's bookkeeping system ready for next year. I set up new financial record folders and review my previous year's systems to make sure that I am satisfied with how I ran things last year. If there are any problems, then I address them in the new system.

This a simple list of items to address before the new year begins, but this is a powerful list that sets the tone for future success. Spend a few minutes here and there before this current year ends so that you will be ready and prepared for the coming year when it begins.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Help Support the Teach Suzuki Blog & Podcast!

Are you a regular reader of the Teach Suzuki blog?

Do you listen to the Teach Suzuki Podcast on iTunes or Google?

Do you want to support the blog and the podcast?

You can! It's actually pretty easy to do.

I'm Paula Bird, and I write the blog articles and produce and record the podcast. I am a Suzuki teacher in Central Texas, and I am a HUGE fan of the Suzuki Method and philosophy (as if you couldn't tell already).

I am writing an appeal today to you to see if you are willing to offer your support. I spend many hours each week reading, researching, writing, and producing articles for the blog and podcast. I spend even more time contemplating possible photos and resources to suggest for my readers and listeners to find further information. This all takes a great amount of time.

If you've noticed, I've been a bit absent this past month. I was participating in the National Novel Writing Month, which I try to do each year. I have reached my 50,000 words at this point, but I had to sacrifice my blog article posting schedule in order to make the time to participate.

As this holiday season approaches, it would help me if you would consider visiting my resources store and purchasing any Suzuki teaching or music or studio related items through the links on my site or in the resource store. I do not receive a large benefit, but I do receive something, and everything adds up. There is no additional cost to you, and of course you are under no obligation to purchase anything.

Visit my Teaching Resources store over to the right of the blog, or click here.

I truly appreciate your support, and I enjoy hearing from you directly. Please feel free to contact me!

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Saturday, November 26, 2016

10 Rules for Success for Suzuki Parents

Everyone likes to follow a prescription for success. The message is so promising: follow this 10-step plan and success will be yours.

In truth, there are simple steps that Suzuki parents can follow that will lead to successful practices in the Suzuki home. Here is a list of my ten favorite rules for success:

Arm in Cast Bow Practice
Practice Every Day! Teachers like to quote Dr. Suzuki: "You don't have to practice every day, only on the days that you eat." This advice takes care of the issue of illness. Even if students have an injury, they can still practice with some accommodation. Practicing every day keeps the memory alive, the muscles warm, and the motivation inspired. I have a student at the university who has practiced every day since she was five years old, even when she was in the hospital.

Listen Every Day! This rule seems so simple to me that I am surprised to discover a parent who forgets to do it. The magic of daily listening is incredible. Learning seems effortless. What parent does not want that?

Attend Lessons. When students and parents attend lessons regularly, there is little opportunity to pick up bad habits or overlook incorrectly learned material. Go to lessons, even if you or your child may not be feeling 100%. If you must miss a lesson, send a video recording of the child playing through the lesson material. I have counseled many students in this manner when we were unable to see each other in person due to illness. I could identify immediately any incorrect habits or other practice issues before the student had gone too far down the learning path.

Attend Group Classes. Children love to learn with other children. When parents complain to me that they are having a hard time at home trying to motivate their children to practice, I ask whether the parents and students come to group class. Group classes are fun and great motivators for home practice. The smart parent will use group classes as a way to encourage, inspire, and motivate the student to practice at home. Group classes are also a great way for teachers to address one point to a large group all at once. If parents miss group classes, parents may miss out on important announcements or that terrific, fun activity that can only happen in a group setting.

Take Notes at Lessons. Parents can mold home practices much easier if they have information available to them from the lesson. The best way to do this is for the parents to take notes at the lesson. If the teacher has to do this, then the teacher is taking up teaching time to do it. Also, the teacher may be rushed for time or unable to remember all that occurred during the lesson, so the teacher may not be as thorough at noting what needs to be practiced based on what occurred at the lesson as the parent would be. Taking notes is as simple as just writing a narrative of what occurred at the lesson. Write these notes as bullet points. Parents will be surprised to discover how much information will be revealed through the simple act of taking notes at lessons.

Take Notes at Institutes, Workshops, and Group Classes. Yes, you can take notes in other settings besides lessons, and parents will gather much useful information. Why wait until your child has a sagging left hand or crooked bow, when you can see that useful information in another child's lesson or in a group class? Start a parent notebook today. You will treasure this notebook later as a collection of memories of your child's Suzuki journey.

Learn About the Suzuki Method. Read one of Dr. Suzuki's books:


(These are affiliate links, which mean that they are no additional cost to you, but if you use these links, then I will receive a small benefit for the work of writing the blog. You are never under any obligation to purchase anything, but if you do, please consider using these links or the links provided in my resources store.)

I think we all should educate ourselves as much as we can about the Suzuki Method and Dr. Suzuki's work concerning talent education so that we can share his message with confidence and knowledge. We are ambassadors to the world about this fabulous journey.

Mentor A New Parent. If you are a seasoned parent in the Suzuki world, pass on that knowledge to another parent who may be new to the studio or the Suzuki method. When we teach, we learn twice, as my blog states at the top of the page. Share your knowledge with another parent. Be a mentor for someone and accept the advice and assistance of a parent who has blazed the trail before you.

Practice With Your Child. I am dismayed to witness the large number of parents who seem almost eager to pass up the opportunity to spend time with their children in lessons, group classes, and practices. Rather than sit close and observe what the child learns, these parents drift away to another room and a different activity. Even if the child has matured enough to practice independently, the parent can still maintain a close connection with the work the child does in practices. Listen to the child play, involve the student in conversations about the learning and the practice work, and most of all, stay connected. Show interest. Be interested. Children grow up too fast. Capture as many moments and memories of this time as you can today before this time passes by. Put your phone away and watch your child amaze you.

Make the Suzuki Journey a Part of Your Entire Life. Suzuki music lessons are not something to be turned on and off once a day during practices or once a week at lessons and group classes. The Suzuki method is a philosophy for life and learning. Look for ways to use the knowledge of Dr. Suzuki in other aspects of your life, such as structuring a home environment of chores, service, learning, and cooperation as a family with others in the work place, at school, or in the community. Spread the word about the wealth and beauty of the method through your actions as a parent and family within your larger world and community.

I guarantee that if Suzuki parents were to follow these 10 basic rules for success, their children would have smiling faces and happy practices!

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

ISTEX 8th Annual Conference in Remscheid, Germany!

Remscheid, Germany, ISTEX
A Walk Through the Woods
What do foot charts, floating feathers, Kreutzer etudes, the Bell Tone Song, and the Hot Canary have to do with each other? Normally, not much, but in Remscheid, Germany the last weekend of October 2016, quite a lot!

The 8th Annual Conference of the International Suzuki Teacher Exchange met in Remscheid, Germany. Participants from 14 countries joined together for a memorable weekend of information, entertainment, and teacher training. There were 130 teachers who took the introductory course.
violin bow demonstration
Kerstin Wartburg

130 teachers from 14 countries traveled to Remscheid to stay in a small retreat center. We ate meals in a small dining area that encouraged pockets of conversation. Whether we spoke German or English or a combination of both, there were opportunities to sit down and share thoughts. I made it a practice to sit down with anyone sitting alone. "Deutsch oder Englisch?" I would ask, and depending on the answer, we would continue our conversation -- at times stilted and halting. If all else failed, I would pull out the pictures on my phone and share a laugh or two about my silly animals at home (Dachshunds and donkeys).
ISTEX Germany conference
Remscheid Beauty

One particularly amusing exchange occurred when I explained to a German teacher that I had 9 very lovely dogs, but one of them was very, um, I could not remember the German word for "stubborn" (stur?), and the lady helped me out: "Dummkopf!" (fool!). Well, OK, that worked too, and we shared a good laugh. The conversation went on to other questions about student problems, and we shared many photos and advice. I treasure that memory!

It was not only that we shared ideas, we shared the important knowledge that we all believed in a common mission and philosophy, begun so many years ago by Dr. Suzuki. This common goal was perhaps the most important part of my trip. When times are difficult in my teaching studio -- as things have been recently during the troublesome election cycle in the US -- I cling to the hope that the Suzuki philosophy offers and I go to bed at night with the calm assurance that the world will indeed be a better place because so many of us teachers believe in the same overall mission: that we are helping to create good citizens for tomorrow, shaping a better future by nurturing families and students, and providing a sense of belonging to a movement that is so much more than one individual can create.
Unique Mushroom Beauty

This is the beautiful knowledge and assurance that I came away with from the conference, that the work we do as teachers does matter, is important, and will have a lasting impact of the highest kind on the rest of the world. Perhaps it will be one student or one child at a time, but that impact will spread out in ripples to touch many others -- families, classrooms, other teachers, communities, and the rest of the world eventually.

Just think! Teachers from 14 countries shared this time together! How wonderful this is!

I gave two presentations during the conference along with so many other wonderful presentations, classes, workshops, and performances. I learned something from every presentation I attended. I thoroughly enjoyed the recital that Brian Lewis gave. As always, his performances are exemplary and exciting! We were treated to a special encore as well.

I made expanded podcast episodes of the two presentation topics I gave, and if you are interested in listening to those episodes, here are the links:

Episode 032 Common Student Problems

Episode 033 How Big is Your Why

I also recorded an expanded discussion about my Remscheid conference experience, and that episode will air on Sunday, November 20, 2016. You can catch up on the podcast episodes at www.teachsuzuki.com.

I want to publicly thank Kerstin Wartberg, David Andruss, Brian Lewis, Heidi Curatolo, and Charles Krigbaum, and all the fantastic teachers and workshop presenters for all that they did to make this conference so informative, friendly, and memorable. The event was well organized and a wonderful experience.

The 9th International Suzuki Teachers Exchange Conference will take place on October 27-30, 2017. Consider being a part of this inspirational event!

Knowledge is Not Skill
Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----