I have noticed a trend lately that parents are sneaking peeks at their Smart Phones during lessons. As someone who loves her iPhone and uses it for an incredible amount of different things, I can sympathize with the temptation to answer the phone's siren call (I have to leave it in the car during symphony rehearsals so that I am not tempted to check it during rehearsals). However, what alerted me to this trend is that several of my young students were actually looking over their shoulders to see if their parent was watching the lesson. It was sad for me to note that when this happened, the parents were looking down and fiddling with their phones rather than watching the student play or taking notes about the lesson.
I need to be reminded about being "present" in my life as well when others are with me. Technology is fun, but I need to remind myself that I want to place my focus on interacting and relating with people. If you are a parent, please consider turning the phone off during lessons and home practice sessions and be involved with your child's activity instead. Your email, text messages, and phone games will still be there 30 minutes later, and your child will be so much happier to see your smiling face applauding your child's lesson and practice efforts.
March 23, 2011:
I have been discussing the first few pages of the the Suzuki Violin Volume 1, revised edition, in several posts this month. I want to underline the importance of several things that I believe are strong parental responsibilities:
- practicing daily
- practicing the assignments given by the child's teacher
- listening to the pieces the child is learning or about to learn or as assigned
- working to build a creative learning environment, which is an environment that fosters the child's motivation and desire to learn
I spend a great deal of time with parents who are new to my studio. I have a very comprehensive "parent course" that discusses these topics in great detail. I am planning to make that same course available to other parents and teachers outside of the studio, so stay tuned for that opportunity in the near future. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have about problems you experience in your home practice sessions or at lessons. I have a great deal of experience helping parents to improve their music lessons and home practice sessions, and I am happy to share what I have learned.
March 14, 2011:
How do you know if your have a good Suzuki teacher? Here are the points I recommend to parents when they are searching for a good Suzuki teacher:
(1) Ask your friends for referrals. Nothing speaks better about a teacher than a satisfied customer. Also, your teacher should have a good reputation in the community. Music stores and other teachers can offer recommendations as well. Don't hesitate to ask for recommendations.
(2) Ask the teacher what Suzuki teacher training they have taken and where. A teacher who has attended teacher training courses will not hesitate to tell you this information. If the teacher fudges with the answer or says something like, "I was raised as a Suzuki violin student," please be aware that this is not the same thing. I have been taking lessons since I was 3 years old. There is much that I do not remember from my learning experience, and that is certainly going to be true for others as well.
(3) Ask if the teacher has a group class. A true Suzuki teacher understands the value of including a group class in the curriculum. It's OK if the classes meet just a few times per month or if more than one teacher teaches the classes. The important thing is that there is a group class.
(4) Ask if you can observe the teacher in a lesson or group class situation. I never have any problem with this.
(5) Find out what other experience your teacher has with regard to performing. After all, your teacher will serve as a performance model for your child, so it is important that you have found a teacher who will be a good model.
One word of advice: be sure you pick your teacher because of value. Do not pick a teacher based on convenience or cost. Because a teacher will come to your home, or lives near by, or is inexpensive is not a good reason to select a teacher! Remember, your teacher will become a very important part of your lives. You want the very best you can afford for your child. Please select a teacher because they are qualified and experienced and will be a good fit for your family.
January 6, 2011: I've been discussing several ways to make practice records. I highly recommend that students or their parents get in the habit of making some sort of record, even on those days when no practice takes place. If you the parent are unclear about what the week's assignments are, then ask the teacher to write the assignment for you. That usually helps the teacher to clarify things from the lesson too.
It can be a motivating thing for students to have some sort of reward system set up to recognize good practice routines. In the past I would sometimes put up a big wall chart, and each week I would put a sticker after the child's name for every three days of practice. I would cross off three days' practice, then put up a sticker. If there weren't enough days to make up a multiple of 3, then I waited until the next lesson to count those days. Kids were excited to put up their practice points. Funny thing: most students only looked at themselves and not at how the other students were doing. Just 1 or 2 kids were competitive, but that was their motivation for practicing.
Then after the student reached a certain number of practice points, e.g., 30 in a fall semester, then they would get another prize, like a gift certificate to Dairy Queen or a chance to pick out a prize from the prize box. Have fun with this idea. Trust me, kids will love doing this.
January 1, 2011: I'd like to suggest that you set up the 100 Days Challenge for your child or yourself. Make a large chart and hang it prominently somewhere. Make a big event out of checking off each day as you or your child complete the day's challenge assignment. Be sure to sit down with your child and decide what the celebration event will be when you complete the 100 days. Perhaps a trip to a special event or movie. One of my students just loves going to Burger King, and another prefers Dairy Queen and ice cream.
In the case of small children, 100 days can seem a bit daunting. One solution is to break the 100 days into smaller, more manageable segments. One family of a five year old boy broke the 100 days into 20-20-30-30 days. The little boy wanted a small fish aquarium as his ultimate "prize" for completing the 100 Days Challenge. At the end of the first 20 day period, the parents gave him the little plastic tank, but it was empty. At the end of the next 20 days, the little boy received the gravel to put inside the still empty aquarium. At the end of the next 30 days, the little boy received some plants and other items to decorate inside his aquarium. And at the end of the last 30 day period, the boy went to the pet store with his parents to pick out the fish that he wanted.
Do you understand the value of what these particular parents did? By dividing the 100 days into smaller segments, the parents did three things:
- They helped their child to build up his ability to persevere in waiting for gratification
- They helped their son to build and sustain his motivation to practice.
- They helped their son to build the habit of practicing.
How can you incorporate the 100 Days Challenge in your own family situation?