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For Teachers

This is a new feature I am adding in 2011. Here I will offer something extra related to my blog post. This will be something for teachers. Perhaps I will suggest a review point or plan or something to consider about teaching in general and our need to grow and improve as teachers. I'd like to go through the Suzuki violin repertoire piece by piece and discuss the skill building opportunities that a teacher can find. I will break down each piece by left hand and right hand. I will include a section about how I introduce the piece in most cases, and I will follow up with an observation of later problems that appear.

March 23, 2011:

I cannot stress the importance of several key things with regard the parents' responsibility for the success of lessons:

  • Daily listening
  • Daily practice
I find that if parents do the listening and practicing requirements every day that my job as a teacher is a lot easier. Try this in your studio and let me know the results.

I welcome any emails or comments from you if you have any particular issues that you would like to address. Or, perhaps you have problems that are specific to your studio. Send me an email; I would be happy to share what I have learned over the years. I also welcome any blog post topics that you might suggest.

Happy teaching! 

March 14, 2011:

As a teacher, I urge you to participate in continuing education. Here are some things that you can do to keep yourself energized and continually growing as a teacher:

(1) Read this blog regularly. There are several other resources like this blog. I will try and let you know of articles and videos that I discover as well. Please let me know of any discoveries you make yourself. I will be happy to include them.

(2) Take teacher training courses. Even if you have taken a particular training before, take another one under a different instructor. Teacher training courses do a lot to rejuvenate my spirit and get my creative juices flowing. Just meeting the observation requirement during an institute week does so much to inspire me and provide me with fresh ideas. There are socialization opportunities as well.

(3) Join the SAA. If you don't already belong, please consider doing so. There is a wealth of information and articles in the journal and newsletters and on the website.

(4) Attend master classes at your local colleges or in your community. If there aren't any, then consider bringing in a master teacher to work with your students one weekend. You could structure a day of master class lessons and a day for group classes. Perhaps you could join together with another teacher to put on such a weekend special for you and your students. Some of the time could be spend as a teacher forum, where the teachers bring questions about teaching issues and discuss solutions with the master teacher. I am always happy to travel somewhere to do these kind of workshops.

(5) Take your students to institute. I remember several memorable institute summers when several of my student families and I traveled together caravan-style to institutes out of town. We had a wonderful time together.

Please let me know of any other ideas you might have about this topic. I'd be happy to include them.

January 6, 2011: In the past several posts, I have been discussing various ways to record practice sessions. As a teacher I have learned that it is best to require parents and students to make some sort of record of practices. I learned this technique from a children's writer. She said that when she began a new book, she wrote out a calendar list of dates, and every day she would list the number of words she had written. If she had to skip a day, she made herself write in the excuse of why she skipped the day's writing. She said that having to write an excuse in the box was enough to make her go write instead. I find that this works in the same way with students or their parents (or me too for that matter).

I recall a conversation with Ronda Cole, another Suzuki teacher extraordinaire! When asked about students who were shirking in their practice responsibilities, she said that she would then require the students to phone her every day and leave her a phone message about whether or not they had practiced. She found that they usually left her the message that they had practiced.

January 1, 2011: the 100 Days Challenge. As teachers, we have a great deal of influence on our students and their parents. Because of our expertise and experience, our students and parents look to us for direction, guidance, and advice in many areas besides music. Because we have such enormous power, we should be careful to use our power and influence wisely. I am reminded of the scripture in the book of James: "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." James: 3:1.

For this reason, I encourage you to examine what you do in your life. Ask yourself the tough questions. Are you leading the kind of life that is a shining example to your students and their parents? Would you want your students to do the same things that you do? Would your students' parents approve of what you do?

I was a smoker once upon a time, but none of my students or their parents ever knew it. I completely hid that behavior and the smell from my studio. And later, because I realized that the fact that I was hiding the behavior was a strong indication that I shouldn't be engaging in the behavior, I quit smoking. I have never forgotten that lesson.

One thing you could do to be an excellent role model for your students is to take the 100 Days Challenge yourself. I never ask my students to do something that I am unwilling or unable to do myself. Why not set up this challenge as something you will also participate in?

Please leave me a comment if you are doing the challenge. It will be fun to read what positive things come out of your own experiences with this challenge.