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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Take Time Off if You Need It!

This is the Monday before Thanksgiving. A few of my most conscientious parents have expressed concern that the practice (and lesson) schedule would change and that the student would lose ground during this week.

I used to worry about this too when I first began teaching. If I went away for a few weeks on a summer vacation, I worried that my students would get worse in the time I was away. My husband made an observation at the time, which I still find to be true today. He said if I was a good teacher that I could expect one of two things to happen: (1) they would get better, or (2) they would stay the same. I found his observation to be true, although I also worried at the time whether or not I was a "good" teacher. Thankfully, I know now that I am a good teacher, and I have found that my students generally do make some progress. I have not had anyone actually get worse.

I recall one really terrific Suzuki mom when her daughter first began her lessons. Her daughter started at age 3, and mom took the practicing plan very seriously. Mom participated in the 100 day club in order to strengthen the practicing habit, and then when they reached the 100 day goal, the little daughter asked if they could continue practicing for the 200 day goal. This was obviously a mom who had formed good, regular practice habits.

Then there came the time when the family had a scheduled vacation camping trip, and the mom worried that they could not take the violin with them since they would be camping on a beach in the hot Texas weather. As mom was relating this story, I could see that she was experiencing a great deal of stress, probably due to the trip preparations. All of a sudden, mom burst into tears. All because they would not be able to keep practicing on their regular schedule, and mom was afraid they would lose ground. All because of a four day camping trip!

I gave that mom my whole-hearted permission to go camping, and I insisted that she leave the violin at home and stop worrying about the practice routine. Obviously they needed a break!

As I wrote a few weeks back, sometimes we need a "breather," a step back week, or just a mental health day off (i.e., a Sabbath). Do not obsess about this or worry about it. Just take it and enjoy it! Use the time to do something different and recharge your batteries, your mental outlook, and your big picture perspective.

This is a holiday week for many of us. Let us take some time and enjoy it. Let us visit with family and friends. We do not always have much time to do this with our regular schedules, so let us take that time now. The time spent together and the time spent forging stronger connections with each other are the important things. If we have time to practice together, that will be icing on the cake. Maybe we can arrange to do a special concert for our visitors or the family, but in the absence of any such opportunity, we can enjoy still each other’s company.

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