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I’ve spent the last month really focusing on self-confidence. I’ve been reflecting and journaling about self-confidence daily. As I did this deep dive into the concept of self-confidence, I realized that developing self-confidence is a big part of why my children are in Suzuki lessons. I also saw how a lack of self-confidence can make being a Suzuki parent and teacher really difficult.

Why is self-confidence important for Suzuki teachers?

When Suzuki teachers lack self-confidence, they don’t do the things they need to do to run successful studio businesses. They don’t market effectively. They don’t charge what they’re worth. They don’t have frank and important discussions with their studio families about tuition, attendance, and other vital issues.

Why is self-confidence important for Suzuki parents?

When Suzuki parents lack self-confidence, they don’t bring their questions and concerns to their child’s teacher to collaborate and get help. They don’t practice effectively with their children because they doubt their ability to do it well. They don’t advocate for what their children need, because they are afraid of what other people think. They may quit lessons entirely because they assume that their child’s slow progress means they are doing something wrong.

Why is self-confidence important for Suzuki students?

When Suzuki students lack self-confidence, they refuse to try because they are afraid of failing. They miss opportunities to grow and learn with other musicians because they are scared they won’t play well in orchestra or chamber groups. They don’t feel the freedom and joy of performing because they are so worried about what other people are thinking about their playing. They may decide to quit because they aren’t the best player they know, and not being the best doesn’t feel safe.

So self-confidence is important, but where does self-confidence come from? We often act like some people come into the world with confidence, and the rest of us are out of luck. “Oh, she’s so confident. I wish I was confident like that.”

Fortunately, just like talent, self-confidence is a skill. It can be practiced and developed. Confidence does not live in our DNA, it is an emotion. And just like other emotions it is created by our thoughts and beliefs. This is very good news, because there are often times when we need to call on confidence to help us be successful in new or difficult endeavours.

We need a little self-confidence to make that first effort–to start teaching in a new way, market your studio more aggressively, practice with your child more creatively, perform a new piece. Once we’ve made that first attempt, we have the self-confidence PLUS a little experience, and that gets us over the next hurdle, and so on.

As we get older, we begin to believe that we have to have experience to be confident. This isn’t the case with young children. They learn to walk and talk without any prior success or experience. Experience doesn’t increase confidence, experience increases capacity and capability. Plenty of very experienced teachers and performers have very little confidence. This is because confidence comes from your belief in yourself.

If you’re willing to experience failure and disappointment, the more likely it is you’re going to succeed. This is because you are open to try, experiment, grow, and learn. If you are confident, you know that even if you fail it doesn’t mean that you are a failure.

Next week, we’ll dig into the topic of helping our students develop self-confidence. Why you may want to focus on it in lessons and practice times, and how you can encourage your child to develop a strong belief in themselves.

How would developing more self-confidence help you and your students? Please share in the comments.

The post Self-Confidence and the Suzuki Method… appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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Whenever a few people discuss music teachers they’ve had or watched, they discuss whether they’re a “tough” teacher or a “nice” teacher. The conversation continues as if there were only two options; a tough teacher that gets things done with well set-up, nice sounding students, or a nice teacher that lets things go to maintain the relationship and has students who can barely play but love them. The more teachers I meet, the more I believe this is an unhelpful and false belief. You can be kind, without ignoring bad technique. You can have a good relationship with your student, and also maintain studio discipline. In fact, it’s more effective.

Reading Teaching Genius: Dorothy Delay and the Making of a Musician by Barbara Lourie Sand was so validating to this belief. Dorothy Delay created incredible violin playing in countless violinists; from Itzhak Perlman to Sarah Chang. She also treated them with kindness and respect. Her desire to have a relationship with students made her a more effective teacher, not less so. Instead of portraying the one and only way to play the violin, she asked questions (and waited for answers.) “Where is the top of the phrase?” “Sugarplum, what is your concept of F-sharp?”

Her care for her students as a whole person made her encourage Itzhak Perlman to become as independent as possible, even as a 13 year old with a disability in a new city. She “encouraged his interest in art, got his parents to get him an art tutor,” took him to museums, concerts, baseball games, taught him how to drive.

Toby Perlman, Itzhak Perlman’s wife said, “One of the things that she did-the most remarkable thing-was that she recognized that his disability was going to be a real problem in the eyes of the public. She knew that it was no problem at all-it was just no problem-but she saw the way people responded, and she understood that half the battle was going to be convincing the powers that be that this was a boy who could do anything, and she set about doing that.”

She knew Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg well enough to let her “forget her violin at home” for weeks at a time, then recognized the right time to push her back into playing.

Sarah Chang discussed how Dorothy Delay’s teaching style changed as she grew. Because Delay cared about her students, she knew the right times to become more clearly critical, or to ask for more purpose in phrasing.

And it’s not like she reserved her great teaching for only her star students. Another great quote from Toby Perlman, “I didn’t play very well, I didn’t believe in myself-but in her studio, I felt competent. I learned from her that no student needs to feel incompetent.” A student’s belief in their competence makes them work harder and make more progress.

To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations for Teaching Genius. I thought I’d enjoy it because I love biographies, but I didn’t think I’d get many clear teaching takeaways. I was wrong. I know I will read this again. It has made me recommit to building a relationship with every student, teaching them to teach themselves through thoughtful questions, and believe in their ability to gain talent.

I’m excited to hear from you in the comments. What were your favorite takeaways from the book? Did you have a different opinion? Love it or hate it, we’d love to know.

The post Plucky Violin Teacher Book Club…Teaching Genius: Dorothy Delay and the Making of a Musician appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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For years I struggled with vibrato. The two types of vibrato I could accomplish were uneven, tight, and narrow, and uneven, wide, and slow. Basically I sounded like an unfortunate church choir. It wasn’t until my last year of my Bachelor’s degree I finally realized why. My fingers were double-jointed! At the lowest part of the oscillation my finger would lock in place and then snap back up, creating a vibrato that limped along instead of enriching the music. Since then I have slowly gathered exercises to strengthen double-jointed fingers and allow me to play the way I wanted.

These three exercises are my favorites. I have used them on very young Pre-Twinklers, students preparing for college auditions, and myself. They all take consistency but can make a huge difference in intonation and tone.

Resistance Bands

Tapping each finger on their thumb helps the typical Pre-Twinkler prepare to hold down the strings effectively. For my double jointed students, they need more resistance. Placing an elastic band underneath the thumb and on top of the “table-top,” slowly tap each finger 10 times maintaining the curve of the finger.

Fingertip Pushups

Based on the Simon Fischer exercise that triggered my double jointed epiphany and changed my life (slight hyperbole.) Although it’s in the vibrato section of the book, I find it helpful for all students.

Placing your fingertip on your thumb or on the string, slowly flatten the finger from middle joint to the tip. If you’re hypermobile, make sure to only bring it halfway, not far enough that it “locks” in place. Bring it back to round. Repeat several times and with each finger. Read #256 and 257 in Basics by Simon Fischer for more explanation.

Step One Step 2 Step Never

Sculpt

I recommend Play-doh or modeling clay to all of my hypermobile students. Manipulating the clay mostly with their fingertips helps their brain identify the muscles they need to use to protect those joints, and subsequently will strengthen their fingers. Many other activities that promote fine motor skills will also help.

Becoming more aware of my hypermobile joints has helped me with aspects of my life as varied as intonation and knee pain while exercising. The awareness has been helpful, but to quote Dr. Suzuki, “Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus 10,000 times is skill.” I had practiced for years with collapsing fingers before I became more careful. It will take many repetitions to change my habit.

What difficulties have you had with hypermobile or double-jointed students? What have you done that has helped?

The post Helping Double-Jointed Students… appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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I always knew I wouldn’t be teaching my own children the violin. Practice helper at home? I’m all in. But, being the teacher? No, thanks.

I wanted to have someone in my corner. Someone I could reach out to for advice, and help on this journey.

And, it doesn’t hurt to be able to say, “I know you don’t want to play it ten times, but Mrs. Smith said that’s what we need to do!”

My son has a wonderful Suzuki teacher. She is a fantastic influence in his life, and I’m so grateful for her.

One side benefit for me is that I get to watch a skilled and experienced Suzuki teacher take a student from Twinkles to Mozart Concerto (assuming we get that far.) That’s a pretty cool teacher development course.

Appropriate lesson behavior hasn’t come naturally for my child, he’s really had to be taught and trained to act respectful during the lesson. It was really hard in the beginning, and still is at times.

After a while, his teacher decided that she needed to give him a chance to “choose” to participate and learn. When he would start being silly, or refuse to participate, she would tell him,

“I’m going to practice until you are ready to learn. You can show me you’re ready by standing in play position on the foot chart, and saying ‘I’m ready.'”

At this point, she would start playing the twinkle variations until he would stand on his foot chart and say “I’m ready.”

This changed things for him. He was ‘choosing’ to learn. He was ‘choosing’ to invest himself in the lesson.

He’d quickly get into play position and state, “I’m ready.” And his teacher would praise him for getting ready to learn so quickly.

I’ve used this technique many times with my other students, and it usually works beautifully for me.

If you give this a try, or have tried it before, let me know how it worked for you in the comments!

The post Small Shifts: I’m Ready to Learn appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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Imposter Syndrome, or the belief that you are not qualified for your job despite evidence to the contrary, is a plague that affects almost everyone I know. I’ve heard about it from engineers, teachers, writers, business owners, and of course, music teachers. (And it probably doesn’t help that you’re told by everyone you know that you’ll never make any money.)

There are a few things I can rely upon to always get my imposter syndrome fired up; writing for this blog, advertising for students, performing for my peers, student recitals. All of a sudden I start doubting that I have any knowledge, skill, or reason to be in my job. I spent a long time trying to remind myself of any and all accomplishments to help me feel better but it never worked. A few years ago I realized why. I couldn’t talk myself out of doubting my qualifications because I didn’t have all the qualifications I wanted.

Yes, I’m going to occasionally doubt my ability to take a student from Twinkle to Mozart Concerto, because I’ve not done it yet. I’ve only been teaching Suzuki Violin for seven years and I’ve moved three times.

Yes, I’m going to doubt my ability to help other teachers because I’m still becoming the teacher I want to be.

Yes, I’m going to doubt my ability to perform flawlessly, because I’ve never performed flawlessly. I have more practicing to do.

I compare myself to other teachers around me and find myself lacking. Well good! I can see my faults clearly. I am grateful that I can see where I have room to grow. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons people feel like an imposter is because they overestimate how confident and prepared other people felt at the same stage. Everyone’s an imposter! You have to keep working, keep growing to become who you want to be.

Just like your students, you have to practice. Just like your students, your current skill level does not predetermine what you can achieve.

As I’ve worked on this, I’ve created a list of mantras that I rely on when I’m feeling beaten down by imposter syndrome.

I am a beginner.

I have years of experience and training, but in the long scheme of things I’m a baby teacher. Just like I want my students to grow in their ability, I need to give myself a chance to grow in my ability. It’s not fair to compare myself to teachers with decades of experience.

Success is not a scarce commodity.

There are lots of great teachers that live around me. That does not reduce my ability to be a great teacher. Being around other teachers may make me sometimes feel afraid that I’ll never get enough students, but living in a place with lots of great teachers inspires others in the community to start lessons. I choose to have an abundance mindset about getting students. Someone else’s success does not limit my own potential.

I am surrounded by people who want to help me.

Having a sister and friends who are also Suzuki teachers is priceless. I am so thankful that I have a support group who can advise when I have to write a difficult email to a parent or phrase a Google Ad. I have taken teacher training from amazing teacher trainers who have been encouraging and patient with my many questions. I have studio parents who keep me going with their kind words, and students who make my day with their silly jokes and excitement about music. I have a husband and two children who would still love me if I really do turn out to be a total imposter. Fear is lonely. Reminding myself of my people fills me with courage.

I can be the teacher my students need.

A few years ago I was pondering what kind of teacher I wanted to be. All of a sudden I was struck by the feeling that I wanted to be the teacher that loved the kids who were hard to love. And I really do feel that way. I love the surly teenagers. I love the five year old who has the attention span of a goldfish. I love the student whose progression is so slow, I may be the only one who notices. I love them all. This does not make me better than other teachers, but it does make me the right fit for certain students. I love the oddballs because I am one.

I have made a lot of progress in my belief in myself, but I have to remind myself often of what I have learned. My imposter syndrome isn’t going anywhere soon because there’s still a lot of room between where I am and where I want to be. I’m so glad I have big dreams. The uncomfortable feeling of failure is worth it.

What helps you when you’re feeling like an imposter? Please help me add to my list of mantras!

The post Dealing with Imposter Syndrome (For Suzuki Teachers) appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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This is part of a new series about subtle changes we have made that have made a big difference in our teaching.

Plucky Violin Teacher Small Shifts blog series. via pluckyviolinteacher.com

I used to think that the key to getting a child to change their behavior was to model it–to the extreme. A very wiggly, distracted kid needed me to be be calm and quiet. I would be so zen, we would both almost fall asleep. A bored, sleepy, no-more-energy-because-they’ve-been-at-school-all-day kid needed me to be exciting and stimulating. I would be so entertaining, I would overwhelm them.

When I read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, I realized why this wasn’t working. The authors emphasized the importance of validating a child’s emotions so they feel heard. If a child is crying and screaming, instead of responding “It’s okay! Don’t cry!” you need to try “Oh, that is so frustrating!” When an adult’s tone is vastly different from a child’s tone, the child can feel like they’re being ignored. They want to know you hear and understand them. (Of course this applies to communication with adults as well.)

If a kid is at either end of the spectrum, wiggly or sleepy, they usually have a reason for that. If their lesson is after school they are probably exhausted and so done with holding still. Who can blame them? I have realized they need to know I care about how they’re feeling. That doesn’t mean we have to have a big long conversation about it, I just need to reflect back what I see.

I think of this as Energy Matching Minus One. I try to match whatever kind of energy they are giving, and then subtract just a little bit. This guides their behavior the direction I would like it to go. A teacher can set the emotional thermostat for the lesson, but if it’s too far from what they felt before walking in, it’s going to shock their system. Sluggish students need a calm teacher, who is also excited about the lesson. Antsy and silly students need an enthusiastic teacher, who is a little more mellow.

Subtly changing how I react to a child who is off-the-walls or lethargic has made big changes in the level of connection I feel with them.

I would love to hear, what small changes have you made to manage behavior in your studio? Please share in the comments!

The post PVT Small Shifts Series: Energy Matching appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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Every discussion about a parenting book should probably start with a disclaimer:

This book works for me. It works for my kids. I do not know you. I do not know your kids. Consider it and use it or throw it in the garbage. Amen.

I first read Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross, over a year ago. It spoke to a lot of values and personality traits I already had, and has been really helpful to me. I think there are things in here that everyone should at least think about for their family. Nevertheless, if it’s not for you, don’t feel bad! End of disclaimer.

Rereading the book this month for the Plucky Violin Teacher Book Club, I found so many parts of this book that apply so well to practicing music with your child or teaching. Here are some of my favorite ideas.

Reduce the verbal clutter. Payne advocates reducing the number of words it takes you to ask your child to do something. This can be crucial in practicing or teaching. Your words can get in the way of the flow of progress. Moving from “Your wrist is touching the violin. That will hurt your hand. Let’s do it again,” to a gentle touch on the wrist and a slow exhale, makes a big difference.

Simplify the schedule. It may seem odd that a violin teacher is supportive of reducing the number of extra curriculars. After all, if everyone drastically reduced their after school activities, that could really affect my income! Still, I am never offended when a student quits because their family life has become too hurried and they need more time together. Children time to be bored at home to awaken their creativity. There can be a middle ground, where music is part of their daily routine but not taking over their life, and that is what I hope for my children and violin students.

Payne wrote, “What we want for our children, truly, is engagement. We want their love of the cello to grow, to evolve and endure throughout their lives, whether or not they perform…whether or not they are ever exceptional cellists.” Children who are pushed too hard, too early, quit sports, music, and other extracurriculars before becoming teenagers, when that level of social engagement and discipline is especially valuable.

Create a rhythm. Children of all ages feel more calm when there’s a rhythm to their weeks and days. Monday is family night. Tuesday is taco night. Wednesday is violin lesson, etc. Or, I always know that Mom and I will practice together after breakfast or my afterschool snack.

Payne writes, “For kids who are studying an instrument, after breakfast can be a good time to practice. If they don’t enjoy practicing, the chore is then finished first thing. Meanwhile, though, especially for kids who tend to be grumpy in the morning, playing music will usually balance their mood. It brings them right into the brain’s center of creativity, or limbic system. The islands of consistency and security that rhythm builds throughout the day are like breaths. Such intervals allow a child’s brain to maintain balance, and to flow through its willing, thinking, and feeling centers.”

My younger students especially seem to need a rhythm in their lesson; bow exercises, tone exercises, scales, review, new piece, improvisation or note reading.

Calm the environment. This is probably the most famous part of the book. Payne advocates reducing the number of books and toys by 75%, stating that children will play more deeply when there are less options. This has proven true in my house. There’s less dumping of toys, more actual play, and more calm, when I drastically reduced the number of toys. When our environment is more cluttered, my children act out more. Everything gets harder, including practicing.

Payne discusses how parents often feel like they need to entertain their children. If it’s not exciting, their children won’t stay engaged. The reverse is actually true. The less “fixed” a toy, the more children can use their imagination. (The superhero figurine who lights up and shouts catch phrases gets less play than the soft doll.) In the same vein, parents often get bored of music before their children do. Reviewing may not be exciting for parents, but a child can play “May Song” a hundred times and still enjoy it. The music doesn’t need to constantly be changing for a child to stay engaged.

Opportunity for Connection. One of my favorite anecdotes in the book is of a father and daughter who were having difficulty connecting every day. Payne suggested the Dad, Clark, assume responsibility for piano practice. Clark had hated practicing piano as a kid, and his daughter, Carla, hated it now. “There it was.” Payne writes, “A perfect opportunity for them to find their way in, and out, of the piano-playing knot together. And they did. They allowed repetition, quiet insistence, and some necessary silliness to carry them through the beginning until practicing became a pattern and playing piano became something Carla could do and be proud of. Until they had something, together.”

I want to frame that quote in my studio to remind my studio parents and myself what music lessons are all about. At their best, practicing is an opportunity to connect with your child. What could be better than that?

Have you read Simplicity Parenting? Which ideas have worked for you? Which parts did not work?

The post Plucky Violin Teacher Book Club Review: Simplicity Parenting appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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Whether we like it or not, Facebook is here to stay and it is a major player in the lives of our potential students and their parents. If you are a Suzuki teacher, I strongly suggest creating a business Facebook page for your studio.

Here are a few reasons why you may want to create a Facebook page for your Suzuki studio:

  • Increased Exposure. More than one billion people are active on Facebook. That’s a whole lot of people. Very few people are likely to see your flyer at the grocery store, but (with some effort, and targeted paid advertising) you can make sure your Suzuki studio is seen by thousands of people in your area.
  • Lower Marketing Costs. Printing flyers and business cards is expensive, and frankly, not terribly effective for building your studio. Ads in print, tv, or radio are pricey, and you can’t target them the way you can a Facebook ad. You can decide exactly who you want to see your Facebook ads: By location, age, interests, etc.
  • Data! You can use Facebook Insights to show you which of your posts or ads are getting a good response. The stats are easy to understand and interpret, which lets you know how to proceed in your marketing efforts. There’s really know good way of knowing whether your poster at the library brought you any actual students.

Creating a Studio Facebook page is really pretty simple, and doesn’t cost you a cent. I’ll walk you through the whole thing:

Just click the “Create” button in the upper right menu. Select “Business or Brand.”

Then add your information and photo. Pretty simple. You can use Canva.com to create a cover photo with the right dimensions.

Once you’ve created your Facebook page, what should you be posting? Information and inspiration relevant to your target market of potential (or your current) Suzuki parents. I think sharing a mixture of your own original content and other people’s helpful content (sharing my posts is always appreciated) is ideal. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • pictures and videos of you playing
  • information about your philosophy and background.
  • pictures and videos of your students playing (provided you have had your parents sign a photo release.)
  • pictures or videos of your teaching space.
  • quotes you find inspirational
  • information on local music performances or other local events
  • my personal favorite: celebrate your students’ accomplishments on your page (photo release dependent.)

Do you have a Studio Facebook page? Share the link in the comments, I’d love to follow you!

The post Why You Should Create a Facebook Page for Your Music Teaching Business appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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Shall we start this blog post with an embarrassing confession?

Okay, great, here it is:

Almost every time I finish practice with my adorable pre-Twinkler, I hide in my closet and eat chocolate for a few minutes. Between my daughter’s perfectionism and distractibility and my two year old literally throwing a basketball at us through the entire thing, every practice session is exhausting. Somehow, practicing half an hour with my kids is more exhausting than teaching for several hours. Before we have played a note I have shielded my daughter’s violin from oncoming toy missiles, fielded numerous requests for snacks and hugs, and pulled my son off the top of all our tallest furniture. It’s no surprise that I feel crazed by the end.

Obviously, I don’t handle practicing with younger sibling distractions perfectly, but through trial and error over the last several months, I have discovered a few things that help my family.

Pre-Practice Routine

Before we practice, we have 5-10 minutes of “Special Mama Playtime,” where I am completely focused on them. They take turns picking a short activity- dance party, read a book, draw a picture, play Go Fish, pretend to go to the dentist (my crazy children really love the dentist). Then I make sure everyone has had a diaper change/trip to the bathroom and a drink of water. Yes, our Pre-Practice Routine sometimes expands to take longer than practicing itself.

Helper

My son is very motivated by being a helper. He brings his sister her violin case and foot mat when it’s practice time. Sometimes in the middle of a practice session I will send him to get a puppet or ball that we can use while we practice (mostly to get him out of the way…) As he’s gotten older, he’s started helping me count repetitions. Often he gets involved by playing his cardboard violin on his own foot mat.

Special Toys

I have a few toys that I only pull out during practice in the hopes the novelty will keep him playing and not becoming a roaring hurricane through the house. He loves the opportunity to play with Magna-Tiles, markers, and other controlled substances.

Rewards

Because I am focusing on trying to get my daughter to practice with less tantrums, she gets a sticker for every time she practices without screaming at me. My son gets a sticker for everytime we practice without toys being thrown at our heads. When their practice chart is filled with stickers, we go to the store for a donut. Note: after six months, we finally got a donut today.

Embrace the Distraction

This is my primary practice method. It is very complicated. The steps are: ignoring my other child as much as I can. That may sound cruel, but I also think it’s important my daughter gets as much focused attention on her as I can manage. I make sure there are other times of the day my younger one gets all the attention he needs, and I know that in a few years he will get practice time with Mom, too. So, I snatch flying trains out of the air without making eye contact, move him to the other side of the room while singing “Tukka Tukka Stop Stop,” and occasionally turn the pages of a book with one hand, while helping my daughter place her fingers with the other hand.

Practicing with distractions means my daughter will be prepared to ignore all the crying babies, rustling papers, and coughing grandparents at her first recital. I hope she will be able to ignore it all, and just perform. And when we go home from that recital, I will hug and kiss both children for all the work they’ve put in, and go to my closet, and double fist chocolate chips. It’s probably going to be stressful to keep them quiet during a recital. Chocolate is my coping mechanism. Don’t judge me.

Let me know in the comments if you are also struggling with a distracting younger sibling in lessons, especially if you have any brilliant suggestions.

(Carrying his sister’s foot mat to lesson.)


The post Practicing with Interrupting Younger Siblings: The Unhelpful Helper appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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This is one of my favorite books about teaching and parenting, so I was excited to revisit it last month. As both a psychotherapist and experienced Suzuki teacher, Edmund Sprunger is uniquely prepared to address the obstacles Suzuki parents face when practicing with their child.

Helping Parents Practice is laid out in such a way as to be helpful whether you read it from front to back, just pick and choose the sections that apply to you, or as a daily “devotional” to keep your brain focused on what’s important. As a busy parent, I really appreciate how easy it is to jump in anywhere in the book and get the help I need.

Here are the concepts and quotes I think no Suzuki parent should miss.

“Practicing happens in a very close–often intense–relationship. When the emotional environment of this relationship gets either too hot or too cold, practicing gets more difficult, just as it would if the physical environment went to one extreme or the other. One way this upbeat book is here to help you is by acknowledging the darker, coarser side of the practicing relationship. This book understands that even though few things are more annoying than biting into a piece of dirty lettuce, lettuce actually grows in dirt. The dirt doesn’t make lettuce bad. Similarly, relationships often grow in conflict. The presence of conflict doesn’t necessarily indicate that the relationship is bad.”

Often, parents decide to leave my studio, and when I press for a reason, they tell me that the conflict they experience during practice must mean that violin isn’t a good fit for them. This is not the case! We will have conflict with our children regardless of whether we’re practicing an instrument with them or not, we may as well be investing our conflict time in something that will help us all grow and learn together.

“Always keep in mind that the goal of practice is to make things easier. When the goal of practice is to “fix things,” then a child’s performance tends to be limited to a hope that all the things you fixed stay fixed–not a set-up likely to give a child’s musical soul the freedom it needs to emerge. Practicing to “correct” things tend to have the effect of making children feel like they themselves are in need of correction for their very being, and they are more likely to be resistant during practice.”

I love to teach this concept, and another I find to be essential, to my students and parents by introducing a call and response routine in both private and group lessons. I ask, “What happens if we make a mistake?” and the children respond, “Nothing!” (I want to make it very clear that mistakes are not bad, and that they are a welcome part of our learning process.) Then I ask, “Why do we practice?” and the children and parents respond, “To make things easier!”

“It is the parents–the adults–who need to understand that merely pointing out corrections to a child doesn’t help the playing become fluent and expressive. But repeating things until they become easier and automatic–that’s the way to make playing grow. Adding easier to easier still requires work, but it’s more effective and pleasant than adding challenge to challenge, which ultimately can leave a child in knots.”

It’s our job to facilitate the repetition of manageable material so our children can grow.

“Things don’t get easier just for your child. The work that you, the parent, do during practice will also get easier over time, as you “practice practicing.”

The principle of practicing to make things easier applies to us parents, too! Thank goodness!

“If you want to communicate to your child that music is important, then by all means don’t tell him that. Instead, show him that by your actions.”

What can you do to show your child that music is important? Here are some things that we do in our family: attend concerts together, celebrate progress and consistency, practice daily, listen to our Suzuki recordings daily, listen to lots of music throughout the day, and I practice for myself, too.

“Just as a bow can only hold one arrow at a time, you’ll find that practices will be most productive if you remember that your child can only hold one thing to work on at any time. If you notice yourself wanting to give your child more than one thing to pay attention to, stop. Do some prioritizing. If you could choose only one of those things, what would it be? Ask your child to focus only on that one thing. This is not letting a child off easy. It’s asking the child to do appropriate work. Keep in mind that kids really do want to do a good job. When we give children too much to do we unknowingly and unintentionally sabotage them.”

This is essential for teachers too!

“When the parent–the most important person in a child’s life–stops barking instructions all the time, a child becomes less anxious because he no longer lives with the constant worry of coming up short in the eyes of the person who matters most to him.”

I really just adore this book, and it has been so helpful for me. As a parent who really has to work to stay positive and control my irritation, studying this book on a consistent basis makes a huge difference in my ability to make practice a positive experience for my son and for me.

Have you read Helping Parents Practice? What were your thoughts?

The post Helping Parents Practice: Plucky Violin Teacher Book Club Review appeared first on Plucky Violin Teacher.

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