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Be Willing to Listen and Change

It’s an interesting irony that in the process of teaching a student how to expand their mind with music a teacher can, in fact, become close-minded. A teacher is expected to have the answers. But in order to be this authority figure, the teacher must be firm in why they teach things a certain way. “This is what you should do and this is why you do it.”

This firmness of opinion is not necessarily a bad thing. Students need that sense of structure to help them move forward. When working with young children, the parents need the reassurance from the teacher that they are making the right decisions.

By constantly being an authority it is easy to forget that you may not actually have all the answers. Equally important is a willingness to listen and change. You may know how to teach the violin but the parent may know their child better than you.

In order for learning to take place there has to be a meeting in the middle ground somewhere. The job of the teacher is not to superimpose their knowledge onto someone else. True learning is a give and take experience.


  1. The parent may know the child better... and also the child may know themselves better! I am in a distinct minority on this one, I know, but I always let my students tell me what they want to work on in their lessons. (I control how we approach each piece and how long we spend on it, however, and they do not get to tell me when they are ready to go on to a new piece, either.) I am also happy to arrange their favorite songs for them to play. Having this control over their experience seems to make a big difference over my more dictatorial approach early on in my teaching career.

    1. So how do you start a typical lesson? Do you ask them what they want to do? Do you work on a single piece over the course of several lessons?

    2. We do the typical chat while they come in and get their instrument out, and as they are finishing up (tightening bow, getting out music) I ask what they want to work on. I use my judgement about when they are feeling "done" with that piece for the day and then ask what they want to play next. With younger kids, if we've been working on a piece for awhile and there are still more things I'd like to address but I get the sense they're "done," then I ask whether they'd rather keep working or switch pieces, just as I would ask an adult. Only if they say they want a new piece do I say, "well, let's check in on x, y, and z pieces first to see if you are ready to take on something new."

    3. I kinda do the same thing in that I watch for burn out. Do I need to go "out" rather than "up." With all my students though I do emphasize the idea of technique. I tell them that before we can move on I'm looking for mastery of that piece's technique. Otherwise young students would want to move on as soon as they get frustrated or bored lol.

  2. This is such a great topic - especially for the Suzuki community. There's a certain curriculum kids are required to follow (that's been in place for decades at this point) and it's rare to go outside the lines. On top of that, you have teachers who teach the method very strictly and others who teach it a little more loosely. Each kind of teacher has their issues with the other.

    The middle ground you talk about is hard to achieve in this kind of method sometimes, but I think it's possible. I've tried it, and it's a real struggle sometimes, but I don't think that means we should alienate the idea to find that middle ground. I think as new generations come to teach the method, it's going to be important to keep talking about how the Suzuki method can maintain it's mission while keeping up with the way children, adults, and our philosophies are changing with it.

    Great points you're bringing up, Danielle :) I could talk about this one topic for weeks!

    1. Thanks! =) And you're welcome to discuss as long as you like. This is a subject I also find interesting and I always make a point to reply to blog comments.

      I went to the SAA conference earlier this year (which was fantastic, btw) and something that I found interesting was the fact that almost everyone currently in charge of the Suzuki Method are those that got trained with Dr. Suzuki himself. So when presented with a teaching scenario it's approached with them recounting some memory they had of Dr. Suzuki doing this or that.

      Which is not bad. I mean I wouldn't be a Suzuki teacher if I didn't admire the man. But you know what? He died when I was in 7th grade. I never got a chance to get trained with him and there's a growing population of teachers that are in the same boat. So I do believe that if we are to advance as a worldwide method to teaching we're going to have to start thinking about what WE believe as a whole rather than what Dr. Suzuki said word for word.

    2. Exactly. And I really like hearing how he approached teaching kids. My Nurtured by Love copy is practically highlighted to pieces - his quotes and ideas are really interesting to read about (that stuff was truly revolutionary for the 70s - and even now still). But there are some scenarios to solve between teachers, parents, and students that can't be answered with Dr. Suzuki's advice.

      And there's so much that's entangled in - teaching methods, practicing methods, and teacher training courses. Not to mention who's chosen to lead the boards, institutes, and camps. What kinds of teachers will lead the movement? What kinds of teaching approaches will be more accepted? Will differing opinions from the first generation of Suzuki students be welcomed? Will there be a divide between them?

    3. I don't actually think it's so much the teaching methods itself. Sure, there are a million and one approaches to teaching a child "the Suzuki way." But everyone seems pretty ok with just letting each teacher do their thing. The results speak for themselves.

      What I think will be the problem will be deciding who's in charge. Right now there's a kind of natural hierarchy. There was Dr. Suzuki and then right after that there are those trained personally by Dr. Suzuki. So once that generation begins to retire who has status? Who's to say "Oh, THIS is what Dr. Suzuki would have wanted"?


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