Skip to main content

Deliberate Participation

Over my years of Suzuki Method teaching, parent participation is a subject that comes up quite a bit.  The teacher, parent and student are the three parts of the triangle.  Each must work with each other in order to achieve the greater goal and each part is equally important.

Ideally, both parents should be at every lesson.  The teacher only gets to see the student once a week so the parents must become the at-home teachers for the other six days.  Unfortunately, it is not always possible to have both parents at every lesson.  Work or the other siblings create time constraints.  So it is suggested that one parent, preferably the same parent, attends every lesson.

Having one parent attend every lesson and then work with the child at home usually works out well.  But, inevitably, the other parent begins to feel left out which leads to what I call "random participation."  Random participation can easily become a bone of contention if left unchecked.

Before I go on, I feel it's necessary to explain that I don't view the non-participating parent in a bad light (quite the opposite, since usually it's supporting their family at work that makes them unable to participate).  The feeling of exclusion is also a completely natural emotion.  It stems from the frustration of wanting to be there for the child as they reach various musical milestones.

"Random" participation means that the non-participating parent suddenly decides to take the child to a lesson or to work with the student at home for a few practice sessions.  Sometimes this is not a problem.  The parent attends the lesson, enjoys watching, takes a few notes and then leaves.

But random participation can cause problems, especially for younger students.  To start, the parent has not been "trained" (as in they don't know what to look for when watching the lesson).  The bigger problem, however, is that issues will be taken out of context.  The parent may ask the student, "Why was that note out of tune?"  The note may have been out of tune but the teacher may have been spending several months working on intonation with the student.  So, yes, the note was incorrect but the student was playing on the whole better than they were months ago.  Progress has been made but impossible to recognize if only watching one lesson.

It is discouraging for the student to hear that type of critique after months of hard work.  It can also create unnecessary upheaval at home.  The non-participating parent reports back to the regularly attending parent that the student was playing wrong notes, failing to realize if it was poor intonation or if it was really just a difficult passage of music.  In a nutshell: things get lost in translation.

Therefore, it is crucial to discuss with the student's teacher how to be more involved in a child's musical education.  Be deliberate, not random.  Is there a teaching book both parents could read and discuss together?  What are some fun practicing games the non-participating parent could do with the student at home?  That way the time spent with the student is both positive and productive.

Raising a young music student is no easy task.  There will always be ups and downs in the learning process but what's important is that everyone is on the same page.  That way no one is excluded and current progress can continue as usual.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Principles of Sowing and Reaping for the Suzuki Parent: 5 Steps to Beginning Suzuki Success by Preparing the Soil

Last school year, I started a group of 4-5 year old students in a pre-twinkle cello class. One mother actively ignited her daughter Ella’s interest in the cello before enrolling in the program. Over the course of a few months, she helped Ella prepare to engage in a new learning process. They observed lessons, listened to cello music, talked about the cello, and actively built Ella’s excitement - all before starting lessons.

This experience allowed me to see how much a parent can cultivate their child’s interest, motivation, and readiness. It gave me a new appreciation for the parents’ role in preparing young children for a positive Suzuki experience.

Here are five ways to prepare the soil to help your child succeed in a Suzuki experience.


1. Build Your Knowledge

Parents are integral to the success of the Suzuki process. If you start a young child in a Suzuki program, your role as a parent will be very active. Your knowledge and education about the Suzuki method and philosophy helps y…

The Private Teaching Business Model

Over my years of teaching I've come across a wide variety of interpretations about the private teaching business model.  I feel that this is a natural result of the type of society we live in.  Many services these days are either "subscriptions" or "appointments."  For example, a gym membership is a subscription.  You pay a monthly fee to use the facility at any time during their hours of operation.  A doctor's visit or a haircut is an "appointment."  You call ahead to set up a time, you show up and then pay after the services have concluded.

With most services falling into one of these two categories, most people try to rationalize music lessons as one or the other.  However, music lessons are neither subscriptions or appointments.  They are actually a combination of both if the business entity is going to be successful.

The reasons why this hybrid business model occurs are:

1)  The service itself is centered around personal attention (appointmen…

Martial Arts and Music

I remember a few years ago I was having a conversation with one of my adult students about martial arts and music.  I always looked forward to my conversations with this student because she happened to be a fabulous Montessori teacher and founded what ended up being one of the biggest Montessori schools here in San Diego.  So she was this wealth of knowledge and it was such a privilege for me to be able to "pick her brain" from time to time.

Going back to the conversation, she observed that music and martial arts work really well together because they both required the same type of focus.  I have practiced martial arts for almost ten years so this is an opinion I have had for a long time but it surprised me to hear it coming from someone else.

Both music and martial arts revolve around the idea of a focused body and mind.  Teaching an extremely young student how to keep their instrument in place for one Twinkle is more mental training rather than physical.  Holding a light …