Parent education and negative attitude about Suzuki method?

Barb said: Jul 25, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi folks,

I have just been teaching for three years. I am looking to get more commitment from parents. There are a few who are not really helping their children, and the learning suffers.

I gave my parents a letter in May explaining how I would be aligning my lessons a little more with the Suzuki philosophy. New parents bringing children for lessons will have parent education before their children begin lessons, and will be required to attend all lessons and take notes, and assist their children in all practices at home. Because that amount of involvement was not required when my current students started, I would only suggest they try the same. But I would require them to complete some reading, attend at least the last 10 minutes of their child’s lesson, and assist with practice at home. Many of my parents are doing the latter two or more, anyway. I assured them that though I am always working to improve my teaching, not to expect a big difference in my teaching. (I do not have Suzuki training yet, but took Suzuki violin lessons before I switched instruments, and have done extensive Suzuki reading.)

Unfortunately, there are some negative attitudes about Suzuki out there. One parent brought up her less than positive experience with a Suzuki teacher, whereas she had been so happy with me. And a few are grumbling about time to do reading, without even asking me how much it would be.

Have any of the rest of you had this experience of a negative attitude about Suzuki method/philosophy, especially if you’ve added more of a Suzuki element to your teaching than you started out with?

I was thinking that the reading would help to combat the misconceptions that are out there about Suzuki, as well as give them some solid help for their role as parents in the triangle.

The reading I would like my current parents to complete before next fall includes two chapters of To Learn With Love, one section of Helping Parents Practice, and Ability Development from Age Zero. I asked them to jot down three things they think might be helpful from each book, and if there was anything they disagreed with I’d be interested to know that, too. I did not think that would be too much for three months, but some are really dragging their heels, and I don’t think many will actually finish before September. They are not coming to lessons in July and August, so it isn’t additional time required. During the school year I thought I could assign an online article or video, or a chapter or two of a book once every month or two. Do you think that is too much?

I gave my parents access to Parents as Partners online videos last winter, and was disappointed in the lack of interest by most of them, who said they just didn’t have time.

How much/what kind of parent education do you do?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Betty Douglas said: Jul 25, 2011
 16 posts

I appreciate your frustration, Barb. I think parents are as overbooked as their children and find it hard to commit to more activities. I, too had trouble getting parents involved- I even paid for Parents as Partners as a studio. I found I had to have them watch it during group class one week just so that they would see something. I think it is daunting for them to pile on new requirements. Instead, try to sneak some things in- have a pertinent article on a spare stand near where parents sit in lessons (since I gather you are teaching more traditional lessons, parents can divide attention a little more easily than in Suzuki lessons). One or two pages is short enough to read in a lesson. Have a wine and cheese party (or ice cream party, etc ) twice per year and discuss a chapter / section of a book. You could try having a current book every couple of months—display it on a stand and reference it often. Include a quote from a book as your email signature (properly cite it, of course). These sprinklings might stir interest and inspire further reading.
I would also urge you to take Suzuki training ASAP so that you can gain a more thorough understanding of the method and its application. I wonder what you are taking and leaving from the approach- are you teaching by listening or do your students read? Do your students start young and therefore depend on parental guidance? You mention the Suzuki Triangle, but it is part of an entire quilt. While the triangle might helpfully inform a more traditional approach, I think piecemeal approaches can leave a misconception of what the Method is.
Thank you for considering my ideas and good luck with your studio.-BD

Betty Douglas, flute teacher

Barb said: Jul 26, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Betty,

Thanks for your ideas.

I have been having articles and books out where the parents sometimes sit for three years now, and have also featured books on my website and it hasn’t stirred much interest in further reading yet. I am now finally going to try to get more parents to be more involved in lessons, but I could give them the option of using the lesson time to read sometimes.

I have been watching for Suzuki training, as I definitely want to take it, but it is hard to come by in my area. The closest institute does not offer teacher training, and the next closest only one class per year, it seems—I don’t know if they will ever offer cello. I can’t see buying a plane ticket or driving for two or three days for the one day Every Child Can class, though I may have to for cello training. I really wish they might offer the ECC course via the internet (webinar or something?). I do have someone else’s notes from their cello book 1 class, and have read all the Suzuki literature I am aware of, which has been very helpful, in the mean time. And I won’t call myself a Suzuki teacher without the proper training, so I hope that doesn’t worry anyone. :-)

I definitely have been leaving some Suzuki elements out to this point, and it is in trying to bring them in that I am getting some resistance. Interestingly, it’s not from the ones I thought it would be from. I was prepared to have one or maybe two families walk, but so far they are on board.

Thanks again.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 26, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

If you can afford it—or if you can MAKE yourself afford it—going to a large well established Suzuki Institute during the summer to take both ECC and Book 1 teacher training from a good teacher trainer is DEFINITELY worth buying a plane ticket, and paying for the week and a half room and board—

Make it a priority. I know, I know—I didn’t bother to start buying plane tickets and re-arranging my schedule to go all over the country for this until after I had taken my Book 1 training nearby, and it’s hard to do this when you’re not sure if it’s worth it. It is—especially if you’re already considering adding more Suzuki-style ideas to your studio.

Sue Hunt said: Jul 26, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

You can always combine ECC with Book 1. I did this at the American Suzuki Institute at Stevens Point. It was a very enriching experience and I heartily recommend it. If you don’t want to fly with a cello, you can always rent from one of the luthiers at the institute. Do give it a go.

Barb said: Jul 26, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks for the encouragement. I thought the ECC course had to be completed before applying for the book 1 course. The other difficulty is that, understandably, cello doesn’t seem to be offered as frequently as some other instruments.

A related article to my post is here https://suzukiassociation.org/news/ask-experts-14-parental-involvement/ “If a pattern of minimal involvement gets started, it is very difficult to change.” So perhaps a new teacher may learn from my mistakes! :-)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Rachel Schott said: Jul 26, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Welcome aboard!

Firstly, changing the way you work with the parents you already have is definitely tricky. It will get easier and easier for you as you add new families. Please hang in there. And keep posting questions—it takes a village to raise a Suzuki Teacher. :)

Secondly, I absolutely hear what you are saying about the difficulty of taking training even though you’re completely convinced about it’s worthiness. What area of the country are you in? I could recommend some established teachers in your area (some of the very best, most experienced teachers are not trainers) for you to observe in their home studio. Perhaps you could then arrange to take them for dinner for some uninterrupted chat time.

No, the training would not be registered with the SAA but it could really get you off in the right direction.

Jennifer said: Jul 26, 2011
Jennifer Louie
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Tuscaloosa, AL
9 posts

Teacher training-Definitely worth it! I am in the process of taking Book 2 next week in Indiana. I loved seeing my certificate as well as my transcripts from ECC and Book 1.
-Without teacher training, it would be difficult to implement changes and to understand the philosophy. Having teacher training can open doors for other teaching positions as some music schools may require completion of the books before offering a job.
-I am going through some changes as well. The university raised my fees as a result of my training and I am requiring orientation before students can sign up, but in the end, I will attract great students. I agree, it will become easier over time and word of mouth.

Best,

Jennifer

Jennifer Louie

Barb said: Jul 26, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Rachel, Not what part of the country, what country! :-) I’m in BC, Canada. I was going to try to observe at the Valhalla Institute in New Denver this summer, but I can’t get away at that time this year for the entire week. Even a few days is still up in the air.

I will definitely still hang out here—I have already learned a lot from everyone here!

Thanks for the suggestions.

Jennifer, thanks for your encouragement, too. I’m not too concerned about the training helping me to get a job, though, as my part time home studio is plenty for me. I didn’t set out to teach cello, but after saying no for many years, once my own children graduated from our home school into high school, I finally decided I did now have the time. As there was a distinct lack of cello teachers I have not had any trouble getting students, in spite of my lack of training. I am very up front with that, too. I do believe the training would help me to be a better teacher, though, that is my goal.

Again, thanks, everyone!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Rachel Schott said: Jul 27, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Barb—Rob Richardson is a great Suzuki violin teacher at Brandon University, Manitoba (I know that’s still very, very far from you). Though I’m sure the travel expense would be significant, perhaps the lack of tuition and the being-able-to-choose-your-own-observation time would offset it. You might not get any cello-technique, but I’m sure Rob would have lots to offer on the parental and philosophy side of things.

This highlights an interesting question for the SAA. How do we support new teachers and build friendships when the normal teacher-training route is impractical, or at least, not ideal? (i.e., when a teacher doesn’t need the certification to attract students, or desires a different mentoring experience?) Think I’ll start a thread on this one…

Irene said: Jul 27, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Barb2,

just want to tell you that , I feel your students are blessed to have a teacher like you.

Sue Hunt said: Jul 28, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Barb2,
Do hang on in there. I find that the bigger sacrifices I have to make, the more seriously I take the instruction. I had to come to the States for training because I couldn’t find any viola training here in the UK at the time. It was a huge financial commitment, but totally worth it.

This was many years ago and I was so enchanted with the whole experience and learnt so much, that I’ve returned almost every year since for my annual “shot in the arm” at Stevens Point.

Jane Kutscher Reed said: Jul 28, 2011
Jane Kutscher ReedTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
4 posts

Hi Barb,
Congratulations on your efforts to improve your studio by increasing parenting education. The success of the early students is more dependent on the attitudes and actions of the parents than any gifts with which the child may be born. Unfortunately, most parents are not aware of they way they shape their child’s musical destiny.

You may wish to organize a parenting workshop and bring in a master teacher to conduct it. Someone who does not work directly with the parents each week can honestly present the philosophy and applications without worries about coming across too strong or offending. The presenter would speak from years of actual experience and present ideas in which she truly believes because they brought success to her students. I am a Suzuki piano teacher trainer, and many of the teachers I have trained found it easier to bring me in as a speaker. Perhaps there is an experienced teacher near you who you might hire to conduct the workshop.

I would also heartily urge you to take the ECC class and Suzuki teacher training. The ECC class has no pre-requisites. After taking teacher training you will be so convinced of the effectiveness of the method that it will readily become apparent to the parents of your students. You, your students, and parents will all feel more confident and capable.

Barb said: Jul 28, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Rachel, thank you. I usually visit family in the Bellingham, WA area a few times a year. Let me know if you know anyone there!

Irene, thank you for the compliment.

Sue, thank you for further encouragement.

Jane, bringing in a speaker is an excellent idea. It was the same thinking (”honestly present the philosophy and applications without worries about coming across too strong or offending” and “speak from years of actual experience and present ideas in which she truly believes because they brought success to her students”) which I thought could be accomplished with some reading. I was thinking the parents would be more open to reading on their own time than fitting a meeting into their schedules, but maybe not.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Cynthia Faisst said: Aug 6, 2011
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

It is possible that as Suzuki Teachers we are so busy thinking about all of the inputs needed for making learning exciting for our students that it is very easy as movement to leave parents in the dust. By that I mean, their children are engaged in a much more media savvy, plugged in and animated world and as teachers we have our hands full just adapting to that.

By the same token our parents are also younger and younger are more diverse in their learning styles. Some are still the studious readers which we attracted to the movement initially, I would call the do it by the book people. Then there are parents who love to learn things socially by going to events and workshops and seminars. Some adults won’t read a book but if you make it accessible in audio form, for their car stereo or ipod they might listen and glean some ideas they hadn’t thought of before during a commute. Other parents might be more willing to watch short imaginative animations to learn a new concept each week. The lecture halls of the past will not do it. Even their online experience is becoming much more fluid than email and forums like this. As you can see from the rise in news show parodies they are more engaged if you can keep them laughing while they are learning about serious topics.

Teaching in Orange County I have parents coming into my studio with some extraordinary technology which fits into their phones. I am blown away by the tiny video gadgets they are recording lessons with. They are watching their news and getting their educational upgrades for work on streaming media forms. It is challenging me to become more adroit and creative with the ways I will use online software and social media.

I think as teachers we really need to keep an eye on this trend and upgrade some of our adult education methods and publications. If we are going to become successful at exposing a wider and more diverse population of parents to Dr. Suzuki’s educational ideas we will need to expand thoughtfully and creatively on the many kinds of inputs which modern parents are using to cope with their busy lives and overwhelmed attention spans.

We need to start asking our publishers to adapt the wisdom we have been recommending in hard copy and get it into relevant forms of electronic media to keep it accessible. This is not always a easy as simply moving the publisher file from one place to another. If we do it right we can convince parents that they can get the skills they need to get nose to nose with their children at home for successful musical parenting.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Barb said: Aug 6, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Good points, Ms Cynthia!

I noticed that Jeanne Luedtke has some of her material on CD… http://www.parentnewsletter.com/

And is the Nurtured by Love DVD pretty much the same content as the book? Any reviews for it?

I see that Parents as Partners 2006 is on DVD. Will other years also be made available? I couldn’t get most of my parents interested in watching them last February, and some only had time to watch a few. I absolutely loved them—felt as if I’d been to a conference, but I did have to make time for them. I don’t know if it would make a difference to be able to have videos available for a longer period of time. I try to get my students to watch one You Tube video a week on my site, but some are more compliant than others.

Good idea to set up Parents as Partners for parents during a group lesson as suggested.

I’ve also tried engaging parents and older students with Facebook and a blog, but not much luck on either.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Rachel Schott said: Aug 7, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Hmmm…I don’t know anyone in the Washington State area but have asked a friend and will get back to you if I hear anything.

As for the Nurtured by Love DVD I’ve probably seen it fifty times and it gives me chills everytime. In my opinion it’s way more user friendly than the book (which, don’t get me wrong, I love).

Alison Fujito said: Aug 10, 2011
 6 posts

Barb, for what it’s worth, I have been a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony for 24 years, and I can’t even begin to describe how helpful taking Suzuki teacher training has been for me, both for teaching and for the concepts I can apply to my own playing!

I really don’t think you would regret buying a plane ticket for teacher training.

Like someone said, you can do ECC and book 1 together.

The principal cellist (a wonderful player!) of the opera orchestra here has been taking Suzuki teacher training for the last few years, and has also had extremely positive experiences.

Bellingham isn’t far from Seattle—does the Japan/Seattle Suzuki Institute offer teacher training for cellists? https://suzukiassociation.org/events/loc/japan-seattle-suzuki-institute/

Alison Fujito said: Aug 10, 2011
 6 posts

I also wanted to suggest that parents might react more positively with a gentler kind of transition. Rather than requiring parents to change their entire part of the “triangle” all at once, maybe you can gradually institute changes one at a time? Perhaps you can host a parent coffee at a time when the children are in school, and you can talk about some of these new-to-them concepts, and show them videos and give handouts, and explain why and how it would benefit THEIR children.

You would also need to combat the idea that Suzuki kids don’t learn to read music. You can explain to them that, in Japan, the children learn to read music as part of the general academic curriculum in school, and that Dr. Suzuki tended to start children very young, between the ages of 3 and 5, at which point most of them can’t read their own language anyway. By the time they were ready to learn note-reading, they were learning it anyway in school, along with language reading.

You would then need to explain that US Suzuki teachers are now trained to eventually use supplementary note-reading books, as the US public schools don’t teach note-reading.

And this is the sort of thing you will learn more about in Suzuki Teacher Training!

Deanna said: Aug 11, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

Hi Barb2,
Last fall I took a big step for parent education in my studio and made the whole first week of lessons for parents only. I have always taught the Suzuki method and philosophy and had a (free) meeting for new parents but as a new teacher it seemed that though I asked all the parents to read Nurtured by Love and gave them other articles and resources, like you, it seemed few actually did what I asked.
So last year I made the first week of lessons a series of 2 hour parent meetings. I held about 7-8 over the course of the week at different times of day coinciding mostly with my teaching schedule. The parents just signed up for one of the meetings and (since they were paying for a lesson) I had excellent attendance. Only 2 out of 41 didn’t come. Those meetings made a huge impact on my studio this past year. It has felt like the parents know where I’m coming from and why I’m asking them to do certain things. I’m hosting the parent week again this year and I’m looking forward to getting the parents inspired again! Instead of feeling like I always had to prove the worth of doing something, most of the parents are now on board.
Last year, after a brief introduction, I showed the Nurtured by Love video—a great way to get the background of the method across to those who find reading torturous! The second hour I talked about the importance of listening, daily practice, taking notes during the lessons—and how to use them during practice, and why we are doing this—to teach our kids to be great people. I also went over my studio policies and got everyone to sign them. There was also a time for discussion about the video or any of the other things I had talked about.
It took a lot of guts for me to do the whole week like that but it ultimately proved very worthwhile.
In one of the Parents as Partners videos this past winter one of the presenter’s talked about being so frustrated with a family that wasn’t participating in studio activities the way the teacher had hoped and after a confrontation when the teacher told the parent exactly what she expected the parent said: “That isn’t what I signed up for.” That has stuck with me and I want to make sure parents know what they’re signing up for. It makes communication so much easier and everything less frustrating when parent and teacher are working together rather than fighting (even subconciously) about how and what things should be done.
Good luck with your parent education! I hope you find a way that will work with your studio!

A side note about training—being also in Canada I appreciate how it’s difficult to access. One way to offset some cost is to stay with family/friends, camp, or stay in a university dormitory. You could also try contacting a Suzuki teacher in the city where the training is and see if they would be willing to billet you. Just an idea. Doing the training is soooo worth it. You’ll get so many ideas and reconnect with the Suzuki community—which is very valuable when you’re an isloated teacher.

Deanna said: Aug 11, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

One more thing—I also talked about the importance of group lessons and explained my change in policy that only those who attend group lessons get to perform in the group portions of recitals. Again—much better attendance at group lessons this year! Being tough is scary but it does get results!

Barb said: Aug 11, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thank you, Rachel, I’ll add the DVD to my shopping list.

Alison, thank you, too. I have been watching Seattle, too—I don’t know if they ever offer cello. Although its only a few hours from Bellingham, I couldn’t fit a week long course into our usual trips. I was thinking I might be able to just observe a teacher in the B’ham area while there. The course would have to be an additional trip without the family. Keeping my eyes open. I certainly don’t doubt the benefits of the training.

Most of my students are home schooled, so having a coffee hour “when the kids are in school” wouldn’t really work. :-) Good thought, though.

dbmus, I have considered taking the students’ lesson time for parent education. Thank you so much for sharing how you have done it. And the policy for group lessons sounds like a good one! I won’t be requiring my current students to attend all of them (since they didn’t sign up for that! and I don’t want to make so many new requirements for them), but perhaps any new students. I also remember that Parents as Partners video and agree that clear communication and expectations is important. One of my new teacher mistakes was assuming that my parents would know that they needed to help their children practice, and have a pretty good idea how to, since they all had previous music lesson background.

Anyway, most of the five parents (the other 1/2 of my studio is adults to whom this doesn’t apply) are on board with the reading and everything so far. It was two who complained about not having the time to read and just one who really had an immediate negative reaction to “Suzuki”, and started talking about their experience with another teacher and bringing up things such as the not learning to read (how did you guess, Alison?) even though her student already reads music, and spending a year learning Twinkle and nothing else, though her student is beyond that. I have assured her that learning to read music is part of Suzuki, too, as you explained above, Alison, and that other Suzuki teachers do supplement the main Suzuki books with other music, and I don’t plan to stop doing that, either. The funny thing is that I’ve been using a Suzuki-like approach (without calling it such) all along, and she’s been very happy. Interesting, too, that the misconceptions are held by one who has already worked with a Suzuki (?) teacher. She is one of the parents who is already supporting her student, so I am not looking for any big changes in this instance just trying to keep her from worrying, now, or spreading her misconceptions to the other parents.

Thanks again, all. Your support and ideas on this forum have been very valuable. :-)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Alison Fujito said: Aug 11, 2011
 6 posts

dbmus, that’s absolutely brilliant! I plan to copy your idea when I start a full studio! I will also pass your ideas along, if you don’t mind!

Alison Fujito said: Aug 11, 2011
 6 posts

Barb2, I am constantly dealing with colleagues who think that Suzuki kids are little play-by-rote robots who can’t read music and will never ever ever ever ever learn to read music.

It’s awfully frustrating, isn’t it?

I do understand where they are coming from. At one point, I “inherited” a couple of students who said they came from a Suzuki teacher. I have no idea if that teacher was registered Suzuki, or just taught “Suzuki-style.” At any rate, not only could they not read a single note of music, they also had a color-coding system marked into their music, and all they looked at was fingerings and colors.

I think it may have been Barbara Barbers finger pattern/color chart, which is in itself a very good idea, but these kids were relying solely on colors and fingerings, and teaching them to actually read notes was (temporarily) a nightmare, because they were trying to translate dots on the staff to colors, and THEN translate colors to finger numbers, and THEN translate finger numbers to names of notes—way too many steps!

Undoing that kind of learning requires an awful lot of patience—something that the anti-Suzuki crowd seems to be lacking…

I guess ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call your teaching approach, as long as you are getting the kind of results you want.

Anyway, lots of great suggestions from Rachel—time for me to buy the DVD, too!

Paula Bird said: Aug 19, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

You might try doing a monthly newsletter. It does not have to be very long. Maybe a little calendar section to remind parents about upcoming group classes or recitals. I used to include “concert opportunities.” I would do one longer article and then a smaller one about a review point or idea for parents to try that month. For example, I might focus on one song in book 1, and I would present review ideas for students depending on their level of advancement. You could start including your parent education information as one of your longer articles.

I found that my parents might not read a book, but they often read these newsletters in my studio while they were waiting for their child’s lesson to start.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Barb said: Aug 20, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

“they often read these newsletters in my studio while they were waiting for their child’s lesson to start.”

But the ones who most need the reading are the ones who are always late! :-)

Otherwise, very good idea on the newsletter. I have tried a blog and short articles on my MTH website “Studio News” column and those don’t get read by many. But maybe now that most of them are understanding that they need to take a more active part they will find these things helpful, or I might need to print it out so they can actually have it in their hands.

Thanks again for your ideas!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Paula Bird said: Aug 20, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Well, Barb, you’ve finally come to the crux of the matter. The parents who need the education are the ones who are not behaving optimally as good parents in the studio, because they need the education!

I too noticed this same issue in my studio in past years. For this reason, I created my parent education course. Now it is required that a student’s parent attend my parent course before we ever begin lessons! I have structured my course into six segments, and each segment might take 1.5-2 hours of discussion one-on-one with the parent. During this time, I learn a great deal about the parent and whether and what problems will arise based on what I learn about the parent and his or her child during the parent course sessions.

I cannot change the past. I instituted my parent course requirement beginning with new students. I invited other parents in the studio to attend if they liked, and I did not charge them if they did attend. New parents paid me for my time in giving the course (about 10 hours), and this also defrayed the cost of the six workbook materials I handed out. And gradually over time, I noticed that parents who did not take the course gradually dropped out of the studio over time, or “fell out” in some cases because they stubbornly refused to embrace the spirit of the program. I did not worry about it too much, because they generally were not my best parents or students anyway. That was my fault for not starting them out the right way with the necessary information. I take the blame for that.

Now, things work as they should. If a parent is not willing to do the necessary preparation before lessons, i.e., the parent course, then they do not join the studio and I do not beat my head against a wall for a year or two. A lot less stress this way, in my opinion.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Barb said: Aug 21, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Paula, you are spot-on, and this is exactly why my new parents will also have parent education before lessons begin. The beating the head against the wall is getting old, but I, too, have learned from my mistake. Thanks again for sharing how you do things. I’m curious how things will go this year with my existing families. I don’t expect miracles, but hope for improvement!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Lisa said: Oct 18, 2012
Lisa Toner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Seattle, WA
4 posts

Private message sent! (It included names/details of great Bellingham/Seattle teachers you could observe, so I thought I’d send it as a message.)

Barb said: Oct 18, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Lisa. Observing is always good—I’ll reply privately.

As an update, I was able to take ECC and bk 1 last summer by finding another new teacher to carpool with and driving for two days to get to Idaho, staying with my sister overnight along the way there and back.

After all the reading (and hanging out here) I’m not sure if I actually learned anything new at ECC, but it was good review I suppose (and Donna Lim is fun). And I did glean some new ideas in the book 1 course, and get some reassurance on my teaching.

Unfortunately I don’t have any new kids yet! One lined up for next year—and his mom is one of the few people I’ve talked to here who responded very positively on hearing the word “Suzuki”! She had a positive experience in another town with her older children. Looking forward to working with her and her son.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

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