what do you do besides teach and perform?

Patricia said: Jul 29, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

A few years ago—one of the great Teacher Trainers told a class I was taking—the best thing an adult can do to understand the teaching process is to learn something completely new to them. I love Dr. Starr—so I have tried many “new” things which I think really has helped me to become a child at heart again. BUT, I am not sure any of the things has really helped me become a better teacher until 3 years ago when I rescued a dog from Tenn.
I adopted him without ever meeting him. All I was told was that he was going to be put down—so I adopted him forever. When he was finally transported to me—I found out I was ill prepared to handle him. He was an extremely fearful dog—who in dog trainers terms suffers from “Global Fear”.
I have spent many, many hours now in classes, playgroups, private lessons and consulting with Dr. Nicholas Dodman at Tufts Vet School to get help for my beloved Nicolo Amati…. (My dog, not my violin).
But, what I have learned in becoming a great dog parent and trainer is everything that helps with learning to teach the violin……
1.) you must teach the student (dog) you have right in front of you.
2.) you must always work on changing a bad habit into a good one without force. (especially if your dog is fearful…. force creates more fear not less). You do not want to just extinguish a bad habit—you have to make it into a good one!
3.) To be successful—you must have an aura of positive energy flowing from you… your dogs can sense when someone is upset or angry—that is how they train police dogs to sniff out criminals. Children can sense when someone is happy and they want to be with that person too…. and will listen to that person more.
4.) You have no control over a behavior after it has been initiated….. now, this one seems odd… but think about it—for a dog—it means the second they are deciding if they will stay or try and flee from a fearful situation….. for a violin student it means the second their bow thumb starts to twitter is the only time they can change it to not fall down—if you are 3 seconds late—the thumb has fallen and is probably stuck in a bad position……

So, my latest plaything at school is the knowledge I have gained from the experts of dog training …. Dr. Ian Dunbar and Dr. Patricia McConnell, Dr. Susan Estep and Dr. Dodman—they have all contributed to me being a better violin teacher because I am seeing how actions are started, when I can change them and then what to do when I have to fix them. I have baskets full of clickers—all sizes, shapes and colors at school … my students and their parents have a really fun time when we get them out and they take turns helping eachother with some aspect of playing— I have found the students are quicker at helping their parents then their parents are at being able to see something happening in their children….. it is a stress free way to change a habit. After the clicker is put away—they can keep helping by making sure the student is getting the correct feedback at the correct time—not too late, not too early.

I have nobody else to Thank for helping me with my dog and with my violin students then Dr. Starr who told all of us to always be learning, always be improving, and see the entire world—for throughout it, you will learn how inter-dependent we all are. I just love playing the violin and teaching children to love it as much! Nicolo Amati loves everything too…. and for the puppy I rescued—that is a miracle… Where Love is Deep, Much Can Be Accomplished.

Sue Hunt said: Jul 31, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Interesting. There is a lot we can learn from dog training psychology. I’ve been fascinated watching my daughter and the field lab at puppy classes. It’s interesting to see the owners becoming more clear and straight forward with their expectations and the subsequent growth in self confidence in owners and dogs. I think that we parents and teachers stand to gain a lot from observing.

Do you use the clickers to acknowledge the children doing it right like the dog trainers, or to point out mistakes? Either way, I agree, split second timing is essential.

Diane said: Jul 31, 2011
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

My friend—Suzuki Violin teacher—Paula Bird raises dachsunds. She uses dog analogies all the time. Check out this one regarding posture!
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com/2010/10/meet-kaiser-posture-watchdog.html

Diane
http://www.myviolinvideos.com
Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Patricia said: Jul 31, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I don’t use the clickers exactly like dog trainers would. I find it really helpful to teach parents the importance of timing in giving feedback. For Students who are practicing, but not progressing—the problem can almost always be tracked back to poor feedback while practicing….. sometimes, I will have a student come in everyday for a while so they can practice with me.
I didn’t mean this to be only about dogs—but about what other things do you find help you teach? I know a cellist who is really into fitness—she says—it helps her teach her students about body awareness…. there is so much overlap in other fields….. I would love to hear if anyone else has things they do besides music.

Brenda Lee Villard said: Jul 31, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

I’m a genealogist. On my weeks off, I road trip all over the country and do research and find old abandoned graves to explore and document. I have no great comparisons as to how teaching Suzuki Cello and genealogy go together….perhaps one is about appreciating those who came before me and all that they gave to the world, and the other one is appreciating the next generation and all the great things that they have to offer.

Barb said: Jul 31, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Interesting, Brenda—tracing my own families’ genealogy is one of my hobbies. I love solving mysteries. I think that might relate to teaching in solving the mystery of how to best reach each individual student—not that there has been any direct help of one for the other.

I have volunteered in primary classrooms, mostly to help with beginning reading, and homeschooled my own children for nine of their school years. But that is still teaching. Definitely helped to prepare me to teach cello (as did parenting in general), but the comparisons are fairly obvious. I love teaching, especially one-on-one, and if I weren’t teaching cello, I’d probably be tutoring in some other area.

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

Lori Bolt said: Aug 1, 2011
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

I have also home schooled my children from K-12, which gives me much more empathy for the parent and child working together in practice. I have drawn on my experiences as a “home teacher” quite often as I strive to gain insights into each student and their particular parent/child dynamic and home setting.

When my children were much younger, they each attended a wonderful, multi-year music program which culminated in 2 yrs. of recorder class. The teacher offered me the chance to sit in and learn to play with the children; I happily accepted. I eventually learned the soprano and alto recorders, and of course gained much insight from being a student. I have drawn on that experience to offer recorder classes to home school families who may not be able to afford private lessons (most home school families are single income).

Lori Bolt

Connie Sunday said: Aug 1, 2011
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have an online business drop shipping instruments, cases, bows, etc.. I have a book I’m re-editing for publication with my own drawings. I design webpages, play chess professionally, collect books, music and recordings. My fur baby is a cat and I’m active in vegan and animal rights groups.

I keep returning to school and dabble in degree programs; have been to law school at three schools, been in two doctoral programs and am interested in piano, conducting and design communication. I try to keep up with current design issues on the web, and I read a very great deal, mostly non-fiction works on philosophy, atheism, international events (e.g., Thomas Friedman), business and music pedagogy. I’ve spent a fortune on my Kindle.

I also have to practice the violin, viola and piano. I recently acquired a five string instrument that takes some getting used to, and I’m looking at Baroque violins in order to demonstrate that to my students (I’ve got about 30 now). My main practice interest is piano (Bach, specifically) and I’m thinking about going back and combining piano with conducting, and do a DMA in conducting.

I’m supposed to be retired, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life; I feel driven to learn as much as possible and my days are usually 12-14 hours, with a very early start in the morning. I do have household help but I do my own cooking, and I’m a pretty good vegan cook. I’ve thought, also, of doing an MBA and going to the south of France (I speak French) to do their summer MBA courses.

Sounds crazy, I am sure, but I’m happy, never bored, and am amazed at how much I can learn. [Needless to say, I’m past the age where I’m responsible for looking after young children.]

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Paula Bird said: Aug 2, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I enjoy learning new things as much as I can, not only because these new activities make my life experience much richer, but because I am putting myself in the experience as a learner and reminding myself how to be “teachable.” By remaining as flexible and teachable as I can, I am also learning how to relate to students better as a teacher.

Every new activity that I undertake will guide me into becoming a better teacher, because I will gain additional perspectives, new creative ideas, new parallels, and new teaching styles, including what will not work or what is an unsuccessful teaching style. In the past year I have embarked on a Parelli horse training course (yes, I even bought a horse!), and I continue to raise miniature long-haired dachshunds. Because I have a six-pack of adult dogs in my home, I have to be vigilant about how I project my energy levels (and emotions) so that I keep the household calm. I have used my dogs as a way to teach my students leadership skills, and in some cases, I have used my horse and donkeys (and alpacas) as examples of how to use the less threatening “following” skill by turning off my energy.

What a great idea to use clickers! I hadn’t thought of that, but what a great way to introduce the importance of timing in feedback! I have used handbells (little cow or dinner bells). I find these little ones at souvenir shops. Marilyn O’Boyle used to have a collection of bells to use with her students. I also use the hotel desk bell, which you can find at the local office supply store. And my students’ favorite is the buzzer from the game “Taboo.” When I offer the student a choice, they usually pick the buzzer. The game we typically play is if the student can play the passage with everything correct so that I don’t have to ring the buzzer, then they get to ring the buzzer. The buzzer is a big hit! (probably because it annoys the parents!). I, however, LOVE the buzzer because it works!

— Paula Bird
link
[blog about Suzuki teaching and parenting]

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

Barb said: Aug 2, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Paula, Thanks for the buzzer idea. I’ve been meaning to get a bell, but we do already have the Taboo buzzer. I also got the idea of the Staples “That was easy” button from another teacher. Some of my students love that. I don’t know what these dog training clickers are. ???

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

Teresa said: Aug 6, 2011
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Almost everyone has a smartphone these days. Check different ringtone options… I bet there’s a slew of buzzers out there. Could you imagine a group class in which the students have use of mom or dad’s cell phone with the buzzer feature? Teacher plays and intentionally makes mistakes, students get to buzz? Delightful, annoying, fun mayhem! Then THEY’D want to play and try not to get buzzed! (especially if there were a little treat involved!)

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Patricia said: Aug 12, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I don’t have a smart phone—not yet? My cell phone is the oldest one around—the cell co wants me to change since I only pay $20/month for unlimited calls….. but I don’t want to have that change…. One of these days, I’ll get an I-phone… but maybe an I’Pad first? Everybody has so many things they do—it’s great!

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