Parents Taking Notes At Lessons (or Rather Not)

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Sarah Coley said: May 20, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

I was curious if anyone could provide me with a very detailed (good) explanation as to why the parent has to be the one to take notes at the lesson each week. In my studio policy, I have stipulated that parents should be taking notes at the lesson. However, I have at least 3 families in my studio currently where the parents are still attending lessons with the student (and observing), but somehow still think that it is part of my Suzuki job description to write down what their child is expected to practice each week. I have noticed that the momentum of the lesson with these students in particular seems to lag, and that I have to spend extra time beyond their designated lesson time trying to scribble down quickly what they need to practice. Any ideas, suggestions, etc. would be greatly apprecited! (I do not seem to have this problem with the rest of my students/parents, and I do write down a lesson assignment for my students who are attending lessons minus their parent.)

Rigo Murillo said: May 21, 2012
Rigo Murillo
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Rowlett, TX
16 posts

Hi Sarah,

I have noticed this is a trend among new parents, too. I have been asked to keep track of assignments by one of my student’s parents, as well. It seems to me that sometimes we are led to think that we should keep up with providing convenience to the busy parents who expect it from other services provided, like doctor offices, massage therapy, spa treatments, etc.

When I encountered this, I gave the parents a copy of the article “Taking Notes At Lessons” by Heidi Ehle. I also gave them a practice sheet with a grid for daily practice. What I have been doing now as an extra is using a whiteboard where I write the practice points for both the student and the parents to follow while the lesson is taking place. Only piece names and practice point keywords go to the whiteboard. That way, it is clear (in writing) what I’m asking of them to do that week. The students seems to enjoy following the record of their lesson on the board, while it doesn’t take much extra time, and the parent has something to write down.

I’m not suggesting that parents shouldn’t be very observant and “catch” the info while in the lesson, but using the whiteboard helps those families who may not have a background in music. Also, I have noticed this helps a couple of families of my studio with two parents helping with home practice, due to work-related travel by one parent (or both).

I hope sharing my experiences with this may help as we may be getting the opportunity to implement new policies or enforce existing ones for the next school year. I’d be glad to be more specific or share more on this, just email me.

Have a nice end-of-the-year and summer time!

Rigo Murillo
Suzuki Strings Specialist

Sarah Coley said: May 21, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

Rigo, I include the article you mentioned as part of my Parent Welcome Packet, but I suppose not everyone reads it. I have a practice chart that parents can fill in with practice points too; some of my parents just take notes in a notebook, which works just as well. I do agree with you about the convenience issue. I know that for one of my families that is definitely the case.

I have tried to break this cycle in a variety of ways, and maybe I will just have to accept that there is not a cure-all solution. I have handed pencil and paper to the parent during the lesson and asked them to take notes for me. I have even verbatim told them what to write down. I have gone as far as telling one parent that their lesson would be better utilized if I wasn’t having to “stop” the lesson to make notes for them.

I read something the other day that may be my next approach. The suggestion of if you will not take notes then you need to tape or video the lesson. However, once again, I wonder if this is something that I am going to have to do rather than the parent doing it. And this would mean that I am not really fixing the responsibility issue, just the note taking issue.

Emily Ann Peterson said: May 21, 2012
Emily Ann PetersonCello
Tacoma, WA
5 posts

I really like Rigo’s idea. Writing the assignment on the white board means he’s still “writing out the assignment” but putting it on the whiteboard requires the parent to be involved by copying it down. Very sneaky… ;-)

I’ve found that one or two my most busy parents don’t write down assignment because they zone-out in the lesson. (Use the lesson to relax from the day, etc.) I can keep them engaged by simply making eye contact with them when I’m assigning something specific. This way they feel they aren’t “off the hook” when they walk in the door.

Regarding your situation Ms. Sbcsuzuki, have you asked them why they feel like they don’t want to take notes? Sometimes all we need is to hear how silly our own excuses sound coming out of our own mouths.

~ Emily Ann

Putting the “Oh!” in “Cello”
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Mikaela said: May 21, 2012
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

Inspired by Cathy Lee, I created a practice chart with every facet of the lesson pre-printed (bow exercises, scales, vibrato, theory, songs, review, listening). The parents find the correct category, write down details, and the number of times per day in the x/day column. During the week, students mark down their practice. If nothing else, this has helped organize parents note-taking, so that students can have a consistent outline to follow throughout the week. There is also somewhat less note-taking, so that eases the burden as well.

I also hand out Heidi Ehle’s article and discuss the importance of note-taking. Still, there are some parents (especially those juggling young children during the lesson) who just cannot make note-taking happen. If they have a legitimate reason, if they understand that me taking notes takes away from the instruction time, and if their child is older and doesn’t need dedicated daily guidance from them, then I’ll acquiesce (though right now, I do not write notes for any of my students).

Sarah Coley said: May 21, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

Mikaela, My practice outline is patterned off of Cathy Lee’s as well. I have all the facets you mentioned and even break down the bow exercises separately. Maybe with summer coming (and the new school year thereafter), I just need to make a point to take the time to talk with the parents I am thinking of in particular. Perhaps I just need to remind them of what they should be doing and how they can better help their student (and me!).

Emily (and Rigo), I also liked Rigo’s idea, but I am not sure that it would work with the parents that I am thinking of in particular. In fact, I am sure that one of the moms I am thinking of would be probably just come right out and lament the fact that I am writing the points to practice on a board and should just save her the hassle of her having to write them down.

Emily, I actually have asked the parents indirectly why they do not take notes, and, yes, they did give some ridiculous explanations. However, making their “excuses” audible and me repeating them so that they could hear the ridiculousness of their comments has not seemed to change things. One mom said that she cannot read her own handwriting and so refrains from taking notes. In another situation, I really think that it is the case of the mom thinking that is an imposition for her to have to take notes.

Cynthia Faisst said: May 22, 2012
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

If its any consolation, I have parents who actually fall asleep during lessons. Some of the parents coming to my studio are working every few hours round the clock, now that we live in an era of international online entrepreneurs. If I am working with a student who needs little parental engagement and may be working at a technical level that the parent finds difficult to absorb such a parent will nod off. On the other hand I have parents who are commuting with stressful schedules which make it impossible to have access to child care. With siblings in tow, they can not give the violin student their undivided attention.

I have made a great practice check off list with space for short pieces of information. I have even posted it on line so parents can make as many copies as they like. But not all of my parents process a violin lesson in the same way. Stopping to write things down for these parents may not address their needs.

My own note books from teacher training and three years in Japan with Dr. Suzuki are often times drawings and diagrams. I am more of a visual organizer than a linear organizer. I love to brain storm and come up with better ideas but I am more than happy to let someone else worry about how they could fit in a list. Much of what we do as teachers are processed as overlapping loops rather than straight lines. No wonder parents find taking notes at a lesson overwhelming.

John Kendall often reminded teachers to teach like a pastor making a good sermon. Tell the student what you are going to do before you start, what you are doing during the lesson, and finally what you just did. What ever learning mode your student and parent are most successful with, they need to hear what they are going to practice from several points of view. It doesn’t matter whether they are visual learners, auditory learners, participatory learners, take useful notes or don’t take the best notes. Finally, before they leave you ask them what they are going to practice this week. Not only is this going to help them retain information, it is going to give you useful feed back of just how much they can retain in one lesson.

Some parents take the initiative and bring their own handy notepad/diary. Others bring a mobile device so they can get video of technical points which they need for verifying practice activities. Video has become an indispensable tool in my studio and great time saving device. I have created a “practice with me” video specially made for my PreTwinklers which my parents are now demanding from me for their own reference at home. Mind you, it is full of very short one point segments with a menu.

Now that I am teaching in a community where not every parent has had the same access to an education in the English language, I have parents who can not take their eyes off of me or they will miss important information. Their note taking skills may be more of a distraction than a help. Here again the media materials that I have created for my TEC studio have become very useful to my students in the urban non-profit program. I can’t spend enough time with these students to get them caught up with their age peers and potential, so I put video on YouTube for them, once they finish the PreTwnkles. I can see the difference in progress between those who are using those videos and those who are not.

Maybe you have heard of a Math Teacher who started teaching on line who knows what he is doing. His students said they liked him better on line. Have you heard of him? The wonder of using YouTube as a teaching aid is that you can position a pause during the video and offer several links which go back to what the student needs to repeat.

Its wonderful to have parents who are able to stay engaged while taking notes and asking questions. But sometimes we don’t have parents with those kinds of skills. If you have a child who is struggling with a mild learning disability at school you may also be dealing with a parent who needs alternative ways to process what you are teaching as well. As teachers we have to be flexible and use all of the tools we can put in our tool box. Because Suzuki Sensei said, “Every child”.

I know some of my past teacher trainers are gasping because it sounds like I don’t expect enough of my parents. But I was not sent back from Japan to do all of my teaching in a setting which excludes the learning styles of some students. My obligation to Sensei is to teach as inclusively as I can to the best of my ability.

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.

Paula Bird said: May 22, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Sbcsuzuki: I can only say “wow” to a parent such as you describe. In my initial parent course, we talk about what our overall purpose is in lessons and as home teachers. Clearly this parent does not share the purpose of teaching that you and the rest of us do. And that’s how I would spell it out for the parent. You are making a simple request of a parent during a lesson that the parent is attending anyway. Absolutely ridiculous for a parent to spend energy making such silly excuses. I would look her in the eye and make it very clear that you expect her to do this so that you can continue to teach. Remind the parent of these things:

The parent is role modeling appropriate behavior for the child to learn for later (parent does want child to learn how to be a good student in class, yes?).

The parent is sending the unspoken message to the child that lesson time and the child’s activity is not important enough to be engaged in. How sad for the child. I hope the child hasn’t been listening to the parent making these silly excuses.

The parent is sending the unspoken message to the child that the child doesn’t have to do what the teacher instructs or assigns. Sitting there and refusing to do what the teacher asks teaches the child how to behave with teachers and other authority figures later. I feel sorry for that parent who will have a tough time with a rebellious child later. And who taught the child that?

Maybe I’m just older and more direct now, but when I ask the parent to do something and I get a refusal (doesn’t happen much anymore), we have a VERY frank discussion. It may be outside of the child’s hearing, but we will talk. The parent will say, “you understand” and I will say, “no, I don’t.” I don’t understand how a parent can take their most prized possession, their life’s treasure, to an expert and then refuse to follow the expert’s advice and instructions.

Give it a shot. Lay out your expectation, and help them do it (tell them what to write down and review their notes at the end). I would offer two things for the parent to make a choice:

Notebook in one hand

List of other teachers in the other hand

Let the parent make the choice. Just be clear that the prtent understands the ramifications of the choice. It is a privilege for the parent and child to take lessons with you. If they don’t value and appreciate that privilege, then take it away.

Sorry if this seems harsh to some, but teaching is a respected profession. I will insist that everyone treat the teacher and most of all the child with respect. We respect the child when we respect the child’s teachers, including the patents.

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

Anita said: May 22, 2012
 38 posts

As a parent, I’d have to say that most parents probably don’t know how to take notes well. Have any of you thought of showing, or teaching, them how to take notes? I only say this because I was a newspaper reporter and editor for 17 years, and I will say it easily took me the first decade to learn how to write down what someone says, for any length of time, word-for-word. And believe me, I have to get it word-for-word from our Suzuki teacher. If I’m even the slightest bit off there can be disagreements between me and my two children as to how the teacher said to do something and that derails the entire practice, sometimes for the entire week! You’re asking a lot of parents when you ask them to take notes. Please understand this. The woman who can’t read her own handwriting once she gets home—I don’t doubt it! Until I learned shorthand, I frequently was writing so fast I couldn’t read my own stuff once I got back into the comfort of the office! Taking notes is not just a passive activity—it involves thinking ahead of the teacher. How? Well, as I’m writing I’m also thinking of what my conditions will be at home, how I am going to write this so that I’ll know EXACTLY what the teacher meant 4 or 6 days afterward??? It also often involves plucking up the courage to ask very detailed questions. I’m sorry, I missed that—What exactly did you say? Can I see how that was done—again? How did that look when the child held it correctly? Can you show me again? Patience with your parents, please! We all have the same goal in mind here—raising beautiful children. No disrespect meant to teachers, but remember when you were in school and just beginning to learn your craft? That’s where we parents’re at. And we’ll NEVER achieve the level of expertise you did, BEFORE you started teaching to others.

AMB

Paula Bird said: May 22, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

How to take notes

Yes in my experience most parents do not understand how to take notes. That’s why I spend time teaching them how to do it correctly or in a useful way for the parents. I also take pictures and make audio and video recordings of posture issues so that the parent will know how to duplicate everything at home.

I also ask my parents and students to contact me immediately if there’s ever any confusion at home. I’d rather resolve the issue as soon as I can so that the week’s practice is not lost in fruitless debate. I’m perfectly happy to take these phone calls and emails. I always find a way to help both the parents and the students save face if they are the one in the wrong.

The reason I entered into the above discussion thread was because I was reading a description of the situation where the parent absolutely refused to take notes and gave pretty silly and weak excuses for not trying to improve. In the case of the parent who needs help, that’s a different solution, and I wasn’t addressing that particular situation.

Asking a parent to take notes is a very reasonable request from a teacher. And it is not a difficult task. I think most teachers would be willing to help their parents get better at this skill. And as it is with most things in life, ability and skill development happen with practice, review, and repetition.

As a teacher, I find it helpful to work together with my parents in the notetaking area. My parents take notes, but I review them at the end and make sure that everything is clear as to what they should do. I hope my article helps to explain exactly how useful a notetaking practice can be.

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

Artem Vovk said: May 22, 2012
Artem VovkGuitar
Boulder, CO
6 posts

I guess the problem is the understanding between the teacher and the parent.
There is a lot of observation (and note taking) during teacher training. It’s rough to get through the first book training and do all the notes (and then decipher them… yes, I can’t read my own handwriting, especially if it has to be fast).
On the other hand (yes, pun-ny), the communication has to be open. If you can’t do what the teacher says—ask. But there seems to be a block where I put the dash. You might not want to look stupid (taking notes? seriously? isn’t that for school kids or college?), not sure how to start, what to take notes on, etc. It all has to be taught in some way.
So it’s a two way street—an adult parent has to be able to ask “so what do I do?” and the teacher has to ask “do you know what to do?” And just saying “take notes” won’t cut it.

-Artem Vovk
artemvovkguitar.com

Mikaela said: May 22, 2012
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

Paula: I give a standing ovation to your defense of why parents should take notes. To my understanding, you are taking this back to the mother-tongue approach; as the parent does, so the child will imitate. I have never considered before that the parents taking notes shows the child how much the parent values the lesson, but that is so true! One reason I have always emphasized note-taking by parents is because it involves the parents and draws them along on the journey their child is taking. They are now actively involved rather than passively, and they can help and guide their children during practice. Ultimately, however, it seems to me that this reason falls under your broader reason for parental note-taking.

Anita: it’s good to see this from the parent’s perspective (I have certainly had some parents overwhelmed in the beginning). However, this is why I use a practice chart. “Bow exercises? What bow exercises? Let’s listen and see the bow exercises she assigns. How many times per day? Oh, that’s right—20. I’ll put that in the column here.” And so on, the chart guides them through the process. With a new student or a parent that particularly struggles, I call the parent by name and reiterate the assignment. If ever I see a parent not scribbling after I give an assignment, I’ll say their name and repeat the assignment to bring their focus back into the lesson. Usually, each assignment is spoken twice just for clarity sake, and parents have absolutely no problem following me. (In other words, I’m not lecturing through a lesson giving tips and hints and comments and leaving the parent to conjecture what the concrete assignment was.)

Paula Bird said: May 22, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Anita, care to post a copy of your practice chart?

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

Sarah Coley said: May 22, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to reply to my post! I try very hard to troubleshoot problems on my own, but I will be the first to admit that I do not have all the answers. It is for this reason that I am grateful to receive some insight and perspectives from all of you (teachers and parents), because you help to broaden my perspective when I need to broaden it!

(Mikaela: Loved your explanation about it drawing the parent into the lesson. I think I will be using that.)

First, I totally agree with several of you who posted about not all parents being comfortable with taking notes, or understanding how to take notes appropriate enough in the context of what to practice at home. However, this is not exactly what I think to be the issue at hand with the parents that I am thinking of. The comment about the handwriting being illegible from one of my parents was something that has since been rectified—mom types her notes during the lessons. I try very hard to make sure that I am specific on the practice points at each lesson, and reiterate each point several times. I make sure that one of these reiterations is made by making direct eye contact with the parent, so that they know that what I am saying is what I would like them to practice at home. I also do things like asking the young student to tell me at the end of the lesson what it is that they are going to work on at home during the week. The students are usually spot on with what needs to be practiced, and I have noticed that it helps them to practice better at home if they “replay” their lesson assignment for me. (Parents usually scribble a lot at this point during the lesson.)

I would like to hope that the form I use for my practice assignment for parents to fill in is self-explanatory enough that they can see what to fill in and how to fill it out, but perhaps I need to look at it with a new eye. My practice assignment outline is patterned after several that I have seen from various teacher trainers., but I am always curious to see what other teachers use (because maybe someone has it phrased even better than I do). Would anyone be willing to share what they use?

I also try to encourage open communication in my studio. Parents are invited to ask questions at the end of each lesson. I usually ask the student first if they have any questions, and then turn to the parent and ask if they have questions. Although I know that this is not the “traditional” Suzuki way, I do have a few parents that I permit to ask questions during the lesson. They are usually the ones who have been with me for a long time, and need points clarified on the spot as their child is working with more complicated repertoire. I do not allow this same thing to take place with any beginners or book 1 students. And really, the parents who are asking questions know that it can not interrupt the lesson for very long—it has to be a question that I can answer in “10 seconds or less” or they have to wait.

Parents are welcome to email me with questions during the week, as I also am a firm believer in making sure that practice at home is as successful as possible. If something is not working or is not making sense, I am happy to help parents troubleshoot problems and come to a viable solution that will help their child (and them!).

Paula: Thank you so much for both of your comments. One of your posts reminded me that perhaps I am allowing my “perception” of the relationship between me and the parents to cloud my perspective a little. Being a “younger” teacher (though I do have a 6-month old daughter), most of the parents that I encounter in my studio presently are several years older than I am (and with older children). I think that sometimes I forget that having gone to school, attending teacher training and being knowledgable about violin/viola after teaching for 11 years does make me somewhat of an “expert” on the subject. I think that sometimes I feel like it would be socially “wrong” to assert my expertise to some of my rather strong personality parents—and that is very FALSE. Shame on me! The parents in my studio are bringing their child to me for me to instruct them primarily because of my expertise, and I need to behave like any teacher (seasoned or otherwise should). Conceding to dominant parents or compromising my teaching ethics is not something that I should be doing, because it will only bring me more stress. I am not sure that I am confident enough to give my parents the ultimatum of take notes or find another teacher (especially because we are starved for Suzuki teachers where I live), but your ultimatum did make me realize that I need to be a little more pushy, bossy and put my foot down about some things.

With regard to the parents that I am thinking of, for one of them, it really is a convenience issue. And just like Paula’s very observant comment about the message that it sends to the student, I think that this would apply very much to this situation. (Granted this is just my perspective, but I do have to wonder.) The mother is very bossy. She belittles her husband in front of her daughter when they both have come to lessons. (And the mother wonders why her daughter is “challenging” her husband at home when he practices with her.) When she comes to lessons with her daughter, she basically sits there and watches a little, but zones off. I did ask her to take notes at least once that I can remember, and she did just fine, but later told me that it would be better if I wrote down the lesson assignment because (1) she (the mother) does not play the violin and isn’t musical; (2) she isn’t the parent that practices with their daughter at home (dad is the designated practice parent, and usually comes to lessons with the daughter—but his job sometimes conflicts with lessons); (3) their last teacher wrote down the assignment; and (4) it would just be more succint coming from me. (I know that point 3 opens a whole other can of worms, so I will not comment on that one.) Point 4 may be true, but what bothers me is that me writing down the lesson assignment has the whole lesson situation less than ideal. The student is younger, and as any teacher (or parent) knows, you have to keep on top of things and be interacting right there with them the ENTIRE time. There are lapses in the lesson where I am trying to frantically write down things, and these lapses mean that I am not giving the student my full attention. This has caused her to think that she can get away with sitting down (because we are taking a “break”) or that she can do something less than really good (because the teacher isn’t watching anyway). Some weeks I have had to finish writing down notes beyond their designated lesson time (while the next student is supposed to be doing their lessons), which is not professional and not what I want to be doing, but sadly have to. What has me in a tizzy right now is that when summer gets here and my schedule (and the dad’s work schedule) changes, mom will be the one bringing her to lessons. Last week as dad and daughter were packing up and leaving, dad made the comment that with mom bringing her during the summer (and him not being there) that “my” lesson assignment notes would have to be very specific, because in his words, his wife is “clueless”. I can understand why he would like specific notes from me, but I hate the fact that mom refuses to take any responsibility for lesson involvment whatsoever, beyond bringing their daughter and sitting there. I am thinking that if dad cannot be there, it might be a good idea for me to suggest that mom video the lesson for him (surely she could handle that—not trying to sound mean with that one). It would definitely free up me to focus on teaching the lesson and not be teacher and note-taker, and dad would be able to “watch” the lessons and note accordingly.

I think what is bothering me (the crux of this whole post) is that I feel a lot like I am being “imposed” upon and having to do more than my required job description when I already do so much. I hope this does not sound like I am complaining. Starting new students (and parents) I have the “luxury” of training them to do what I would like (true to Suzuki form like they take notes, etc.), but I have inherited some “transfer” students over the years, and those are the ones that I am having to retrain (sometimes very unsuccessfully). After 11 years of teaching, I am finally to the point that my studio is established enough that I can to some extent pick and choose who I take, but there are some students (and parents) that I am “stuck” with for the time being. I cannot bring myself to give them the boot either. We are short Suzuki teachers where I live and there are not a lot of alternatives in terms of where I could send them.

I apologize to parents and teachers if this post sounds like a tirade, but I am frustrated with how things are playing out presently and I am just not sure how to fix them so that things will work more efficiently. Your perspectives thus far have helped me so much! (With the situation that I mentioned above and with the others that I am struggling with presently.) Thank you so much for all of your comments—I am very appreciative!

G said: May 23, 2012
G Ordun
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Vienna, VA
21 posts

Oh my! How very rigid.

Parents should take as many or as few notes as they need/want to facilitate home practice sessions. My best practice family takes almost none!

The purpose of these notes IS to facilitate practice, right?

And aren’t practice challenges a legitimate topic for discussion during the lesson?

When the student demonstrates inaccurate execution or understanding I open the discussion immediately. How was this practiced? That helps both the parent and student develop their practice skills.

And aren’t practice skills a legitimate topic for discussion during the lesson?

If we want our families to take practice seriously, we must take the time (during lessons) to teach them how. And that means helping them to figure out a way that works for their family.

FWIW,
g

P.S. “get away with sitting down”?

Paula Bird said: May 23, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I understand EXACTLY what you refer to about getting away with sitting down. Lessons, I believe, should be about the child and not about administrative stuff. When the parents and I have to interrupt the lesson to write notes or assignments, to discuss practice points, or to answer questions, the child’s attention and focus wanders. It is the nature of things. Haven’t we all seen the situation when a group of adults are talking, and the children behind and next to them start to misbehave because they are bored? Discussions are best left outside the lesson, if at all possible. I ask parents to write down questions on the left hand page of the notebook, either during lessons or at home during the week. We take the time to answer them; we just do not interrupt the lesson unless it is absolutely crucial to the lesson point at the moment.

Gail, you are very blessed if you have parents who can recreate a 30-60 minute lesson without taking a single note about what needs to be practiced, but in my experience, that is extremely rare. I myself could not have gone to class and remembered all the finer points I learned in class without jotting a thought or two. I understand that some people are blessed with fine aural skills or can remember every detail of their lives without a calendar, but most everyone needs some sort of reminder system. The purpose of taking notes is to help the child. The child is busy learning during the lesson, and the parent’s taking notes is so that the child has a record. Even my older students find it helpful to have some sort of note retrieval system. They do not remember everything they worked on in a lesson, even though we generally recap. I still have to prod them to recall everything we did.

sbcsuzuki, you have a bigger problem on your hands. The couple you describe are headed to a divorce court (I used to practice family law once upon a time). When the parents (or one parent) does not behave respectfully to the other, especially in the presence of the children, the relationship has definitely deteriorated and will sink even faster over time. I feel very sorry for your student and the atmosphere he or she has to live with at home. Your story illustrates the problem: both parents said something extremely uncomplementary about the other parent in public and in front of the child. Forget uncomplementary; the comments were rude. Lovely for the child.

I have run into separation or divorce situations. I find it best to set things up so that the parents do not have to interact with each other. For example, when I have the next assignment written out for my student, I quickly take a photo with my iPhone and email the assignment to the other parent. I also make quick practice recordings during the lesson (or I already have them ready in advance), and I send copies of the relevant recordings to the other parent. Then everyone knows exactly what I expect during the week’s practice, and no one has any excuse for falling down on the parental practicing front. Because the parents are not beholden to each other in any way for information, the child’s music experience can go on without parental drama. So far it is working. All parental figures were involved in preparations for our spring recital and attended the event without any problems. They even sat in the general vicinity of each other at the recital.

As for discussions about practice skills during lessons, yes Gail, we do that. However, the kind of practice topics that sbcsuzuki has to handle here are WAY beyond lesson discussion. There are much more fundamental issues going on here. I know of one seasoned teacher who would schedule a parent-teacher conference in place of a lesson when she ran into difficulties. The parents would show up at the lesson in place of the child. Then free discussion could take place.

I do not think this is rigid at all. I think this is placing the important focus of the lesson on the child, where I believe it belongs.

sbcsuzuki, how about turning to the mom and asking this: “Would you like to help your child remember ______ by making a note of it for us?” Each time you make such a request, I would keep reminding her that you are asking for this for the child’s benefit. I cannot imagine any parent who would refuse to do something good for their child. I suspect your student’s mom is refusing to take notes because she has framed the entire lesson experience as something that the dad does. The mom is refusing to do this because she doesn’t want to help the father. She is not thinking this through, that it would be helpful to the child.

You may not ever resolve this situation to your liking, sbcsuzuki. This mom may not ever get on board with lessons. How very sad for the child. However, you can take some steps to completely work around her, and I would do this for sure. If the mom does not want to be involved other than to chaffeur the child to lessons, then I would eliminate her role completely. I would videotape the lessons for dad. Ask dad to send along a video camera, or try some of my earlier suggestions about photos and voice memos.

From the mom’s perspective, she may be having trouble at home relaying what happened at the lesson. Dad may be asking her good questions, but because she isn’t really involved in practices at home, she may not answer the dad’s questions very well. She may be too embarrassed to admit her inadequacy in this, and dad may be giving her a hard time. This little battle between the two parents is unfortunately being played out in the studio arena. Very sad for the child.

As a teacher, be the one calm place in a troubled storm for the child. You be the same for him or her. Help to give the child an anchor in life, no matter what is going on at home.

I hope this gives a different perspective for all of us.

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

G said: May 23, 2012
G Ordun
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Vienna, VA
21 posts

Paula -

You are so right. I am blessed with that one student. I offered it as an extreme example to refocus the discussion onto the purpose of the notes.

It has never occurred to me that the purpose of lesson notes is to replicate the lesson.

I almost think of it as the reverse, since most of the student’s skill building takes place at home.

Once I’ve expounded on the current teaching point(s), the purpose of my lesson becomes development of the practice plan which will best serve the student. Starting where they are, right now. And where they are, for better or worse, includes their family situation.

I also agree about the couple heading for a split. Yikes! That’s the only rule that will get my dander up in lessons. Disrespect is simply not tolerated in my studio. Regardless of direction.

Though I must admit that my raised gray eyebrows probably do more to slow down catty comments than those of a younger person.

But are we demonstrating respect for the parent when we exclude them from the lesson? Assigning them the role of silent scribe?

Three-way discussions are tough but (imnsho) necessary to nurture the Suzuki triangle.

And no, this does not mean ALL discussions concerning the child. My default position is that most parents really do know their kids better than I do. They’ll get in touch when a private conversation is called for.

FWIW,
g

Alissa said: May 23, 2012
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

sbc,

Your last entry really said so much more. Even if these people were awesome note takers and/or practice partners, there is much more to be frustrated with from your view point. This mom has made herself very hard to like or work with and note-taking is the issue you’ve settled on… I might settle on that too as it looks like a much sadder picture lies beneath.

Do you like the child? Is there a way you can convey any sort of this affinity to the mom? I know how hard it is to have a parent who is not a personality match to put it nicely. Sounds like you get along with the dad. Be careful not to commiserate with him, even internally, even though you agree with his frustrations. He might be calling her “clueless” to you because he’s trying to help you feel better about it. Take the high road. Compliment the family via the daughter… “You have your low two working so much more cleanly than last week! How did you figure that out?” If the mom wants the credit for the situation, she’s going to have to do something for it even if it’s just paying better attention and celebrating her daughters successes. If not, the child is at least hearing her father get credit when at home, she hears him belittled. If at all possible, you have to redirect every instance of inappropriate, not lesson focused, side-talking. Ignore nasty asides and bring it back to concrete task at hand matters.

This doesn’t sound like the type of parent you can battle into change and you would go crazy in the process! I have a family who I have had for years who’s mom is often distracted and has REALLY hurt my feelings in the past. Her children have been difficult as well (surprise) and I have wondered at times if I need to send them elsewhere. However, no other single family has changed my teaching for the better! I have become more patient, more clear with my expectations and more able to celebrate the small things because of them. I made a conscious choice to focus on what I did like about these people and to stop defending myself and it’s made all the difference. This family has gotten a lot from lessons on so many levels or they wouldn’t stay with me. I take every little glimmer of understanding, and focus on that when we have a downturn.

Paula is right on. If you absolutely can’t work with mom in a way that supports the child, leave her out. If it pricks at you every time you start writing out something for this family, stop doing it. If you feel unprepared or uncomfortable videoing the lesson at this point, you’ll have to wait for the family to come up with a solution or ask for help. If the mom is more pointed or direct, “Will you write that down? I’m not going to remember” you’ll have to address it away from lesson. Ask her to call you or e-mail you later because right now you’ve realized you’ve used up too much lesson time including that of the children after this student and it’s not fair to anyone.

What’s the worst case scenario? Is there another teacher who is a better fit? If you work well with the student, the answer is no. You will find a way to make peace with this. It will be what’s best for the child and it doesn’t matter what the rest of us would do if it works :-) Breathe and move forward.

I too, am a “young” teacher, at least in my parents eyes. Just think of what a positive role model you are to this girl who probably sees you as someone closer to her age than her mom. We as teachers have to use all of our tools. At this point, your youthful exuberance is one of them until it turns into wise experience. I have no idea when that shift occurs and I’ll be finishing year 15 of teaching soon, so I’ll let you know when I find it!! My favorite teacher always seemed so energetic and fun to me even though she was decades older than me… hmmmm…

Best to you,
~Alissa

James said: May 23, 2012
James Guerin
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
27 posts

I am closer to Paula’s situation being still a newer teacher, and thus figuring out what works. I find the comment about rigidity important, only because we are communicating here in a written forum and when we make suggestions in writing they always sound more like rules. There are of course no absolute rules except that we want all of us—the triangle—to keep the eyes on the prize of musicianship and steady efficient practice away from the studio. To avoid rigidity, we set up a relationship of understanding. In the relationship, the spirit of the parent is dedicated to communicating the lesson’s essentials at home. There is no “must” in my talking to the parent or the student during the lesson, because my attention never wanders from the student, even as I talk to the parent. There is no must about how to take notes, but I certainly will turn to the parent and make a gesture that something I’m saying needs to be noted. I have certainly learned a lot about different situations from all you teachers above!

Now, at the end of the lesson I am learning to check the parent’s notes. This takes up a few minutes of lesson time. This organic approach allows me to see if I’m communicating effectively and the parent knows what I think is important. As we go along, this time spent on the notes diminishes. I like this approach. The corollary is that if the parent doesn’t want to take notes, I will spend less time teaching and WILL MYSELF DO THE NOTES. Now the parent is fully aware that lesson time is being spent with me away from teaching.

What I think is happening is that all parents develop the communication strategies organically according to how I and they communicate.

Second, I have found that when I ask the child at the end of the lesson to summarize the things they’ve learned and what they must work on, it gives me an opportunity to review orally, which is good for the child, myself and the note-taking parent.

Thanks for bringing this up, Paula!

Paula Bird said: May 23, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Gail, I do ask my parents to respect the lesson process and be more observant rather than talkative. This does not mean that the parents are only silent scribes. They do interact, but my request for observance of silence more than talk usually allows me to work on the child’s focus and concentration better without talking interruptions and distractions. If I didn’t ask for this rule in principle, I would have parents think nothing about talking during the child’s lesson, while the child is even playing. Not only are we teaching the children how to play a musical instrument, we are also teaching the children and their parents how to be better audience members. Talking during a performance is generally frowned upon in concert halls because it is disrespectful to other listeners. When a parent is talking during a child’s lesson, it is not giving the child complete attention.

Now having said all that, let me reassure you that there isn’t one single parent in my studio who would claim that I am somehow restricting them with my request that they be more observant then talkative. My parents get plenty of personal attention during lessons; I just try to do this at the end of a teaching situation rather than all the way through it.

As with most things, there is a large scale area that’s gray. Very few comments and observations actually fall on one or the other end of the black white spectrum.

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

Sarah Coley said: May 23, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

Hi, again everyone!

I love how the forum brings together teachers with different teaching styles, opinions, ideas, etc., yet we are all Suzuki teachers. I think that is what makes us great!

Gail, I apologize if it sounded like I am a drill Sargent about note-taking, because I do not know that I really am.. I encourage my parents to take notes, but it isn’t mandatory. However, if they opt to not take notes, that does not mean that I will take notes for them. The Lesson Assignment sheet I hand out is a guide to the lesson and what to practice. Some of my parents just take notes in a notebook and do not even use the studio outline. Parents can take as many or as few notes as they would like. I only suggest that be enough to guide them in remembering what to practice at home. More than once notes have bailed a parent at home when they go to practice with their child and the child recalls it incorrectly or forgets completely. Granted note-taking isn’t perfect, but it definitely helps.

My opinion on note-taking is that it’s purpose is so parents can better help their child at home when they go to practice. I have had some parents who have not taken notes occasionally, but they are very alert to watching the lesson…and they can miss or omit things once in awhile. Notes help you remember.

Paula, yes, the parent relationship in the situation I mentioned is a little complicated. I don’t like to judge, but I am sure that the strain in their relationship contributes to issues with practice. Honestly, it probably is not as bad as I make it out to be, but I would never think of arguing in public with my own husband or belittling him in front of our daughter. Not appropriate in my opinion. I do have a policy about not being kind with our words and actions at lessons, and I usually just try to ignore comments like the ones I ha

Sarah Coley said: May 23, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

Have mentioned (sorry this is in two) in the sense of not taking sides, making light of it, etc.

Really, I would like to see the mother a little more willing to be involved, and I may have to be okay with just having things work well with dad. I mean, they do practice, listen, etc.—and she is progressing. Dad is committed, maybe mom’s commitment level is just getting daughter to lessons and paying for lessons. I know she thinks music lessons are important—she has told me more than once.

Paula, I think I will be trying your suggestion of asking her to write it down for her daughter. I also think that recording things so that dad is more in the loop is the way to go too. It may help with their practice at home too, because there will be less room for arguments about how something is supposed to be practiced.

I want the best for each of my students. I want to be sure that they are getting the most out of their lessons, and progressing at whatever rate is acceptable for them individually. In order to accomplish this, I need a little more help from some of the parents that I work with in the sense of helping me record the lesson assignment for the week so that I can give all my attention and focus to teaching their child. Children know fully well when someone’s attention wavers, and the teacher having to be teacher and scribe is not working. It is not being the most beneficial to their child. It is not maximizing their lesson time. It is infringing somewhat on other student’s lesson times, which means that it is nor being respectful off the teacher’s schedule and time or that of fellow students.

Paula, I also liked your idea about having parents jot down questions to be answered at a later time, i.e., at the end of the lesson if there is time, or during the course of the week. When i read that, I had one of those “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?” moments. I love the forums for this reason.

G said: May 23, 2012
G Ordun
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Vienna, VA
21 posts

Sarah:

Not at all. I appreciate the clarification.

Paula:

It seems to me that permitting questions once a teaching point is covered
would facilitate note-taking. If a parent has to hold a question for 10-15
minutes, they’re much less likely to be able to frame it coherently; and it
makes much more sense to me that I show both the student and the parent
exactly what I mean while it is fresh in the student’s mind and hands.

That said, I do have a pretty strict rule about parents addressing their
children directly—a student cannot take direction from two people at
once.

Just call me the Pot!
g

On Wed, May 23, 2012 at 3:40 PM, SAA Discussion
wrote:

Paula Bird said: May 23, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Sarah, I would also try one more thing, and this will be fun for you. You are going to make your mom a “project.” you are going to encourage her for what she does do.

“Thank you for bringing your child to lesson today. I know you are busy, but the child and I really appreciate the time you gave us to be here.”

Do that ALL the time and for anything she does do.

Then start thanking/acknowledging her for ANY teensy effort she makes to write something down for you, even if it’s one word and you had to beg for it.

Then start praising her for it to the child: “You are so blessed to have a mon who is so helpful.”

Then let the mom catch you praising her to someone else, as if the mom is the role model or go-to parent to know how to write excellent notes.

Etc. you get the idea. False to some maybe, but it is fun to watch how quickly things improve in the direction that I and the child need them to go.

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

Paula Bird said: May 23, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Gail, that’s the beauty of taking notes. No question or teaching point gets lost. Of course I’m not so rigid we don’t handle things as they come up if necessary. Teaching is balancing too. But writing the question down means that my teaching momentum isn’t interrupted. Really, I think our culture is WAY too focused on immediacy. Things can wait once in awhile, questions don’t have a constitutional right to be answered immediately. (trivia question: what movie did I just paraphrase from and who said it?)

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

Sarah Coley said: May 23, 2012
Sarah Coley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
34 posts

Paula, I like that idea a lot, and, yes, I will be trying it definitely. Thank you for all of your sage advice!

Christiane said: May 24, 2012
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
New York, NY
47 posts

Hi All,

I tried a very professional looking practice planner this year, The Musician’s Practice Planner by Molto Music (even for a 5 year old Twinkler), and it seems to be working well for all levels (except when they leave it at home by accident!). At first it may appear too complex, but you can adapt for various levels. The younger ones like to know that they have the same practice planner as their older more advanced siblings, and just accept it.

I write very clear (simple) instructions of what piece or measures, or games to practice in the left hand column and very specific goals, special things to remember, etc..on the right side. I write it myself as I find the parents’ notes do not do the trick—they are usually disjointed, and they often don’t know the violin “lingo” so well. I get the student to go over the assignment clearly with me at the end of the lesson (with the parent listening), and I try to make sure that the student understands exactly what we are focusing on for the coming week and why. I find the student really pays attention to what the teacher writes, because it comes from the teacher—we just command more authority! I think home practice works better with the parent just facilitating the practice—setting the scene, making it possible and comfortable, and just reading out what the teacher said to work on—then there is no disputing who the authority figure is, and time isn’t wasting playing out the parent/child questioning authority game.
For the younger kids, the next lesson, you can award special stickers for a job well executed (following exact instructions, getting results).

I don’t find notetaking to be an extra burden, as it helps me to be more clear in what I’m asking, and the following week, the lesson is right there in front of me in a format that I can instantly understand and build on for the following week. I use clearer larger print for the younger ones, and they are proud to to show that they can read it.

Once in a while you can record the lessons or take a photo of hand position or posture to supplement teacher notes. A practice recording is really nice for the youngest ones—you can take them right through the routine and they hear your voice—I usually play piano on it and this way they have accompaniment at the correct tempo (with stops!) of the material they are working on.

Just some thoughts about this topic…thanks!

Christiane Pors
Violinist
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Terri Parsons said: May 25, 2012
Terri ParsonsCello, Flute
14 posts

Most of my parents carry iPads and take notes with them. They can also take video and pictures with them. I think, among other uses of course, this helps maximize the lesson and therefore the cost of the device. I still write in their “cello journal” what they are to practice and their “focus” items in terms of what technique they are to focus on, but if I have a parent taking notes (most of my 10 and up student’s parents just drop off) they use a device to do so.

Terri Parsons
Cello/Flute Teacher
Cellist
La T Da Music
www.lajollastrings.com

Barb said: May 26, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Wow, what a great discussion. Lots to glean from this.

I didn’t start teaching with the parents as involved with lessons—I wrote the assignments down and didn’t ask them to take notes. This year I have moved—or attempted to—to the Suzuki model. I didn’t have any new young students this year, so I asked of my current parents to give the note taking a try, rather than impose a change on them. I DID require them to do some reading. Including part of Ed Sprunger’s book Helping Parents Practice, which includes a chapter on taking useful, accurate, reliable notes. I also made the article on note-taking by Heidi Ehle available to them.

I have had trouble giving up writing the assignments, though.

Before the year started one parent whined that she was happy with my writing the assignments and that it was working well for them, and she wants to use the time to knit as she is so on the go and finds it relaxing and needs the down time. I told her I could still write the assignments, but I asked her to just give note-taking a try—it wouldn’t be mandatory for my existing students. (And talked to her away from the student about complaining and the example that set for her child.) So she knitted, and jotted the odd thing down. Then didn’t for a while. We did run into a few times when the student didn’t have enough information at home from my assignment/practice chart… Notes happened again for a while….

Another parent I left to take notes and fill in the assignments. Checked it afterwards and usually had to amend the assignments. Switched to having her take notes on a different sheet of paper and reverted to putting the assignments down myself for all students. I do it for my adult students, too (on yet a different kind of sheet).

I think this is likely a control thing on my part. Also, as Christiane mentioned, my own assignment notes help me in the next lesson. I usually take the time they are packing up the cello and putting shoes on to write the assignments. Rarely pause the lesson to write—which sometimes means I forget something—sometimes I have to send an email, or it just gets missed that week.

I was getting more interruptions with one parent when the parent was writing the assignments—she always needed things repeated, and then still didn’t always get them down right. If she kept her questions to the end she would have blank assignment boxes. She has lately been taking some videos, which is good—if she is watching them later…

One parent and her child have had some of those practice time disagreements where she has to email me during the week. Including, “Will you please tell Bobby that C Major on cello is the same as piano—no sharps or flats?” (Sometimes I think he argues with her for argument’s sake.) My own assignments help in that situation usually because the parent needs my writing to back up what she says, sadly.

I heard advice from another teacher about taking notes at teacher training this summer. She took most of her notes in teacher training (for book one at least) in a copy of the book around the song they pertained to. Just occurred to me that that approach might be helpful for some parents… in some situations, anyway…

Thanks EVERYONE for participating here. I learn so much from all of you in the forums.

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

Mikaela said: May 29, 2012
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

I noticed a few of you mentioned that you take notes for your students to help guide you in the next lesson (who can remember every assignment they gave to every student after a week?!). However, if you have the families use loose sheets (special practice sheets or simply lined paper) in a binder, then each week you can sit last week’s sheet before you and the student to guide the lesson while the parent continues to take notes on an empty sheet. This is how I do it, and it works beautifully.

Paula Bird said: May 29, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Mikaela, may we see your sheet?

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

Ariel said: May 29, 2012
Ariel Slater
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Hopkinton, NH
12 posts

This is such a great discussion! It’s good to hear new ideas, and also to know that my frustrations are often shared :-)

Just to add something in to the mix: in my studio, I take my OWN notes on the students’ lessons, and keep them in a big binder—what scale they’re playing, what review assignment, working piece, and previews / technique work. My notes are often one or two words, but the kids notice that I’m taking them; the big kids like to look at them, and the tiny ones always ask what I’m doing. This means that I have a record no matter what happens at home. (One student brought in a decimate piece of paper one week to prove to me that the dog actually had eaten her practice chart.)

In our program, every parent has to have an orientation meeting before starting lessons; all of them come armed with notebooks and firm explanations about the importance of note-taking, but often note-taking peters out after a few lessons. Then the child will ask what I’m doing when I jot down a quick note and I’ll say, “Taking notes on your lesson, because I need to remember what I asked you to practice!” I’ll look at the child when I’m explaining, and then up at the parent—who has usually heard what I’ve said, and is scrambling to find a pen.

Barb said: May 29, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Ariel, that’s a great idea to have each of us responsible for our own notes, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the lesson. Maybe if I jotted my own notes at the end of the lesson, and needed to use the parents’ notes to confirm my memory…

Mikaela, we do use loose sheets. The issue for me isn’t whether the notes are available to follow during a lesson, just whether they are clear and concise and accurate enough to follow. :-)

Someday maybe I’ll have a laptop or pad in the lesson with me and be able to use the lesson notes feature of Music Teacher’s Helper (there is a section for notes which the students/parents can see, and a private notes area). My first year teaching I did my notes up at the end of each day on the computer but I only had 5 students. With 10 the following year I couldn’t always keep things in my memory that long, or confused students working at a similar level. And I had one parent who didn’t seem to bother retrieving notes from her computer.

A friend of mine’s kids are now teaching, and they use the notes their mother took sometimes to help them in their teaching! Maybe we should tell the parents that the notes they take will be a good reference for their kids should they ever take up teaching?

I remember my first cello teacher wrote my assignments on a 3×5 pad of paper—I got a loose slip every lesson, and she got the carbon copy in her book! (remember carbon paper???) Some of my other teachers would just put the date on the page in my books. My last teacher didn’t do anything in the way of notes, so I would make my own notes as soon as I got home. I value those now, and wish I had quoted him more often. I also wish I had notes from my early lessons.

At what age do your students usually transition to writing their own notes? How do you go about making the transition? How detailed are their notes? I can see them writing their own assignments down, but how much more do they get?

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

Barb said: May 29, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Okay, I think I figured out how to upload documents to my account so I can share them here…

I couldn’t, however, figure out how to delete the blank second pages! If you print these, choose page 1 only!

I’m sorry I can’t give credit to whoever created the Suzuki Model chart—I got it here a few years ago. If it’s yours, please speak up! There is room for parent notes on the side. I use this one for young or very beginner students.

PracticeTrackerSuzukiModel

I use this one just for me to write on for students who are a bit older or a bit more advanced (mid to late book 1 and beyond? No cut and dried time, it just depends on the student/family). The parents take notes in their own notebooks. The students have ABC lists with review pieces which they keep on the opposite page to this in their binders. Some review differently fishing or drawing from an envelope, etc.

Practice Record2ABC

I’d love to see what others are using. I tend to tweak mine every year or so!

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

Sue Hunt said: May 30, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

If I notice parents loosing focus, I ask the student,

“What do you think that Mum/Dad should write about that?”

This usually brings the parent back down to earth and engages the student in the process as well. A quick conversation ensues and the 3 of us come up with the answer, without having to nag.

You need to be persistent as you are reprogramming parents and children to pay attention, even when they are not being addressed directly.

Music in Practice

said: May 31, 2012
 48 posts

“You need to be persistent as you are reprogramming parents and children to pay attention”

“reprogramming”?

Esther Tiedemann said: May 31, 2012
Esther Tiedemann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Magalia, CA
4 posts

Just to inject a note of humor (sorry!) on this topic, I found this cartoon in my stash.
http://www.gocomics.com/frankandernest/2008/06/15

Marcos Pereira Osaki said: May 31, 2012
Marcos Pereira Osaki
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
São Paulo, SP, Brazil
2 posts

Dear all,
I prepared a sheet that is helping parents and I have an idea of the diary studies.
It works like a mind map.
The teacher can fix his own logotype above.
And are 2 types of sheets. The first one, with 7 stars for each day of the week. The other one for teenagers or children too.
http://www.projetocordas.com.br/registroaulasestrelas.zip
http://www.projetocordas.com.br/registroaulasquadrados.zip
I’d like to receive ideas to improve it.
Sorry, but it is in portuguese yet…
Hi from Brazil!

Marcos Osaki

André said: Jun 1, 2012
André AugensteinViolin, Piano
55 posts

is important and vital that parents participate in learning Music
for your kids…
Greetings
André Gomes Augenstein
Violin Teacher(isa)

Violin Student(International Suzuki Association) in Germany 1987
Violin teacher (International Suzuki Association) in Dublin 1995

Barb said: Jun 1, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Marcos, those mind map type sheets are a great idea. I can see that working better for some people than the lined charts or paper. Care to translate the Portuguese a bit? What does it say by the pizza? Oh, and both charts looked really similar—both with stars… what makes them different?

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

Janelle Lake said: Jun 5, 2012
Janelle Lake
Suzuki Association Member
Harp
Chicago, IL
2 posts

Thank you!

With Suzuki camps and institutes coming up this summer, I have had great success explaining to parents who formerly zoned out or managed the family calendar/etc. that I would love for them to feel comfortable at the camp/institute. That level of comfort will come from understanding and practicing how to be engaged during their child’s lessons.

When the parent does his/her best, I remind him/her that it will not be horrible to be corrected at that point in front of other parents because it will be a valuable experience for everyone in the room—vs. if the parent knows he/she can help his/her child better and is simply not doing it.

Lauren said: Jul 5, 2012
Lauren Lamont
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Edmonds, WA
33 posts

What a great topic and deserves all the fantastic input and ideas presented here.
For me, first I explain this item in detail in the parent orientation prior to beginning lessons and also hand out Heidi’s article. I also have a preprinted form I have adopted, which has a line for “Goal for the Week!” item, and then pre-printed items to practice. this also helps me try to stay with “one lesson—one topic.”

One of my favorite little techniques, is to ask the parent during the lesson, when I’m presenting an item to practice, “Did you write that down? Do you understand completely?” The student standing there, instantly knows it’s important and meant to be practiced, and that mom/dad has it “written down!” Then also, if the parent needs more clarification, I ask the student to help the parent understand. usually the student does understand, and by explaining it to the parent, locks it into their head. he he,

I still have occasional parents who sit there with a blank look on their face during the lesson. Sometimes, it means it’s time for that student to have the lesson without the parent (the student is more advanced and the parent doesn’t feel the need to understand and take notes anymore) or I need to spend some time going over it one-on-one with the parent again. I tell the parent ahead of time that I want to take some of the lesson time next week and check in with them.

Emily said: Nov 29, 2013
 59 posts

We have to remember that even though the child is interested in the music and the instrument, it doesn’t mean that the parent does or is. There are parents that don’t understand a thing about music, whether they have a learning disability that we don’t know about or maybe they just plain don’t get it, but we can’t just jump to conclusions and say that the parent isn’t involved. Maybe they don’t know what to write or how to write it, maybe they just were never good note takers. Making a worksheet for them may help.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer
www.musiceducationmadness.org

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