Balancing friendship and professional needs

Rachel said: Jul 21, 2012
 19 posts

I recently joined this site, but have been a Suzuki parent for four years. In those years my child has had two teachers. We have been with the current teacher for a year, and she has been a gift to all of us. Because of her, my child was able to connect to music, not just play mechanically correct. She helped my child to appreciate, love, and feel music as a means of communicating with others. Along this journey, we developed a friendship outside of the studio and lesson time. For the most part this enriched our experiences during lessons, as it enhanced the connection among all of us. Recently, however, I have felt some strain and challenges during the lesson. The last three lessons have felt disorganized and I have not felt prepared to teach at home and make progress with my child. I requested some more guidance between lessons (email and voicemail messages), but these went unanswered. The follow-up lesson would begin with an apology from the teacher for not providing a response, and inevitably a very disjointed lesson which left my child feeling inept and discouraged. Because of our friendship, I am privy to information and am aware of some challenges she is facing in her personal life. I am struggling to balance my role as Suzuki parent (advocate for my child and prevent a tragedy of hating the instrument and music in general because of lesson frustrations) with my role as a supportive and understanding friend. Has anyone else in this community been in a similar situation? How did you handle this dilemma?

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

Teachers and families ALL have challenges in their personal life. Frankly I am forever grateful to those families who blessed me with their friendship especially at times when friendship truly outweighed all other needs, including professional responsibilities.

My opinion: what an excellent opportunity to role model compassionate, helpful, and gracious behavior for your child. I am very business-oriented myself, but I have learned that what is truly appreciated at the end of the day is the relationships and bonding of individuals, whether parents, students, or teachers. I would suggest lending a hand somehow. One year my studio chipped in and bought me a massage, and boy that came at the right time!

If necessary, call the parent of a more advanced student in the studio for some guidance.

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

Carrie said: Jul 22, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

I got on to reply and found that Paula had said what I was thinking. Adding to what she said, I would say that you can redeem the time with your child. I have found that such challenging times have been the impetus to do some very good review work and the students have come out more solid in their playing because of it.

Also, have you tried at the end of the lesson to say, “Will you clarify for me what we need to be doing in our practicing this week?” You can be clear about what you need without being judgmental.

Like Paula, I am so blessed by the relationships that have developed in my studio. Many of us teach with great sensitivity of spirit. We sense when the family/student/parent is struggling and adjust the teaching to what they need. Sometimes we are told what the struggles are. Sometimes we love in our ignorance and do the best we can to strengthen these families through music. What a blessed opportunity you have to give back!

Blessings as you seek to make the most of this opportunity.

carebear1158

Carol Gwen said: Jul 23, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
76 posts

Paula and Carrie, how beautifully expressed. The effort to maintain balance in my life is lessened by relationships formed and strengthened during difficult times.

As a studio teacher I am present in the lesson and put aside any personal problems that may interfere. Sometimes being in the moment with a child is therapeutic because I gain needed perspective!
As a conscientious teacher I know when I fall short. There were painful times in the past and likewise there will be painful times to come when I teach less than my best.

How touching it could be to teach your child compassion and empathy towards a grown up. Too many children never develop respect for all people and all living things.

I guess what I’m saying is that your child’s progress on the instrument is also accomplished by opening the heart. Perhaps the two of you could brain storm a way to help your teacher in language that’s developmentally appropriate? Could you bring a flower from your garden? Prepare a beautiful piece to play in the lesson? Practice all your scales? Give your music to your teacher. She may come back to the present moment and be your teacher again.

Rachel said: Jul 25, 2012
 19 posts

Thank you for all the thoughtful suggestions and reminder that this is an opportunity to model and teach patience and compassion. In the days since my post, I organized the week’s practice goals and plan. With my visual checklists my child very clearly saw what needed to be done each day and felt proud as progress was made. We spent a lot of time focused on review, not just repertoire but preparation habits (posture, setting up the instrument, giving cues to start, etc). As the lesson day neared, I sent a summary of our practice structure to the teacher, noting areas where we could really use some guidance. In this week’s lesson all these efforts really showed as it was a very fruitful and focused lesson.

As for the friendship, I sent a note mid-week that let her know that I knew she was going through difficult times and reminded her that I was here to listen and support her. She responded by confiding in me about a specific difficulty that really upset her last week (the day before our previous lesson). In this way we both were able to infer that we knew the lessons had been disjointed lately, but with patience compassion and open communication we cleared the way for us to get back on track.

Paula Bird said: Jul 25, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

What a wonderful ending to this story! What fabulous solutions and actions you took. You have my mom of the year award!

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

Carrie said: Jul 26, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

Bravo Dragonfly. In my opinion, life is all about relationships. Sounds like you made the most of the situation for your child, your friend/teacher, and yourself.

carebear1158

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