overwhelmed mother and underachieving children

Rose Lander said: Mar 19, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

although i am a highly experienced and successful suzuki trained teacher. i am afraid that i made a big mistake in accepting a family of 4 a number of years ago. the rate of progress has been painfully slow. the children, although review is required and checked ,do not remember material that they have studied several weeks ago. their reading skills are poor —having enormous difficulty playing quarter notes and eighth notes despite the fact they are in the middle of a third (grade I) reading book. they range in age from 8 to 13. i am horrified to learn the mother is incapable of judging or helping them, despite my insistence that she demonstrate practicing with her children at the lesson. this year is particularly stressful as her husband is away working all week. I have had constant conferences with her in person and on email. she cannot hear the music or judge the playing, does not insist on repetition, but wants the kids to learn violin. thankfully they are cooperative. it becomes more and more of a burden to constantly go back to the basics and not see progress.
i would appreciate any insight that you can offer me.
rose lander

Barb said: Mar 19, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi Rose,
I can feel your frustration!

You say the mother cannot hear the mistakes or judge the playing. I would guess that the mother does not listen to the recordings along with the children? Can the children hear the mistakes or judge their own playing? Is self-evaluation something you can work on in lessons? Can the children be motivated to take more ownership for repetitions? Wonderful that they are cooperative!

I have seen a few students who seem to be “beat deaf”—my best guess is that music had no part in their early years. Maybe this is the case for this family, going back to the mother’s own upbringing, even? It’s wonderful that she wants her children to learn the violin. Although rate of progress may be slower for these people, they CAN learn.

Maybe involving some different ways of learning to read rhythms away from the violin would be worth exploring with these students if you haven’t yet tried it. Words for rhythms (I believe Music Mind Games does this—I haven’t used it, but it seems to be highly recommended), drumming, games, manipulatives…

Remember that these children may not take violin with them throughout their lives, but they will always have your nurturing… the mother, too.

There are some WONDERFUL videos on Parents as Partners Online right now, and if you haven’t registered to see these, I highly recommend them for teachers and parents alike. Inspiring and full of great ideas.

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

Rose Lander said: Mar 20, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

dear barbara,
thank you so much for your positive, understanding and quick response. i think that there definitely needs to be listening on the mother’s part. i wiill talk to her immediately.
the students are not beat deaf, they just cannot relate the symbol to the correct rhythm. when i make them march to the music, it becomes doable. I should try harder in getting the stu dents to evaluate themselves. i registered all of my families to parents on online even though many did not pay. the challenge is to motivate them to watch! thank you again for your great generosity! this is one of the best benefits of suzuki education.
thankyou again,
rose lander

Caitlin said: Mar 20, 2013
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

Hi Rose,

You may want to try adding a crutch to your students’ sight reading. I find if i use dashes that correlate with the note length under the notes, it makes more sense. It had something to do with making the space make more sense I think. So under four quarter notes you would see :————, under two quarter notes and a half note you would see this:—— —-, and under a quarter note and two eights: —- -. Do tons of repetition. Then start getting rid of the dashes. It words for my students who just don’t seem to “get it” with note reading. Also maybe point out the spacing between the notes. Typically the quarter notes take up a fourth of the space of a measure, half notes, half the measure, etc.

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