No Enthusiasm from Parents

Cathy Hargrave said: Apr 1, 2013
Cathy HargraveTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Rowlett, TX
50 posts

Here’s a topic. I am always so excited about the Suzuki Method and love it more day by day. Been teaching over 30 years, Matsumoto grad, Teacher Trainer, etc. However, my students parents and most of my students get excited about absolutely nothing! Extremely discouraging to me. Practice habits bad (and I DO help them as much as possible), over-extended schedules, etc. I know I am not the only one experiencing this. Any ideas????
Cathy Hargrave

James said: Apr 1, 2013
James Guerin
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
27 posts

Hi Kathy, I have too much respect for your teaching to tell you anything about why there is no enthusiasm in your classes. However, I do believe that absolute insistence on technique can be unfeasible if musical inspiration isn’t coming out of the natural environment in which the student lives. In your master classes I have seen you teach a single technical point beautifully for a half hour. Students have worked on four measures over the course of three lessons.

I marveled then, thinking how you maintained your own students’ interest while working on such pure technical points, even given your providing context, musical reasoning, imaginative methods, and humor.

I don’t know how enthusiasm begins or is lost in Rowlett, Texas, but I do think it must begin at home with deep submission to the music itself, which could fuel the enthusiasm and provide the desire to submit to real learning at the level which you provide.

I miss your teaching and wish you well in 2013~

Cathy Hargrave said: Apr 2, 2013
Cathy HargraveTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Rowlett, TX
50 posts

Jim,
Thanks for the comments. This year, I have especially been focusing in my teaching on WHY anyone would study piano and WHY anyone would want to teach Suzuki Piano. I’ve experienced growing pains inside myself and get discouraged. I doubt seriously if any of us got involved because we were dying to study or teach technique ad nauseum. The tools of the trade are indeed important though. I have focused much more on trying to inspire people to love music and piano the way I do. Some do, some don’t. In my weekly teaching, as opposed to the workshop lessons you have seen me teach, I am not quite the same and don’t spend 3 lessons on 4 measures only. Anyway, yesterday, I had many encouraging things so I spoke too soon. One of my students, who studied w/ me 13 years, and is graduating as a performance major from Ithaca just found all 5 graduate schools she applied to have offered her scholarships and assistantships, all my Monday students (beginners—Vol. 5) were super enthusiastic, had great practice weeks, memorized pieces before being told to w/ good habits, and were playing polished pieces really well! I was ecstatic. I spoke too soon I guess.

Do any of you other teachers get discouraged like I do? If so, how do you re-charge?

Cathy

MaryLou Roberts said: Apr 3, 2013
MaryLou RobertsTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Ann Arbor, MI
244 posts

Hi Cathy,
I can understand what you might be thinking. Our situation may be similar. I travel quite a lot as a teacher trainer, where everyone hangs on my words, takes notes, and really values my input. Then I go home to teach, and while my students are all wonderful, they are also consumed with their schedules, their own lives, and they might easily miss these same words and not completely hear or be inspired in the lessons.

In order to inspire my students at home, I have found a couple of things that help.
1 Stay rested. I found myself tired after travel and this was getting into my teaching.
2 Show genuine interest in each student. Knowing the same student for years is so different from meeting new students, or seeing them year after year. I started working harder at connecting with my own students, and it has helped.
3 Teach that inspiration: the philosophy is wonderful to share in bits with students at their lessons, and makes the experience more important and meaningful, so it will get a higher priority. This goes for all students, the ones who get it, and the ones who have yet to get it…

Ian Salmon said: Apr 3, 2013
Ian Salmon
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Addison, TX
21 posts

I know the feeling so well. But, I often ask myself, “is this really a continuing problem? Or am I dramatizing it unnecessarily?” More often than not, I find that I’m being unrealistic in my expectations!

This is such a tough time of the year for teachers and students alike! Even students with minimal extracurricular commitments seem to be hard-pressed to find consistent practice time. The ones that are already stretched too thin often fall into survival mode, hoping to simply get through their lessons without their teachers scolding them. They’re more concerned with the piles of AP work waiting for them at home. Frankly, I would be too.

There is an ebb and flow to the learning process. I truly believe that everyone has their “learning season”. For most of my students it is the summer/early fall. With an eager, energetic brain I know that I can expect more during that time of the year. In addition, their parents are often more rested and eager to share in the triangle. However, from Spring Break through the end of the academic year, I am content at moving somewhat slower.

You are a wonderful teacher and caring person. During this time of the year I try and just enjoy the gift that I have been given. I get to wake up every morning and say hello to my instrument. I get to be the friendly teacher in my students’ lives. The one that they are still excited about seeing. Don’t worry, they’ll be back into their youthful selves in another month! Cheers—Ian

Ian Salmon
Violin and Viola Instructor
Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas
www.SuzukiMusicDallas.org

Ian Salmon said: Apr 3, 2013
Ian Salmon
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Addison, TX
21 posts

By the way, congratulations on Natalie! She was such a wonderful pianist during my time in Ithaca. You must be so proud!

Ian Salmon
Violin and Viola Instructor
Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas
www.SuzukiMusicDallas.org

Barb said: Apr 3, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Cathy,

Do you do any ongoing parent education? I’ve been thinking of trying to send out newsletters with some inspirational articles to hopefully help build parent enthusiasm…

Somewhere I read about a teacher who made ALL studio parents SAA members so they would receive the Journal this year. Curious how that turns out!

Sometimes really changing up lessons and practice routines can be a way to re-charge the batteries. A week for students to compose a piece, or design a practice game board, or have a practice contest (where there’s an award for everyone—I tell them there will be some surprise categories and figure them out afterwards).

I do the practice contest every May (I take a week off, myself!) and hand out awards (certificates + chocolates) in the June recital. One of the favorites is usually “Most unusual practice location”—which would be difficult for piano! But maybe piano students CAN see how many pianos they can practice on… find pianos in friends’ homes, in rest homes, in churches, music stores, etc…. Last year the one who practiced cello in a chicken coop won! (Though it did result in a dusty cello!) I have the parents take pictures of these, and also have a prize for best posture in a photo. “Most days” ended up starting one girl on every day practice and she hasn’t missed for several years now. I was hard-pressed to award one young fellow one year—he ended up getting “shortest practice session.” I knew he could handle getting that award in public… and I turned it into a positive by encouraging everyone to at least put in five minutes, even if they have a super busy day.

One of my students suggested a “backwards day” and I still may do that at some lesson—I know reading music backwards is a challenge for me!

It is nice to know even the very successful and highly trained and experienced teachers encounter some of these discouraging times—and great to see the positive responses here! Thanks to all for sharing.

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

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