More than one teacher at the same time?

Gretchen said: Jun 24, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

Hi everyone,

I did a search, but didn’t find anything on the discussion boards— I apologize if this topic has already been covered.

I just found out that a 9 year old student I took on recently is still taking lessons with her previous teacher (previous teacher does not teach above Bk. 4, and passes her students on at that point). The girl blurted out this info. during her lesson with me last week.

Her mom has told me she is very attached to the old teacher and does not want to leave, and cried about it, etc. The mom’s solution was to have her daughter take lessons with me weekly, and have a lesson with the old teacher once a month on non-Suzuki material.

This is NOT a good plan, in my opinion. I have already spoken with the mom, and I am now starting to think I may have been too harsh.

What would you do in this situation?

Gretchen said: Jun 24, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

I meant to add that I will post about how I handled it, but want to see what other teachers think about this first.

Paula Bird said: Jun 25, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

This happened to me once. The students came in every week with different fingerings on the same youth orchestra music. I thought it was odd but I figured the schoolteacher was responsible. At some point I was talking with a fellow teacher, and we were discussing students that we were considering passing onto each other. We thought that we were not being particularly effective with the students and we were going to just suggest that they swap teachers. And that’s when we discovered that we both had the same student.

I cannot believe that a parentwould think that this is a good idea. It puts the student in a very awkward situation. Which teacher do they listen to? What is that Scripture verse that talks about not being able to serve two masters at the same time without hating one and loving the other?

The parent in our particular situation was one of those parents who was pretty confident that they knew better than anyone else. The solution that my fellow teacher and I came up with was to completely drop the student. We didn’t even bother with an expiration since we knew it would fall on deaf ears.

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

Christiane said: Jun 25, 2013
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
New York, NY
47 posts

Inherently an unsuccessful idea, but I tried it once and not too long ago! These two sisters took some lessons with a colleague of mine while I was recovering from an illness, and after I was teaching again they wanted to continue with her as well. She’s an excellent teacher and the girls made great progress with her, but for their level of involvement in the whole process it ended up to be “overkill” so to speak. Also was a bit confusing to have one teacher tell them to use open strings on the way up the scale, and 4th finger on the way down, and then have the other teacher say the opposite. We also had different pacing in terms of moving through pieces.
Finally, the mom decided it was too intense with 2 teachers and now they’re back with me. The family is very bright and extremely interested in learning and just had to see it on their own. I think the girls are charming and intensely independent thinkers and the experience didn’t hurt them at all, but for most families this would never work. Too many cooks spoiling the broth as they say!

Christiane Pors
Violinist
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Gwen McKeithen said: Jun 25, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Sonoma, CA
11 posts

I think that the unfortunate thing is that both teachers were not informed or involved in the decision to have 2 teachers on a regular basis. Through the years, I have had a few students who took from me and another piano teacher at the same time. However, everyone was on the same page.

I don’t teach jazz but there are students who have opportunities to play jazz and want to study jazz. I have worked successfully with 2 different jazz teachers while my student continues to study classical piano literature with me. Also, I cannot teach the most advanced piano literature so I have had very successful “partner” relationships with 3 different concert pianists who take my most advanced students. To make such a move successful, the student continues with me for from one to 3 years as they begin with the new teacher. I become the teaching assistant, making sure all fingering is correct, all notes are learned, effective practicing habits are in place and model respect for the new teacher. One teacher even insisted that I come and watch all the lessons (be the parent, so to speak) so that I could learn to be a better teacher.

To me, the problem was lack of communication. There is more to say on this subject, but that covers the big picture from my perspective.

Gwen McKeithen

Merietta Oviatt said: Jun 25, 2013
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

This is simply a bad situation. I have also had this happen in the past with a parent who felt that more teachers must = better education. However, it does not. There have actually been studies done that have shown that taking from more than one teacher does not help, but indeed inhibits a child’s ability to learn. Gwen, a student taking a completely different genre than what you are teaching is a completely different situation. If their technique is slightly different from yours you could even chalk it up to being “jazz technique vs. Suzuki technique.” The approach to learning within various genres of music is usually quite different and is easy to work around two teachers with. Working on the same material, same kind of technique, etc… is a real problem.
When I found out that this past student was taking from two different teachers I simply told them it was unacceptable, and told them they must choose. They lied to us and told us they had chosen me, and when the child came back with different fingerings marked in the music again I asked if they were still working with two teachers. They admitted that they were and I made the decision quite easy for them and dropped them from my studio. As much as I adored the child, this was the best decision for both myself and the child. It is just too confusing for the child and let’s all admit—it really gets under our skin as teachers. There is no benefit to it and both myself and the child were much happier after it was over.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Mircea said: Jun 25, 2013
Mircea Ionescu
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Crestwood, KY
23 posts

Hey Gretchen,

I understand your frustration. It has happened to me as well. I am going to start letting parents know that we need to talk about any desire to have an extra teacher along side.
Mrs. Paula makes a good point, it could be confusing. The Scripture verse does not apply in the same way for us teachers, but Mrs. Paul is right to consider dropping a student whose parent is not open to our leadership as teachers.
I think part of the confusion can happen because of the assumption that we are kind of like soccer practice, or Burger King, where they come and get what they want. I have been trying to teach parents and students about the difference with private lessons. Like Mrs. Gwen said, communication is important.
It is not impossible for a student to work with more than one teacher, but it takes patience and wisdom to work it all out. I hope all the best for you, thanks for sharing!

Laura Burgess said: Jun 25, 2013
Laura Burgess
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
32 posts

My thinking was similar to Gwen’s, if both teachers know and are on board, AND teaching different material, it could work. So one could teach Suzuki and the other Fiddle. I think I would want to chat with the other teacher and agree on how to work together. This may be much more about relationships than music. Although messy, I think the parent may be trying to find a creative way of keeping the old relationship alive. I am very curious why the other teacher drops them after Book 4. Students give us so many chances to learn and grow, I would think stretching to grow with them would be a gift.

Heather Reichgott said: Jun 25, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
94 posts

I don’t see a problem with multiple teachers as long as everyone is communicating. It is beneficial for students to be able to learn from more than one person, and good not to get too isolated. Not that everyone has to agree on everything, but would be good for the teachers to agree at least in general on what the student needs, and confer from time to time.

I don’t blame you for feeling deceived here since they kept information from you that was important to your student’s progress.

BTW Laura—some teachers are only approved through SAA to train to teach up to a certain level, if their playing level is sufficient to teach that far but no further. My first Suzuki teacher was only approved for up to book 4 and she transferred me to another teacher after that point.

Gretchen said: Jun 26, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

Thank you so much for responding, everyone! Most of us seem to agree that it’s to confusing for a student to have more than 1 teacher. This girl’s old teacher has, well, a bad setup herself and is not at all a strong player. So, I am concerned about her modeling badly and the student copying her (which she has/does!)

Even if she were a good player and teacher, I still think it would be confusing and frustrating for all involved.

What I really want to know is this: would you put your foot down and tell the student/parent that they don’t get a transitional period and simply have to choose only one teacher? The girl’s mom told me that the girl is “a very sensitive child,” and cannot bear to never have lessons with the old teacher again.

Honestly, I think the old teacher is the one acting in the wrong, since she’s only prolonging the day when this girl can really start to make progress and work productively with me….

Gretchen said: Jun 26, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

Oh, and Laura, the other teacher drops students after Bk. 4 because she is struggling to play Bk. 4 herself! (She is not Suzuki certified and has never taken teacher training).

Alissa said: Jun 26, 2013
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Good Question! This probably will not be the only time you run into this :-/

This question brought back a nightmare situation I had in my first year of teaching. The family lived in 2 different states. The called the other teacher the “real” teacher. Long story short, it ended with the mother throwing a fit with tears in front of her children in the music school! This was all over what I thought was a simple question I asked her to take back to the other teacher.

If the child is really sensitive, this situation might backfire and end up really upsetting your student. You have a very strong opinion about the other teacher and at some point that could come out in lesson and be very awkward I’m sure. This teacher probably gets a small amount of recognition or pride that this little one can’t let her go. She did get her to book 4 with the student having a lot of connection to violin lessons. That’s admirable. I know of amazing teachers, maybe not the one you’re working with, that only teach to a pre-set level. In many cases, these teachers have huge studios and know what they excel at. By sending on the advancing student to the right teacher, they are opening up spaces to successfully start other littles. It can be a very successful arrangement.

As mentioned, the fact that the parent didn’t ask right away if this situation would work for you was a misstep on her part and needs to be addressed. I understand your immediate “harshness” as the reaction most of us would and have had. Parents feel that they know what’s best (and are right most of the time!) and do not run a music studio. Her intentions sound good, but you have to do what you feel best serves your student, their future and your forming relationship with this student.

In that first case, I dropped them right away. The mother’s reaction caused a serious fracture in the Suzuki triangle. I believe they had many teachers that only could work with them for a semester and then passed them on. On the positive side, I’ve been the part of other successful teaching duo projects. In all cases, there was a very obvious and open “lead teacher”. The other teacher was approaching from a reinforcement perspective. In one case, the family wanted to change to just me after two summers of the duo teaching. Both of us were in communication so we knew this was a possibility and it went quite well. Openness is the key. I would see if there is a way to directly involve the other teacher and let her know her role of reinforcer. If she can’t be involved, for whatever reason, I wouldn’t accept the situation.

Since you already handled this, I hope everyone’s as happy as they could be in this situation. Again, good question!

~Alissa
ABQstrings

Amy said: Jun 26, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
50 posts

There’s definitely plently of potential for this to be a negative situation, but there’s also potential for it to become a positive situation.

As a Suzuki student, I started with a teacher whom I loved, but technically she could not really take me beyond book 4. At that time, I was told that many people saw potential in me to become a professional violinist, but only if I would be willing to find a new teacher. I declared that I did not want to become a professional violinist, so I’d be happy sticking with my first teacher. (The other reason I wanted to stick with my teacher was that the Suzuki program in my town had a plaque for students who had successfully completed all 10 Suzuki violin books, and I had had my eye on that plaque for years! Switching to a traditional teacher who was not part of the Suzuki program meant that I wouldn’t get my name on the plaque!)

The solution that worked very well in my situation, was to continue having a biweekly “lesson” with my old teacher, though I mostly played for her etudes and pieces was working on with my new teacher. Thus, our “lesson” became an extra performance practice. We started this regime when I was in book 8, and continued this regime until I had passed the Mozart D Major concerto and could get my name on the plaque. By then, we were all ready for me to continue studying with just the one teacher who could refine my technique to prepare me to be the player I am today.

Hopefully my experience gives you some ideas about how to turn this into a valuable experience where you are not feeling friction with either the student or her former teacher.

Laura said: Jun 26, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Palm City, FL
105 posts

Yes, I too would be very hurt if I found out that a student was taking lessons with another teacher behind my back. I think as teachers we put our heart and soul into the student relationship and even though that is probably an exaggerated statement, if you find out they have another teacher on the side it almost feels like they are “cheating” on you. And the big thing here seems to be communication. This student absolutely should have been honest and up front with you from the start, but isn’t this how it is with everything in life? Straightforward and Honest is always best. But I probably wouldn’t drop the student (if their attitude was right after expressing my opinion.) I would say that one lesson a month with another teacher is not nearly as detrimental as a weekly lesson would be. But if it were me I would do 2 things.

1—express my opinion about communication to the parent (not in front of the child)
2—contact the other teacher with the goal that we be “on the same page” with what we are teaching and are all on the same board as far as the end goal …. which I think should ideally be a full switch to the new (and more qualified teacher for said students level)

In closing, I have to say, I am sorry this happened to you. I would be crushed ;-(
Laura
YMS

Gretchen said: Jun 26, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

Alissa and Amy, thanks for responding. I would be OK with a student having 2 teachers if it were a more positive situation, but I don’t feel that it is.

The old teacher is a lovely person, and I know her. However, every time I’ve gotten one of her students (6 times now), I have to do a lot of remedial work on posture, bowhold, playing in tune, articulation, note-reading, etc. They have all been enthusiastic, but none of them had a solid foundation, and unfortunately, this girl doesn’t, either.

I told the mom:

  1. That I understand how hard it is to leave a teacher, and have gone through many painful transitions of my own, and that it must be hard to see her child so sad;

  2. She could continue to have lessons with both of us for another month to have closure/ease the transition, but must be down to one teacher by late August. If she doesn’t feel she can do that, then I don’t feel I am able to teach her in that situation.

Harsh?

Honestly, I feel that the other teacher is the one acting wrongly. She knows she isn’t doing this girl any favors by continuing to teacher her, and probably also knows that a 2-teacher situation will confuse a 9 year old….mom just wants her daughter to be happy and thinks she has found a solution.

Paula Bird said: Jun 26, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Lovely, thoughtful discussion. Good span of perspectives. No, I would not offer transitional period. I would suggest that she continue with the other teacher and call you when they are finally ready to move on. I feel the parent and former teacher are making this hard for the student.

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

Cynthia Faisst said: Jun 27, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Where do you find parents who can afford to play for two teachers at the same time? ‘

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.

Christiane said: Jun 27, 2013
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
New York, NY
47 posts

It is rare to find this situation, but thank goodness there are those families that have the extra money and try to spend it for education as opposed to frivolous things.

In this discussion, the teacher who teaches only up to Book 4 is mentioned quite a few times. Does anyone else have an inherent issue with this type of teacher? When I was a teenager and began teaching students in Virginia, I had the goal of educating myself to the highest level before becoming a violin teacher. I pursued performance degrees and got a lot of playing experience. My first big Suzuki teaching job was daunting to say the least even with these credentials. The more years I taught, the more I realized how important it was to know firsthand how to play the violin well. Otherwise you emphasize the wrong things in the lessons, even at Pretwinkle level!
For example: How do you understand that it is important to hold the violin in an excellent position if you only play up to 3rd or 4th position? It’s like trying to teach good writing technique never having read beyond an elementary school level….
Any thoughts on why these teachers are allowed to teach under the auspices of the Suzuki method?

Christiane Pors
Violinist
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Barbara Stafford said: Jun 27, 2013
Barbara Stafford
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Plano, TX
59 posts

I’m sorry I could not read absolutely everyone’s comments before answering. But I did read many, and I see there are a ton of great perspectives. Both from people who would not work with this situation, and from people who would.

I do think it is possible to have a “two-teacher” solution. But, often when we are dealing with something unusual and unexpected, it can take more energy. And because of that, it is irksome until we settle into it and get a good pattern going. Should you settle into it? If you can figure out how to do it without feeling ongoing irritation, then yes.

Many people do teaching teams, including Dorothy Delay with Ivan Galamian, if I am remembering correctly. I know that you do not think highly of the teacher who was her first teacher and who she continues a once-a-month lesson with. But I am doubtful that a once-per-month situation is going to prevent the proper technique that you are teaching her from taking hold. Instead of criticizing the other teacher’s way, I sometimes tell the student, that I am offering them a more advanced way that she is ready to adapt to.

If you decide to be open to this situation, I would emphasize with the student and parent that you have passed through teacher-training and are a specialist in the Suzuki method and violin technique so you would like to guide the student exclusively in those areas. And that she could probably bring fun-stuff to play with the other teacher—like Disney stuff or duets or whatever she (or you) can think of. I bet the other teacher is someone who is open to spending a light reading session with her once per month.

I have definitely been in a similar (but different) situation a few times. Once, because of a contract situation they had with a teacher they wanted to quit. And another situation in which the student and parent must have been attracted to an “in-shop” teacher they met at the place where they bought their violin supplies. It was irritating to me but I just set a boundary on what I was going to work on with her, and that she should make sure to do other materials with the other teacher. I told her she would need to be able to keep up with more assignments since she was going to have different assignments from two teachers.

Heather Reichgott said: Jun 28, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
94 posts

@Christiane—

Maybe others will chime in who know more about Suzuki teacher training tiers from an official perspective—all I know is here’s the list of qualifications for teaching at the “Basic” level
https://suzukiassociation.org/teachers/training/audition/#basic

I have some strong feelings about this on both sides. I’m a pianist and it makes me sad how many people who do not play the piano, but play some other instrument, think that they can teach piano. From thence cometh much bad teaching. Like you, I have a goal to become the best musician I possibly can be, for many reasons, one of which is to do right by my students. And like you, I had some technique re-training at advanced levels (for me it was re-training after an overuse/misuse injury) and I think it’s very important to bring good physical technique into lessons with beginners.

On the other hand, I loved my first Suzuki piano teacher Mrs. Parker. I remember twice hearing her play for me in lessons and I was in awe: early on, the fastest of the Anna Magdalena Bach minuets, and later the Arabesque no. 1 by Debussy. She played beautifully if not at the most advanced levels. She certainly inspired me. And she inspired generations of children to have the beautiful heart, joy, respect for others and and self-confidence that comes from Suzuki teaching at its best. Of the three children in my family she taught, there are now one professional pianist, one professional singer, and one accountant who plays jazz trombone on the side. If the Mrs. Parkers of the world weren’t allowed to teach Suzuki it would be such a loss.

I do think that the Basic training requirements are stringent enough that you have to know what you’re doing. I don’t know about every instrument, but for piano, playing through book 4 means you have to be able to handle Bach Partita movements. At least that screens out the aforementioned piano teachers who don’t play piano…

Virginia Lamboley said: Jun 28, 2013
Virginia Lamboley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Clearwater, FL
11 posts

I wasn’t planning to add to this discussion, because most everything that needs to be addressed has been said; however after reading what Christiane said (”…n, the teacher who teaches only up to Book 4 is mentioned quite a few times. Does anyone else have an inherent issue with this type of teacher?”) I decided to add one more thing.

When I first began my Suzuki Teacher Training courses in violin, I had played viola all my life, but never played violin until a family asked if I would teach their children Suzuki Violin if they paid for my teacher training. (They had recently moved to the area and there were NO Suzuki Teachers anywhere near). I therefore spent several years taking SAA courses while teaching beginners through Book 4. I sent the students to a teacher who knew the violin repertoire better at that point, since I am a violist. I knew the technique and advanced viola repertoire as a professional violist, but not the violin repertoire. So I DO understand how some teachers can be excellent and qualified teachers and still choose to specialize in teaching beginners, choosing to send advanced students to teachers that may specialize in that level of training.

I have since become very comfortable with all the Suzuki repertoire and much more literature through all levels, and now do not send advanced students to other teachers. I do feel that even in those early days of my teaching, I was well qualified to ’set up’ a student’s progression as well as teach of all levels of technique.

Virginia Lamboley
String Things Suzuki

Elizabeth Friedman said: Jun 29, 2013
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Gretchen, you have handled this situation really well—but I agree with Paula that you shouldn’t let it continue for any further period of time. They must make a choice. They shouldn’t have been going behind your back for lessons with their old teacher, and if they’ve decided to switch to you because you are better for their child at this time, they need to be mature and make a clean break. Continuing in this way is immature and will only lead to confusion and frustration for the child (and you).

One aspect of this discussion that hasn’t been addressed: things like maternity leave and subbing. With my own maternity leave coming up, I’m quite excited that my students will be taking lessons from someone else (like at an Institute)—although I have vetted these teachers and will be communicating with them and there’s a set time frame during which they will be teaching my students. I also used to work at a Suzuki school in Chicago where we frequently subbed for each other—this meant my students got to hear the same thing from someone else and would often come to their lessons with either some issue (finally) fixed or a fresh perspective. There are lines that should never be crossed when subbing (changing fundamental aspects of a student’s bow arm if your bow arm comes from a different school than the teacher’s), or changing fingerings because you happen to prefer your way to the main teacher’s—but by and large, this type of team-teaching can be very advantageous. But this set-up involves clear communication, and the child’s principal teacher is still in charge.

In discussing my upcoming maternity leave a few days ago, I had the parents of two recent book 4 transfer students suggest that they go back to their old teacher during my leave. It is much the same situation, with this teacher (nice as she is) obviously stretched to have taken them into book 4 at all—and with plenty of technical fixing to do. I was nice about it, but said I would be taking care of setting up lessons for maternity leave… but if they push the issue I won’t, honestly, be able to continue to have room for them in my studio. (They’ve been pushing a few other things as well—like wanting one of the kids to take an ABRSM exam during my maternity leave (?!?)). I know who I would like them to have lessons with during my few weeks away—i.e., who I can trust my students’ technique and progress to.

Ultimately, you have to be in charge, and you’re not being harsh—you’ve just got your student’s best interest in mind.

Gretchen said: Jun 29, 2013
Gretchen Lee
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
State College, PA
28 posts

Update: lesson yesterday with the girl/mom. Her mom talked to the old teacher and told her my policy, and the old teacher agreed that it made sense. The girl and her mom also had a discussion about this. She said she is still sad to leave the old teacher, but understands the reason for my rule. So, for now, things are going OK.

I guess I wasn’t clear about the other teacher’s qualifications— she is not actually a Suzuki teacher (has never taken training, and likely could not pass the first audition for Bk. 1-4 teacher training). She uses the Suzuki books, regards listening to the recordings optional, does not teach group classes, does not have recitals/concerts for her students, and does not perform herself.

I think it’s wonderful when teachers know their limits, and know what they’re good at. My first Suzuki teacher only taught up to Bk. 5; however, she had taken teacher training for all of those units and gave me an excellent foundation. That is not the case with this girl’s former teacher, who is, in my opinion, not qualified to be marketing herself as a Suzuki teacher (uncertified, weak player, is unaware of the Suzuki philosophy).

Katherine said: Jun 29, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

“In this discussion, the teacher who teaches only up to Book 4 is mentioned quite a few times. Does anyone else have an inherent issue with this type of teacher?”

I am exactly this type of teacher. I studied violin privately for 6 yrs thru high school and had a highly qualified teacher (not Suzuki) and many ensemble experiences through high school. I do continue to perform for weddings, etc.

I live in a rural area. The teachers available locally to children do not play violin or honestly do not play well enough to perform, either privately or in the schools (eg the string program in the public schools is run by specialists in wind instruments; there are piano teachers teaching violin to kids; there is a regional orchestra that hired a woman w/ no real credentials to run a local “Twinkle in 10″ program—teaching kids to play Twinkle in 10 lessons, which is quite worrisome as the set-up achieved is poor—not sure how the kids continue from there). So I became a teacher sort of by accident—there was a demand and no supply. I started just teaching my daughter—again, b/c there was not another option and suddenly had many requests and decided to go ahead with it b/c I enjoy it and b/c of the lack of good alternatives for these children. We do group lessons and we perform in the community. I have gone back to taking private lessons myself (traveling to do so) and I just finished Book I training today. I know I am not qualified to the highest level, but I am committed to continuing education and improvement. There is a part of me that thinks perhaps I should quit, perhaps I am doing more harm than good, perhaps there are other things I should be putting my energy into instead (especially after taking the training and realizing some of my deficits more strongly).

BTW I do not claim to be a “Suzuki Teacher” and I am clear with parents on what my training, etc. is.

Is it better for kids not to be exposed to the violin at all if it cannot be thru a highly qualified teacher who is a professional performer and well trained in pedagogy? Unfortunately the reality is that for many kids, this is their only option.

I truly appreciate thoughtful comments on this and I will not be offended!

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Jun 29, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

A small side-note to the discussion: There is no such thing as being Suzuki “certified” for having received training. No certifications or diplomas are issued by the SAA after you complete training at a certain book level with a registered “Suzuki teacher trainer.” Rather, it is said that you are “registered” in the S.A.A. through Book 1, 2, or 3, etc. Check the SAA website for a clearer explanation of all this.

To KGM I would say, the background that you have is a great start! But it does not necessarily give you skills to start youngsters off with a solid foundation. what a wonderful opportunity you could create for yourself and your community, especially for the children who want to study with you! I would recommend this to you, and to anyone in a similar position, who has not studied beyond the high school level but finds him/herself in a position of teaching without guidelines, but wishing for a deepening of violin and pedagogic skills.

First, find an excellent teacher and continue to take lessons, and seek performance opportunities. You will gain greater technical skills and expertise, deepen your understanding of musical matters, and broaden your first hand experience of repertoire and live performance. You could also read books on music history, history of the violin and violin pedagogy to fill in any gaps in your knowledge. When you feel confident and capable, do the S.A.A. Bk 4 audition or higher, and once you qualify, you will be able to take Suzuki training at Institutes starting at the beginning, to as high a level as you have qualified and are able. You would then be assured that you are giving children in your area the best violin instruction that you can, as well as a true, enriched Suzuki experience, where there is evidently a great demand. Remember that Suzuki training not only helps us become better at developing talent, but also how to draw out the goodness and kindness in each child. The objective is not only to teach them to play the violin beautifully but to help them develop into noble human beings who can give goodness to the world. Good luck!

Wendy Caron Zohar

Katherine said: Jun 30, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Wendy—thank you—yes I definitely understand this. Even more so after having just completed Book I training (and ECC). I am studying with a professional violinist (w/ MA in performance). I have read and am very familiar with Nurtured by Love and other Suzuki philosophy materials.

I suspect there is great demand everywhere in this country, for excellent music instruction for children, but Suzuki teachers tend to be found mainly in large metropolitan areas.

Alissa said: Jun 30, 2013
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

KGM,

Your response was so thoughtful and well written. Thank You. As you’ve said, and reiterated, you still take lessons yourself and have completed ECC and Book I which if you didn’t audit, means your registered for both and took the playing audition. That is awesome, and more than shows where your heart and head are at.

In my opinion, there is no way you’re doing more harm than good. Your kiddos have a place to grow beautiful hearts and find art in this world. You even mentioned that the parents in your studio are made completely aware of your limitations, so if a professional violinist in training shows up in your midst, at some point you might point them towards a more advanced teacher if they needed it.

Keep on truckin’! I am long term trained, twice, and still take lessons. I had teachers that make people cringe at the mention of their name and the best of the best growing up. All of them turned me into a violin teacher. If no one would have taken me on as a student, I’d probably be an English teacher somewhere :-) Have the “sub-standard” teachers made my road harder? Most likely. I’m a violinist anyway and maybe a better teacher because of it! You sound inspiring, passionate and not the least sub-standard.

Is there anyway you can be directly observed by another teacher via video or in person, or that you could take one of your students to be taught by a more advanced teacher for a lesson or two so you can watch? I don’t think they have to be Suzuki teachers, just more experienced with students who you admire. This, and observations of other teachers, influence my teaching profoundly.

Enjoy this road you’re on. I find our profession to be an amazing world that I’m lucky to be a part of.

Katherine said: Jul 1, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Thank you Alissa for your positive encouragement. Having someone observe my lessons or observing others would really be useful. I did get to do a lot of observing of course during Book I training and also I have taken my daughter to 2 Suzuki camps where I was able to observe a lot of individual and group teaching, which was invaluable.

Barb said: Jul 2, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Kgm , My situation is VERY much like yours. Even if we can’t take our students to a very advanced level, we can give them an excellent start. I have just finished book 2 training. I intend to do something my teacher trainer suggested: observe my own recorded lessons. Having lessons recorded will also be useful for a SPA class, should I have that opportunity.

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

Katherine said: Jul 2, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

That’s a good idea. Thanks Barb.
I’m also glad to know I am not alone :)

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