Parent attending lessons

Lisa McB said: Sep 13, 2015
 2 posts

I was told in our last lesson that our teacher now doesn’t want me to sit in my children’s lessons. She said something along the lines of “always having an audience”. I was so surprised by this I don’t remember her exact words.

I am okay with not being in my older daughter’s lesson as she is at a level that I can’t help her anymore. (I do not play an instrument or read music.) She is 15 and has done the RCM Grade 8 exam. My younger daughter (age 12) is just starting Book 3. I do still help her practice.

I am wondering what other teachers do as far as how long parents sit in the lessons. What age or playing level is appropriate to stop sitting in lessons?

Thanks

Alice Wright said: Sep 14, 2015
Alice Wright
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Anchorage, AK
11 posts

I think I would question the teacher regarding the Suzuki philosophy in this regard. Suzuki wanted parents to be the teacher at home. If the parent doesn’t sit in on the lesson how can she help? I would be stressed about the teacher’s policy, and would think about finding another teacher.

Sent from my iPhone

Anna said: Sep 14, 2015
 Violin
20 posts

I completely agree with Alice. As a teacher myself, I always ask/encourage the parents to sit in on the lessons, even if the student is old enough to practice at home alone because I think it is good for everyone to know what is going on and work together. To answer your final question specifically, I think it depends on the child and situation, but a 12 year old will probably need some help, or at least encouragement, at home. At the very least, you could take the notes for her so that you know what she is doing and what progress she is making.

I’m not sure who the teacher is worried about having an audience . . . herself or your daughter? If the teacher is talking about herself, that’s a reason to find another teacher right there. A teacher should never be afraid of having others, especially parents, in the room when teaching. If she is concerned for your daughter, I don’t think that’s good either. It is good for students to learn to play with others around, and what better person to start with than her mom!

A teacher should always be open about her policies and reasons, so I think it is very reasonable for you to ask some questions.

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter said: Sep 14, 2015
Holly Blackwelder CarpenterInstitute Director
SAA Board
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
College Place, WA
87 posts

My guess is there may be more to what she was trying to communicate but did not wish to do so in front of the student.

I would recommend a phone call (not email, where body language and tone inflection are lacking and can lead to misunderstandings). Don’t jump to conclusions, insist on open communication, always. This is a triangle and all sides need to work correctly. Never assume, ask for clarification and go from there.

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter
Director, Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute
SAA Board of Directors

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter said: Sep 14, 2015
Holly Blackwelder CarpenterInstitute Director
SAA Board
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
College Place, WA
87 posts

PS—I want to make it clear that in my comments I realize I am on a parent forum, even though I am a teacher, and my comments were as one parent to another, as I am also a Suzuki parent working with a Suzuki teacher, and also from my background that includes some counseling!

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter
Director, Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute
SAA Board of Directors

Elizabeth Erb Sherk said: Sep 14, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Recorder, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Guitar
25 posts

Some quotations/ideas to consider regarding the matter of “Who is in the Suzuki Piano Studio when lessons are being taken?”
*We learn by observation.
*The masterclass format, where a teacher teaches a student before an audience, happens once in a while, in a traditional conservatory. But if this scenario is useful once in a while, why not replicate it all the time? It is my understanding that this studio format is the one that prevails in Matsumoto. There is no such thing as “a private lesson”.
*One Teacher, One Parent, One Child, bad environment” The situation that initiated this conversation is probably suffering from, or has become non-functional because the parent and the teenage child need space from each other to individuate. But that does not mean that the teenage student needs to take lessons in the absence of an audience.
*Having another family involved in our lesson gives us a sense of community. I like remembering the theme of SAA Conference 2014 “Powered by Community”. I also like another SAA mantra: “DEVELOP LEARNING COMMUNITY”.
*”I have never had a student who was afraid to perform or who refused to perform.” How can this be? Because from the very first lesson, there were always several students, several parents, and hopefully 2 teachers collaborating in listening and learning from each other.
These ideas are described fully in an article by Dr. Karen Hagberg entitled “Learning by Observation” published in the July/August 2015 issue of the Suzuki PIano Basics Foundation.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Sep 15, 2015
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

Could it be that the teacher is trying to make the student more independent? That might be something worth discussing. Just ask her what her goals are and how you might help facilitate them at home.

Arlene said: Sep 15, 2015
Arlene Patterson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Longmont, CO
13 posts

What response would you give to a 2nd grade boy (eldest of 4 siblings) insisting his mother not sit in on his lessons?
Arlene

Arlene

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Sep 15, 2015
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I would tell him that either his mom has to sit there or his mom may sit in the other room if we can record the lesson on an iPad (or something) for her to watch later.

Carrie said: Sep 16, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

For the 2nd grade boy, I would wonder what is at the heart of his request. Is it a character issue that he needs some help with? Is mom too hard on him? What’s going on for him to not want her there? Does he understand that the teacher is counting on the mom helping him at home?

carebear1158

Brecklyn Smith Ferrin said: Oct 3, 2015
Brecklyn Smith Ferrin
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Kaysville, UT
28 posts

It is possible that the teacher is hoping to help your teen become more independent, or that she thinks that the student would play better without you there…

Maybe recording video of the lesson would be a good compromise? That way you would be aware of the key points and assignments but there would be more independence for your child?

Whatever you do, I think it would be a great idea to have a discussion in person or on the phone with your teacher. You guys should be a team—helping your daughter develop her musical abilities.

Caitlin said: Dec 16, 2015
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

I have a question: what is your role currently in the lesson? As a teacher sometimes we have parents that are too active in the lesson and it can be stressful (when a parent is telling a kid to put the scroll up when while I’m trying to get them to have a good bow hold just kills the lesson… or while the kid is trying to tell me something the parent tells them to stop moving and stop talking… so frustrating. Then there is the parent who tells me why their kid didn’t practice this week… etc., etc. etc.). While I’m not saying that this is the reason why, I could see it being a reason… having a parent not come to lessons is a easy way to fix this type of problem. If you have realized that maybe you are over active in the lesson, it may be nice to let the teacher know that you will just watch the lesson and not participate so much.

Lisa McB said: Dec 17, 2015
 2 posts

Update: I am still sitting in lessons. I basically just continued to sit in and nothing more was said. Things are back to usual. Another parent whose children study with her and I talked about it and she mentioned maybe it was just a mood she was in at the time.

The option of changing teachers is not an option I’d like to entertain. My children are really very comfortable with her and I recognize that she is an excellent teacher. We’ve been with her for about eight years and I’ve seen the students she has taught before us who’ve moved on to university studying music, who have won music awards, and are generally well-rounded and successful people.

As Caitlin recently posted, I did reflect on whether I was being an interruption in the lesson and, although I don’t feel I was saying much during the lessons, I’m saying even less and being more of a fly on the wall.

Holly, I am also grateful for your perspective as a teacher. It was something I was looking for as well as a parent perspective.

Thanks to everyone for the support!

Eva Brodbeck said: Dec 17, 2015
 18 posts

I put a camcorder on a tripod during the lesson. My daughter doesn’t behave well when I am present. She is four now and very independent. I sit at the very end of the room at the back of her so I’m still inside the classroom and watching them but invisible to her. It goes well this way. Also we’re about to opt out of the Suzuki
lessons next term. I found a teacher with traditional teaching method and pretty good credentials. Our Suzuki lessons with only one very young student are quite uncomfortably tight and stern. There should be at least two chidlren in the lesson to make it work and it should be modestly fun, ours wasn’t. So we’re out. I’m grateful. We learned a lot about balancing practice with fun activities, finding the right parent/child dynamic, building discipline and lots more.

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter said: Dec 17, 2015
Holly Blackwelder CarpenterInstitute Director
SAA Board
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
College Place, WA
87 posts

Lisa,
Thanks for the update. I’m glad things are working out.
Holly

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter
Director, Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute
SAA Board of Directors

Kristiina said: Apr 6, 2016
 7 posts

Im no teacher, just a parents with a long history of piano. Well, I would really have disliked if my mother had stayed with me during my lessons when I was 15. That is an age when you need to let go a bit and give a child more privacy to have her own things too. It is totally different than 12 years or even 13.

Every parent and child combination is different but if the teacher asks it, it may very well be that the child wants it but just cant say it aloud. Why not try? You wouldnt have to leave lessons forever, just listen a lesson once in a while and see how it goes? Maybe she would progress more if left alone with the teacher?

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 6, 2016
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I think some students are ready to take ownership of their lessons & practice time in the pre-teen (ages 10-12) years, and most students at that age should at least begin to take charge of more and more of their own practicing.

And, mid-teens (age 15 or 16) should be old enough to handle pretty much all of their own practice assignments, with (perhaps) reminders at home (not during the lesson) along the lines of “what time are you planning to practice today?” or “how much practice time do you need this week?”, and support in the form of short articles or videos to read or watch about how to get the most out of their own practice time.

That doesn’t preclude a parent from sitting in on the lesson if they are “inactive” -i.e., taking notes quietly without saying or doing anything to distract the student, and keeping any parent-teacher interaction to logistical questions or information at the very start or end of the lesson (such as lesson scheduling issues, etc.)

Students at this age might even begin to take charge of paying for the lessons, starting with becoming a middleman by handing the money or check to the teacher at the start of the lesson due date instead of having the parent hand it over, and gradually moving to paying for a portion of the lesson fees out of their own money (whether it’s allowance money or earned money).

Anne Brennand said: Apr 7, 2016
Anne Brennand
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Boulder, CO
37 posts

Hi all. I heard some great advice years ago when attending an institute for teacher training.
Subtract 7.
If a student is 7 years old or younger, 7-7=0, so, s/he needs every day of the week with practicing with a parent.
An eight year old (8-7=1) can practice one day of the week by him/her self, and 9 year old (9-7=2), two days of the week, etc.
By 14, 7 days of the week can be private practice, so maybe the parent is not so necessary, depending on the student/parent dynamic, and individual needs.
I have been so grateful for this general time table, which seems to work well most of the time. —Anne

Anne Brennand, cellist and cello teacher

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