Being the New Teacher

Renee Shaw said: Oct 4, 2015
Renee Shaw
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
19 posts

Recently a new student has joined my studio after her previous teacher had moved away. The student is five years old and it seems her old teacher used Suzuki, though there are some concerns that I have regarding her posture, hand position when fingers are down, etc.
She has been very clingy to Mom during lesson time and it has been very difficult to get her involved in lesson time. While I wish Mom would be more firm about her participating, it came to the point that Mom tried to get her to participate, threatened leaving for a little while and the student ran out crying after Mom. After we came back to the room, she expressed she was unhappy with our current exercises (bow games, since we have not been able to have a regular lesson), so I’m going to pull from other material, use other folk songs to work on and so on while hoping I can work on some of the other things as we’re going.

Have you had any experience assimilating new students? I’ve done it before, but this particular student is having a very difficult time, she isn’t happy that her former teacher moved away and unfortunately the old teacher left open the possibility of coming back.

Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated!

Marian Goss said: Oct 4, 2015
Marian Goss
Suzuki Association Member
26 posts

Sounds like Mom may be part of the problem. When I was a younger teacher (not that I’m old now or anything lol), and before a was a Mom myself, I always assumed that parents knew best about handling behavior issues in lessons. And at first it seemed easier to just let the parent deal with issues as they arose. But after a while, I realized that by letting the parent interject to address the child’s wiggles, lack of focus or even defiance, particularly with the younger students (3-5 years old), that interjection was taking the focus AWAY from me and toward the parent. While the Suzuki “triangle” is important, I really think direction (musical, technical and behavioral) must come from the teacher. The student (and parent) will not put full trust in your abilities until you can at least attempt to control as much of the direction and flow of the lesson as possible. This really came to light when my own children began their journey as Suzuki piano students (I am a violinist). It took all my strength to NOT comment or interject during a lesson so that the our piano teacher, who had many more years of experience than I did, could keep control. She actually did a better job than I could have. And by letting her control the flow of the lesson, I was actually able to see my MUSICAL child in action (as opposed to the argumentative child I often get at home). It took years of practice for me to be able to feel comfortable enough to tell a parent not to interrupt a lesson for behavior issues. And there are times when the child needs a break, or when it’s best to end the lesson early (and give the parent some extra practice tips). I’m sure it doesn’t help that this child had a different teacher prior to you, and the Mother perhaps was used to being in control. Stick to your gut and teach what and how you think is best.

Cheryl said: Oct 4, 2015
Cheryl Ball
Suzuki Association Member
Dublin, OH
10 posts

I once had a student who wouldn’t participate, so I have her a small chair to sit in and then concentrated on teaching the Mom (I teach piano) I told the student when they were ready the could come to the piano, but if they came it had to be to play. I of course let mom know this strategy was to show Mom was interested and hopefully the child would become interested too. I didn’t make the chair a punishment..just a place to sit when she wasn’t going to play the piano. In a very short time she began coming to the piano to play the piano :)
I also had a paper which I made each week with little cartoon animals I copied off the internet. When the student performed a task she got to put a sticker on one of the animals. This also helped her to visually see how the lesson was progressing, when all her stickers were in place the lesson would be over
I have used things like getting to move a hersheys kiss across the area where the music sits on the piano -each time they perform what I ask them to do the kiss moves a little farther to the left until it reaches the point where the kiss becomes theirs to take home.
I have used with little boys a reward of getting to push a toy train around a track, make a pull-back car go across the floor, or put a toy basket ball through a hoop-all incentives to get them to participate.
Hope that gives you some ideas.
p.s. I guess most importantly I pray for my students and their lesson time :)

Jane Asprelli said: Oct 5, 2015
Jane Asprelli
Suzuki Association Member
Milford, CT
1 posts

Those ideas are wonderful for shy and clingy students. Thanks, Cheryl.

Sent from my iPhone

Jane P Asprelli

Emily Morgan said: Oct 6, 2015
Emily Morgan
Suzuki Association Member
Wilmington, NC
14 posts

Thanks, Cheryl!

Renee Shaw said: Oct 6, 2015
Renee Shaw
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
19 posts

Thanks for the feedback! I’m hoping this week goes a bit better. While technically/musically, I’m going to have to reteach some of the basic and beginning techniques, I have a feeling I will have to train Mom, too. Here’s hoping we can strike a good balance soon. Will update on how things go this Friday!

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