group class attendance

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Nobuaki said: Feb 1, 2008
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

In our program i’m offering bi-weekly group classes. But I’m struggling in the group class attendance. Of course all students have weekly private lesson, but many students do not understand importance of a suzuki group lesson.
Because many schools offer a string instruments class, parents think that not necessary to attend the group class. I told many times that the school string class and suzuki group class is completely different. I also handed out several SAA article mentioning the group class.

So I decided that I won’t admit students unless a new student can attend both private and group lesson. So hopefully those new students will influence other students who enrolled before. May be I will lose students, but at this point, this may be only option to raise group class attendance.

any suggestion?
thank you

Lynn said: Feb 2, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

I only enroll new students who will participate in group classes—which I hold once a week. (The only exception is if I decide to take on an experienced high school student). Rather than trying to persuade parents that group class is valuable, I can put my time and energy into those families willing to commit. Group class is also included in the tuition, which I find really reinforces the message that my program is not a smorgasbord from which families can pick and choose.

Looking at it from the parent perspective: A lot of the value of group class only becomes apparent after being involved for a while, and for the uninitiated or inexperienced, one group of kids playing together looks much like another. For a family trying to juggle all different activities, they are probably NOT looking to add to the schedule an activity that appears to replicate another! It’s easier with younger kids who are not also involved in string class at school; by the time they are old enough for string classes, the parents have enough experience that they can see for themselves how string class/orchestra and Suzuki group class differ. Consider, too, that unless a family is specifically looking for a traditional suzuki program, what they probably had in mind (and what they themselves experienced, if they took music lessons as children) is the see-the-teacher-once-a-week format.

Definitely, though, if you are serious about having a program where group is an integral feature, you have to arrive at a point where participation is expected and non-negotiable, and those who change their minds about being in group can’t stay in your studio. I went through a stage where I was willing to continue working with young students where the parents legitimately could not make it to group class—it wasn’t a commitment/interest issue—and in the long run it never worked out. So I don’t even do that anymore. If you can’t be a part of my group class, for whatever reason, then we’ll have to get you hooked up with another teacher.

Nobuaki said: Feb 3, 2008
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

I may change policy like this. Unless students participate certain amounts of group lesson, they cannot participate in the recital. I may lose some students. But better to have high quality students and more commitment from them

am I too strict?
thank you

said: Feb 3, 2008
 56 posts

as a parent, I find that sometimes group class can be a double-edged sword. Yes I acknowledge what Prof Suzuki says about the benefits of group class.

However, in situations where the number of students is limited, and coupled with the fact that parents have differing goals in mind, and students have diverse rates of progress, if you combine such students, it may have negative effects. What can be done is to perhaps organise a recital together say once a quarter. (here i am speaking as a parent with a limited budget, trying to maximise lessons as far as possible :)

Talent is not born, but created

Lynn said: Feb 4, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Zaachaeus, you are correct, hence the importance of parents finding a program that most closely suits/meets the needs and goals of them and their child. Because there is such a range, it is impossible for one teacher and one studio to be the best match for everybody. I became a much more effective teacher, and my program a more effective program for those students that I do enroll when I stopped trying to suit all comers—and when I stopped enrolling students who were wanting something different than the program I was trying to develop.

said: Feb 4, 2008
 Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

[box]Lucy

I only enroll new students who will participate in group classes—which I hold once a week. (The only exception is if I decide to take on an experienced high school student).

Lucy, may I ask, do you have a policy where students don’t miss any group classes, and if so, how do you word it (in general)? I have a similar approach as you do—I only take students that commit to group class, and they are charged for every group class. I stress that attendance at ALL group classes is preferred, but that one per month is required. I also stress that missing group class undermines the whole class’s work and demoralizes the other students. My studio is now to the point where everybody is fully committed to group class. In general, attendance is very good, especially during those times of year we are preparing for a group concert. It’s not so good during the months of Dec.-Feb when we are not involved in preparing a group concert. During those months those students are involved in preparing for an evaluation event (not a contest), so the focus is more on solo material. At group classes I make time for volunteers to play a solo, but we also work as a group. I do a lot more with games at this time, musicianship building activities, technique work as a group, etc.

Looking at it from the parent perspective: A lot of the value of group class only becomes apparent after being involved for a while, and for the uninitiated or inexperienced, one group of kids playing together looks much like another.

This is an excellent point. I often wonder how parents feel about the benefits of group class, and that’s a question I should remember to ask at parent conferences. My sense of their feelings, through casual comments, is that they like group class for the social benefits their children receive. I like this aspect of it, too, since it is motivating for them to have that close peer group. However, I wonder if parents realize the musical benefits of group class, and if they notice a difference over time from attending?

I am considering changing my policy so that they are required to attend EVERY group class, or at least more than they do currently, rather than a minimum of once a month. I have debated this in my mind for several years now, and just not sure what to do. If I change the policy to be stricter I would do it because I believe the benefit is lessened by missing occasional classes. Some miss for an occasional sports conflict or the family going out of town. One of my families in particular leaves town every time there is a Friday or Monday off from school. As I said, most people really are committed—they are there at group unless it’s something like these above two examples. But, once in a while there is the “we forgot” or “we overslept” excuse. One extremely busy mom has been known not to bring her child when she has a hair appointment. It is such a tricky thing for me to consider their very busy lives with the ideal I have for group class. There are also times when students arrive late or leave early—something that’s a little hard to keep track of. In a school year that includes 28 group classes, I would say that some families are missing up to 4-6 per year. Do you all think this is reasonable?

One of my goals is having the students perform in public—to have a couple of special events. I am currently working on putting together a performance to help a local community promote their outdoor festival of concerts (which include Renee Fleming, the Five Browns, and Joshua Bell). I am very excited about this possibility. The families are very excited, too. However, it will take a lot of preparation and excellent attendance on everyone’s part. I also want to take my students to perform at Disneyworld next year. Again, in order to do something like this it will take a LOT of preparation. I am considering a policy change that group class is mandatory every week, but don’t know how it would work for the families that have sports and/or the family that goes out of town frequently.

Any suggestions>?

Lynn said: Feb 4, 2008
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Traim,
I expect everyone to be in class every week, and they usually are. I also think that kids benefit from participating in other activities (sports, school play, honors orchestra…) that will, from time to time, conflict with my classes. I try to be reasonable and flexible about accommodating conflicts—without giving them a complete pass. I know a lot of coaches and play directors have a no miss policy, and they have to, or they would never get their team or their play off the ground. I “fight back” by working to cultivate a group experience that is such that the kids want to be there. It really helps when I tell them that their coach’s/director’s policy is perfectly reasonable—and they need to go talk to them about how they can participate in their activity, and still follow through on their violin commitment. I really have not had huge attendance issues for a number of years now.

As far as policies, IMO, they are most helpful if you simply state your expectations, then put a period. Save the compromises, and the minimum necessaries for when you are trying to work with a family to resolve a conflict. That way you have a written policy that reinforces rather than undermines the message you are trying to convey about the importance of class. You may also find that more families start working to your expectations rather than your published minimums.

said: Feb 4, 2008
 18 posts

As a parent, I think group class is great. Here are some thoughts. Weekly is better. Bi-weekly events are so easy to forget. Make sure that group lesson is enjoyable for the students. If the children want to come, their parents are more likely to bring them. Similarly, schedule children together that are likely to form friendships. Also, plan things for your group lesson that are clearly different from individual lesson and also things that require being in a group, such as duets, rounds, etc. That way people will better see the need for both.

Nobuaki said: Feb 5, 2008
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

I can see different view from parents and teachers.

I would like to do a weekly group class. But I have students range from pre-twinkle up to book ten and age between 3-18, I have to do several group classes. So we can do only bi-weekly group at this point.

From everyone’s comment, I need to make clear expectation and goal for parents and students. So they know importance of attending group and private lesson.

thank you for advice from everyone.

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 6, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

one of my teacher trainers, Betsy Stuen-Walker, does group classes once a month and doesn’t give private lessons the week of the group class. She’s made that schedule work for her, and I can see how it might be beneficial in certain situations.

For example, this way the group class is seen as one of their lessons, instead of an “extra” thing besides lessons. The teacher can remind the students to come to group class the week before. The teacher has a week’s break so that different levels of group classes can be scheduled at the most convenient time; they don’t all have to be on the same day (although it might be nice to combine several classes or overlap part of the time, or have students observe a class they aren’t in yet).

-Jenny-

said: Feb 6, 2008
 Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

Lucy, thank you for the straight forward opinion on the way my policy is stated. I aree with you that keeping it simple, without additional language, is preferred. I will be changing it for next school year and state that attendance at group class every week is expected.

I can see from your description that there are inevitable conflicts with other activities, but that you have some flexibility. I like, though, how you direct families to ask the coach or whoever, about how they can honor their violin commitment. At least stating it that way reminds the family that group class is a commitment and is very important, and that they should find a way to keep that commitment.

Jenny, that is interesting about Betsy Stuen-Walker’s approach. I would be curious to know what she charges for group class in proportion to the private lesson fee, since she is doing a week without private lessons. Also, this is a great way to accomodate having many group class levels and not having to schedule them all on the same day.

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 7, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Unfortunately I don’t know her fee schedule; I would assume it’s less than the program I work in, in which the students have both a group class and an individual lesson every week (with some holiday exceptions).

-Jenny-

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