Probably Leaving Job

said: Apr 15, 2009
 36 posts

Hey everyone.

Maybe you all can give me some advice. Last August I was employed to teach Suzuki Violin at a private school. The first Suzuki violin teacher was dismissed due to the fact that she treated some children differently from others and was too strict. I on the other hand, made a deal with the principal and stated that if I were to get hired I must teach the children how to read the notes.

Well, it’s April now and the parents were invited to see the progress their children had made. I thought everyone did very well and improved quite a bit especially considering the fact that most knew absolutely nothing. I played piano and the students played violin. Hot Cross Buns, Mary had a little lamb, Boil the cabbage down, brother john, and so on.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. Several of the other parents who were loyal to the other teacher really did not like me teaching them how to read notes. I was so upset that, I told my employer that I can not teach at a school where the children refuse to read notes. I will now ask to school to find a suitable Suzuki teacher who can then teach the students how to play like robots, because the stress is just not worth it.

My question to all of you is… Do you think I did the right thing here. I mean I am not serving the children. If their parents are paying the bill and still loyal to the fired teacher then their is nothing I can do. I will be a disaster waiting to happen.

Jennifer Gray said: Apr 15, 2009
Jennifer Gray
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
28 posts

Sorry to hear that you are leaving this position, and that you feel your work has not been appreciated. I am curious as to why you took a job that you describe as ” teaching Suzuki violin” when you have no training as a Suzuki teacher and apparently not much sympathy with or agreement with the principles of Suzuki teaching. Was the job description to teach in a Suzuki program? Are the administrators of the program at all experienced with or knowledgeable about Suzuki pedagogy and principles?
In what way were they unhappy about your efforts with the students?

Jennifer Gray said: Apr 15, 2009
Jennifer Gray
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
28 posts

Just an additional note……………the first nine of my over twenty years a as a Suzuki teacher were spent in South Florida, where there are many wonderful Suzuki teachers, most of whom have a very enlightened (and successful) approach to note reading with their students. Your experiences with a few very dogmatic Suzuki disciples and their way of teaching has created an unfortunate prejudice. Go to a really good summer institute and take the book one training from one of the many great teacher trainers and I think you will have a different perception of the method.

Laura said: Apr 15, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Suzuki pedagogy is very specific, and I am also surprised why you took this position when you have issues with the philosophy. There is also the teaching approach that makes Suzuki philosophy work—can’t have one without the other. If you haven’t seen it, been trained it, or aren’t naturally in step with it, it’s more than a little weird to accept a position supposedly teaching it. Your frustration is understandable under the circumstances! And as a parent, if I am signing my kid up for Suzuki, I would expect Suzuki—so I can understand their position too.

But, like any highly specific educational philosophy (Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio, etc., etc.), there will always be supporters and critics. Everyone has their reasons.

If you are frustrated teaching something that you don’t agree with, it would clearly make sense to leave the situation. Your teaching gifts would be more suited to a program that more closely follows your own teaching approach, unless you are seeking to expand your horizons.

However, for the sake of other readers, I wish to clarify that Suzuki doesn’t produce robotic playing as a rule. And Suzuki students don’t “refuse” to read music—the skill is simply deferred. Meanwhile, they can spend their beginner years learning how NOT to play like robots.

Laura said: Apr 15, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Thank you, Jen!

Good and bad teaching can happen anywhere, as can good and bad learning. If some Suzuki kids end up sounding like robots, I surmise that there is more behind that than the Suzuki approach itself. (Are all robotic-sounding students Suzuki? Are all expressive students note-readers from the get-go?) The goal of Suzuki is the exact opposite: musical, expressive playing from the heart, without the added intellectual step of “eyes glued to the page” until the playing ability is better established. Of course not everyone agrees with this, but that fact hardly invalidates it as an effective approach, particularly considering the widespread situations in which it works.

Jen is right: please trust what is being said regarding the greater Suzuki world. You may be pleasantly surprised. And yes, note reading is being introduced very successfully—just not with a 4-year old learning Twinkles and Lightly Row. But it is taught in a way that resonates Suzuki-style learning. In other words, there are reading materials that work better with Suzuki kids than with non-Suzuki kids, and vice versa. But the result ends up the same; it’s all a matter of timing.

said: Apr 16, 2009
 48 posts

………………………..

Connie Sunday said: Apr 16, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

FWIW, I had a somewhat similar experience about 15 years ago, in that I was hired for a Suzuki program (at Rhodes College in Memphis), but did not have any approved Suzuki training, aside from two semesters of papers, observations, etc., at UNC-CH, under Ruth Johnson, who is a wonderful Suzuki teacher (formally trained), but not a teacher trainer.

I did audition for the job, by supervising a lesson, and I did have the MM in violin performance, but still, not the approved ECC and book 1, etc.

I think this is fairly common. In fact, the viola professor (IIRC) at Flagstaff indicated to me that she was in a similar situation, but was remedying the situation (I guess by taking the coursework).

I was at one point, perhaps as uninformed as this young man is, though I hope I was never as rude. What I find so disarming is how loving an environment this board is, and how patient and kind everyone has been to this person. The subscribers to this board deserve a lot of credit for that.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

said: Apr 17, 2009
 36 posts

Well, Like I said before, I can only speak to what I know and run into. For your information, this academy

http://www.suzukimusicacademy.com/

does not teach notes. So you guys want to argue with me. Call them and talk to Mr. Richard Coff. Several of his students have come to me not reading anything at all. Wait here is his website.

http://www.suzukimusicacademy.com/indexpage5.htm

That’s great to hear that in other parts of the world kids are learning correctly, but at this specific academy they are not learning how to read notes. This is a fact because these students have told me what goes on.

My employer sent me and email and said that I should not let a couple of parents try to run the classroom. I am the expert here not them. Moreover, my friend who teaches orchestra in Atlanta says I should stick it out.

Just a question? How many orchestras have you guys played in? I have a masters in music not some 2 day workshop experience. I know how to get these kids ready for the real world.

Connie Sunday said: Apr 17, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

>> Just a question? How many orchestras have you guys played in? I have a masters in music not some 2 day workshop experience. I know how to get these kids ready for the real world.

I have an MM, also, and have played in a few orchestras: See Ensemble Playing

I profoundly hope that, in getting them “ready for the real world,” you encourage them to be more kindly and respectful of others that it appears you are. Actually this is a function of maturity; I hope you develop it in time.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Laura said: Apr 17, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Here is another story for additional perspective:

My friend’s daughter started with a wonderful Suzuki teacher here at home. But they had to go to another country, where violin teachers are rare, violin teachers willing to teach 5-year olds on a teeny violin are even rarer, and violin teachers willing to teach 5-year olds on a teeny violin who are fully Suzuki trained are absolutely non-existent.

But teacher is better than no teacher. So they found a teacher with high credentials and lots of teaching experience. But the teacher started the little girl off from scratch, with note reading, because she wouldn’t teach her without note reading, even though she was already playing nicely at the end of Book 1. (I should add that she was already using Suzuki-style introductory reading materials, which she loved, but the new teacher didn’t approve of.)

To make a long story short, her playing has regressed—she is playing technically easier pieces that sound “robotic” because she has to read it. Although the new teacher is very nice and works well with children, the abrupt shift in teaching approach at her particular learning stage hasn’t been the smoothest. To make it easier, her mom is having her progress through the Suzuki repertoire anyway at home, with support via internet with her Suzuki teacher here.

(To be fair, I have the same reservations about switching a non-Suzuki student into Suzuki unless they are still relatively at the complete beginner stage in terms of playing.)

Laura said: Apr 17, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

You may also be very surprised to learn how many professional musicians, including orchestra players and well-known soloists, have a Suzuki background. The word on the street is that once they learn to read, they tend to be highly desirable orchestra members because of their technical and musical foundation. Not to say that this can’t happen outside of Suzuki. But I only mean to point out, again, that “Suzuki equals bad” is a highly inflammatory and inaccurate assumption, and it would be dangerous and irresponsible of me and other Suzuki supporters to let it go at that.

Laura said: Apr 17, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

I should also note the following:

  • Having musical creditials such as MM points to one’s proficiency as a performer of one’s instrument. It is totally separate from whether or not one chooses to adopt Suzuki pedagogy as a teacher. Indeed, many Suzuki teachers have quite the impressive curriculum vitae. Many post-secondary institutions even offer degree specialties in Suzuki pedagogy (much like for Orff).

  • The SAA has made efforts to ensure minimum standards in its representative teachers. Before a teacher is allowed to receive the training courses, he has to submit and pass a video audition playing moderate to advanced repertoire (e.g. Vivaldi or Mozart concerti for violin, depending on the training level desired) that, I have been told, is judged according to a post-secondary standard of performance. For the advanced audition (Mozart concerto), it is expected that the video performance will reflect a MM standard of playing.

  • I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way, but just how many non-Suzuki teachers exist out there with little training, credentials, or even decent playing ability? Countless, I’m sure. I don’t mean to infer that non-Suzuki teachers are necessarily ill-qualified. I just wish to point out that Suzuki teachers aren’t necessarily without qualifications. Conversely, non-Suzuki teachers don’t necessarily possess all of the qualifications either.

Laurel said: Apr 17, 2009
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

ddm8053

That’s great to hear that in other parts of the world kids are learning correctly, but at this specific academy they are not learning how to read notes. This is a fact because these students have told me what goes on.

That’s interesting—not ONE student is reading? Not the 10-year-olds? the 12-year-olds? the 15-year-olds? The students in Book 4? Book 6? Book 8?

I generally teach reading, using a separate book, when they are old enough to read in school (about age 6 or so) AND when they are pretty comfortable with their posture. This could be as early as Twinkle or as late as Book 3, depending on when they started. For example, I have a student who just turned 4; I can see him being near the end of Book 1 or into Book 2 before we do reading. I also have several 7-8 year old, late Book 1-early Book 2 students, with whom I do reading every lesson. It takes a while; their reading won’t be up to their playing level for probably another year, but we do work on it. And a couple of older-beginners (started violin at 10 or older) already knew how to read music.

So—I’m a Suzuki teacher and I do teach reading! :)
Laurel

Jennifer Gray said: Apr 17, 2009
Jennifer Gray
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
28 posts

David, I can assure you that many of us have advanced qualifications, and years of experience both playing and teaching ………..in fact, I greatly regret that after a year of coursework for my MMus, I took a full time playing job in an orchestra instead of finishing. I have however played professionally and taught violin and viola privately and at music schools and colleges in Canada, the US and Britain. I have met a few strange teachers in my time, but most of the Suzuki teachers I have met have been extremely competent and very committed to the growth of their students as musicians and people. Their students and mine have gone on to win scholarships, places in national youth orchestras and entrance to major music schools, where they were as competent as any “traditionally” trained students.
When you have been teaching and performing for a bit longer, I’m sure you will have a more reasoned approach to people whose ideas differ from yours. I would also suggest that you be careful about using these forums to criticize individuals by name, while everyone else on this site has taken great pains to respond to your posts in a very collegial and helpful manner. It is wise to remember that you live in a very litigious state. I hope that you do stay on in your position and create a fine showcase for your teaching ideas.

Redding Farlow said: Apr 17, 2009
Redding Farlow Soderberg
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Myrtle Beach, SC
20 posts

I am a Suzuki violin teacher and I teach my students to read just as Laurel who posted the last comment does. I also was a “Suzuki kid” meaning that I grew up studying with teachers who taught using Dr. Suzuki’s approach to teaching and I started learning how to read music at a pretty young age as well.
So, my basic rule is that I start teaching students to read music when they start reading words in school. I may not always teach them to read music by playing it on their violins right away because I want my students to have great posture and a good set up before I put a piece of music in front of them. However, my 3 year old students start learning how to clap quarter notes, half notes, whole notes, eighth notes, etc and even the rests using the same notation that we all play from. I also start teaching my students note names right away and they start reading the notes out loud (mostly away from their violins) from their “I Can Read Music” Volume 1 Book at age 5, 6 or 7 depending on the child too.
One of my Suzuki teacher trainers used this scenario to teaching reading with the Suzuki approach…”When children begin reading in school they are reading sentences like “See Spot run.”, but speaking in sentences like, “Wow, did you see that dog sprint down the boulevard?”. The same goes with the way most Suzuki teachers in the year 2009 teach reading music….example: usually when many Suzuki students start learning to read at age 6 or so the students are reading variations of the notes A and B on the A string or other simplified reading patterns on the A String. The student might just be reading/ playing open strings for different rhythmic. However, by the time many students have reached repertoire like the Mozart Concertos in Book 9 and 10 their music reading skills are catching up with their playing ability.”
Please don’t let one bad Suzuki studio in Florida put a sour taste in your mouth for the Suzuki Method/ Approach/ Philosophy. I live and teach in Eastern North Carolina where most of my Suzuki violin teacher colleagues have degrees in music (most having their Masters in Music), most of us have performed with many orchestras (and still do) and we all teach our students to read music.
One more thing: (and I know I’m being redundant but I just had to say it) just because a person has a Master’s Degree in Music that doesn’t mean he/she is a good teacher.

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” -Sir Winston Churchill

Lindsay said: Apr 25, 2009
Lindsay LogsdonViolin
55 posts

If I up and quit my job every time I ran into someone who didn’t agree with what I was doing or had different ideas than I did, I’d never have employment. There will always be someone who disagrees with what you do, that’s just the way life is. If you are worth your weight as a teacher, your work will speak for itself.

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher
http://www.essextalentacademy.com
http://www.talentpress.net

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