Evaluating a teacher


said: Jun 9, 2009
 1 posts

I have a question. I am a parent of a three year old who is starting Suzuki training through a local camp. I have a great deal of experience in both music and teaching (trained conservatory percussionist, 10 years of teaching high school, and lots of professional playing/conducting). however I know little about starting children so young. I am concerned that the person teaching does not really understand the Suzuki process, and knows little about how young children actual learn (Edwin Gordon, Bloom’s taxonomy, etc.) Most of the 3 hour class was spent sitting quietly, with very little interaction of any sort. Instruction was tedious, and my daughter (who has an amazing attention span for a 3 year old) was simply bored. So was I.

But I am also nervous that I simply am not looking for the right things.

Can anyone suggest things I should be looking for before I make my decision?

Laura said: Jun 9, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Anything I have ever seen for Suzuki at that age level has involved mostly games and songs, switching regularly between activities that are fairly physical (involving the whole body and/or room) and those that require more intense focus and controlled response(such as how to stand in rest position). All of the things that are being “taught” are ingeniously incorporated into those games and songs, such that the kids end up learning without realzing it.

The instructor seamlessly transitions from one activity to the next, none of which are very long due to the short attention spans. There is also a great deal of repetition—either within the one class or from one class to the next—because very young kids both enjoy and learn a lot from familiar things.

I am certain that many successful non-Suzuki programs for little ones operate in the much the same way. For example, there is a highly popular kids ballet teacher where we live. At the beginning of class, she presses a CD which plays continuous selections of classical dance music for the next hour, hardly skipping a beat between one piece and the next. Her class is already “pre-choreographed” in her mind. She just keeps moving and calling out directions, always in time to the music, and the kids just naturally follow like mice to the Pied Piper, because there is so much to engage them. There is no time to either misbehave or become bored. We parents are always in awe of how much mental preparation this ballet teacher must go through to run her class of 3-4 year olds like that.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to run a Suzuki violin class in such a non-stop manner, but the general idea has to be about the same. Most successful Suzuki group class teachers I’ve seen are highly engaging and entertaining, and keep the class chock full of content.

For 3-4 year olds, and even for many 5 year olds, one major goal for group class is to learn how to engage with the teacher and follow directions. Learning actual violin skills is secondary UNTIL the relationship is developed. I suspect that when a very young beginner is “bored”, it’s because there is too much focus already on what they are supposed to be learning, rather than how.

Three hour class for a 3-year old? That sounds very long without a HUGE variety in what they are doing with that time, plus lots of breaks.

Another thought: what is the class size? When there are too few students (particularly those who are shy and reserved), sometimes it’s hard to generate a good group dynamic, and things can seem “boring” simply because of that. no matter how good the teacher is.

Sara said: Sep 12, 2009
191 posts

It would be a good idea to interview some other Suzuki teachers in your area and perhaps even observe lessons that they teach with young children and how it compares. From what you are describing, that doesn’t sound right and with that long of lessons at so young your child will most likely end up hating lessons.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Susan said: Nov 5, 2009
 16 posts

I tend to think of Suzuki for little ones like yours as nursery school w/lots of music, movement, a foam fiddle & a wooden spoon. I join the writers who encouraged you to scope out other settings.

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