Last summer, focus groups at summer Institutes were asked to submit questions for a panel of “Suzuki Experts” to answer. This is the 14th installment.
How can teachers train less involved parents to be more committed to the Suzuki Method?
I believe that “training” parents, and perhaps anyone about anything, involves at least three things: Expectations, Motivation, Content.
Expectations should be delivered in a positive way up front in parent education. For example, if we tell parents of our expectations regarding group lessons in the context of these lessons being a wonderful bonus of Suzuki education, they will be less likely to think of attendance as another “duty.” Instead they will think of all the benefits their child is receiving. So parent education before lessons begin is extremely important. If a pattern of minimal involvement gets started, it is very difficult to change.
Communicating our expectations in a positive way can result in the second element—Motivation. When parents understand how much their child and their family will benefit from the “complete” Suzuki package, motivation will follow. However, for motivation to be sustained, we as teachers must have solid Content in our programs.
My definition of Content in this context includes everything we as teacher know and do, as well as our skill in delivering this knowledge and expertise! Teachers are responsible for the Content. This includes teaching lessons with solid content, giving assignments that are clear and meaningful, planning group lessons that have this solid content and meaningful assignments along with fun activities. Scheduling recitals, both solo and group, frequently enough to give the students numerous opportunities to share is also part of Content; so are special activities like studio or program workshops. Special occasions are great times to get parents involved, but we as teachers need to get the ball rolling!
If you communicate your Expectations in parent education and they understand and become Motivated to take advantage of all the Content you offer, progress results. The powerful, positive effect of progress gives you the opportunity to keep the cycle illustrated below going. This positive cycle for parents is similar to the student practice motivation circle that we often see.
Additionally, the SAA is developing a course that will be available to all Suzuki teachers to use in their studios or programs for parent education. This course will include videos, activities, discussions, and assignments which will give you a very good way to communicate your expectations and motivate parents to be involved right from the start. Stayed tuned to the ASJ and the website for information about this course as it becomes available!
—Expert of the Week, Kathleen Spring
See more Ask the Experts columns.