Ask the Experts

Last summer, focus groups at summer Institutes were asked to submit questions for a panel of “Suzuki Experts” to answer. This is the fourth installment.

How do you arrange for someone in the community to mentor a new teacher?

While there is not currently an SAA-sponsored mentor program, many experienced teachers are happy to share their wisdom and support with new teachers. In my own teaching lifetime, I’ve been on both sides of this relationship. While I was a new teacher, I found short-term mentors among the wonderful teacher trainers with whom I was fortunate to work. It was more difficult to do long distance in those pre-internet days, but having the opportunity to reconnect at workshops and conferences in addition to phone calls and letters worked.

In 1991 when I moved to Colorado, my current location, I was able to cultivate a mentor relationship with Ellie Albers LeRoux. We had met briefly before, and I admired her teaching. We both had also done long term teacher training with John Kendall (though at different times). Ellie helped to introduce me to the larger Suzuki violin community in Colorado, referred students to me, hired me to teach at her studio workshop, and taught at my workshops too. For a couple years, I was able to observe her teach every week, as my son took lessons with her.

Since then I find myself in the position of mentor, as new teachers move to my area and I can help them as I’ve been helped in the past. I also hear from teacher trainees who want to observe lessons, and sometimes those relationships can include some mentoring.

If you are a teacher in search of a mentor, I would suggest first looking for someone in your region. Is there a teacher you have heard of and respected, with whom you could develop a relationship? If you know someone who could introduce you to that teacher, that is a good way to start. If not, then write a letter or email to introduce yourself, asking if they would be willing to mentor you. Explain what you are looking for in a “mentor” relationship.

If you find no one in your region, there are teachers who could mentor you long-distance, through contact on the internet. Look at the SAA website, read your Journal, attend the Conference, go to a summer institute or a weekend workshop. Get to know other teachers, and ask if they are open to the mentor relationship.

I have found the Suzuki community to be very warm and supportive, and that most teachers are willing to give of their time and wisdom when they are able. Go ahead, make that contact, and expand your horizons as you grow in your profession.

Expert of the Week, Ruth Engle Larner

See more Ask the Experts answers.