School Stock Photo

We all need a boost sometimes. For some teachers, repeating an entire beginning training course (though very worthwhile!) feels like not quite the boost they were looking for. Enter Revisiting Unit One, a course designed for experienced teachers who are ready to circle back to the fundamentals to see new views on the material, and join with a seasoned class of teachers to talk about beginning students.

A number of teachers who recently completed the Revisiting Unit One course answered some question about why they took the course and what they got out of it.

Thank you to Trainers Sally Gross, Christie Felsing, and Teri Einfeldt for teaching these recent courses and connecting us to teachers who participated. Thank you to Meg Abramowitz, Rafael Vadeira, Sanchie Brobow, Chris Fiore and Julieanne Tehan for answering our many questions about their experiences.

What was your previous experience/training before the course?

  • J.T.: Before I took the course, I had complete training in all 10 Suzuki Cello books.
  • S.B.: Before taking Christie Felsing’s Revisiting Unit One course, I had been teaching privately at home and at The School for Strings for 30 years. I completed my two year long term Suzuki training with Louise Behrend in 1987 and attended various short term teacher training courses and workshops at several Suzuki institutes in the years since. I was way overdue to take a training course when I enrolled in Christie’s course. I really needed a dose of Book One inspiration, which I received in abundance from Christie.
  • R.V.: Every Child Can; Violin books 1-10 (long-term training at an university); Suzuki Principles in Action (SPA); Violin Practicum; Suzuki Early Childhood Education (level 1); Viola books 2-9 (short-term training); about 10 years of teaching experience.
  • C.F.: Before taking the Revisiting Unit One course with Sally Gross, I had been teaching for over ten years, and had completed all 10 Suzuki Books, plus a private Practicum Course, with Tanya Carey, as well as Book 1 training with Susan Gagnon, and Books 4 and 5 with David Evenchick.
  • M.A.: Before I took Revisiting Unit One with Teri, I had been teaching Suzuki for about 13 years. I have a BM from Boston University and a MM from New England Conservatory. I did my book 1 teacher training with Carrie Reuning Hummel about 14 years ago, and since then I have completed books 1-5 as well as Practicum, SPA and other short term trainings.

How long had it been since you had taken a Training course?
- J.T.: Before the Revisiting Unit One course, it had been 3 years since I took an official training course.
- R.V.: I had just finished taking the SECE (Suzuki Early Childhood Education) training a month before the Revisiting Unit One course.
- C.F.: It had been ten years since my last training; too long!
- M.A.: The last time I had taken a teacher training class was maybe about 2 years before that class when I took SPA.

What made you decide to take the course?

  • J.T.: I decided to take the course because I wanted fresh insight from a different trainer.
  • R.V.: Knowing that there as many ways to teach as there are teachers, I thought it would be a good idea to learn from a teacher trainer that had a different background from the trainer with which I had worked before. I was hoping to get different ideas of how to approach the teaching points and techniques that are so important in Book 1, as they set the foundation for all the repertoire that comes after it.
  • C.F.: I started to notice that my teaching was becoming a bit stale, and that there were some issues arising in my more advanced students that I realized could have been corrected in the earlier books. I wanted to see if there were other ways of looking at the same problem, and a Revisiting Unit One course seemed to be the perfect opportunity to gain new insights. There was the added bonus that I could take training with Sally, whom I hold in high regard!
  • M.A.: I’ve been thinking for years that rather than take book 6 (next on my list) it would be more helpful to take book 1 again, since I have so many book 1 students, and so much more experience than when I originally took book 1. On the other hand, I know a LOT about teaching book 1 and I wasn’t sure that taking a 2 week book 1 class again (the typical book one, not “Revisiting”) would be worth my time, and I knew it would be full of new and inexperienced teachers. When I found out about this class I jumped at the chance to take it.

What are a couple of things that stand out in your memory as learning experiences in the course that have stuck with you?
- J.T.: A couple of things that stand out to me about the course was the confidence that it instilled in me. I felt like I actually had some teaching “chops.” I also felt more encouraged to think for myself and do what I think should happen verses being worried that I would teach it “wrong.”
- R.V.: The discussions with the other trainees were very valuable: all the trainees had a lot of teaching experience, which makes for very productive conversations and exchange of ideas between all involved, including the teacher trainer.
- C.F.: One of the things that Sally incorporated into the course was the idea of having us share our ideas regarding certain techniques that come up in Book One. It was wonderful to be able to get many different viewpoints from my colleagues, and their combined years of experience gave me new insights into my own teaching. It also enhanced the already strong learning community of teacher training courses.
- M.A.: What stands out is just being able to have pretty high level discussions about book 1. It was really not the same as a book 1 course. I would love to do the same course for book 2.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about taking the course but wasn’t sure?
- J.T.: If someone was on the fence in regards to taking the course, I would remind them that we all need a reboot more than we would like to admit. Spending time with other teachers who do what we do can only help encourage, motivate, and refresh our minds and hearts.
- S.B.: I would highly recommend this course to other teachers who have completed their teacher training, and who have been teaching for more than several years. This course is very valuable for teachers who already have a thorough understanding of the repertoire and who have experience teaching the pieces. I can compare this course to re-reading a book that I had read years ago and loved, and finding things in the book the second and sometimes third time around, that I’d never noticed or fully understood the first time around.
- R.V.: I’d say it’s a valuable learning opportunity, as you’ll approach the repertoire and the class with different ideas from when you first took the class.
- C.F.: I would say, go for it! You will gain so much knowledge from the course itself, and it is a wonderful opportunity to take training from teachers you might not have had the chance to work with in the past.
- M.A.: I would encourage everyone to take this class. It really made me think about my teaching at a much deeper level.

Are there facets of your teaching that have shifted/developed since you took the course?
- J.T.: I do feel like there is a lot more of what “I” do verses what “so and so” does. It’s nice to have more ownership.
- S.B.: Since taking this course, I am more focused and organized in my teaching of the Book One repertoire. I’ve built on what I already knew and have some new tools for preparing and presenting the pieces to my students. Book One has become more alive for me since taking this course.
- C.F.: I feel that, combined with my years of teaching, the course has helped me become more flexible when it comes to helping my students with various techniques, especially when introducing new ideas to a Book One student.
- M.A.: I think I started working on left hand technique in a more thorough way after this class. I also have a deeper understanding of how the fingers move for each note in the early pieces. She gave us very specific suggestions for when to leave a finger down or how to prepare notes in book 1. I wouldn’t have been able to grasp this when I originally took book 1 as a new teacher.
- R.V.: Yes—I know I approach some of the techniques presented in Violin/Viola Book 1 slightly different than I did before. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and combining the knowledge gained from different mentors results on a better experience for our students.

Is there anything else you want us to know about your experience?
- J.T.: Sally Gross is so encouraging and open minded. I really enjoyed getting to know her and learning from her experience and heart. I do feel that Revisiting Unit One was a lot to bite off in a short amount of time. I think Sally did a great job trying to fit in the “top hit list items” in the time constraints that we had.
- S.B.: I was very impressed with how methodical Christie is in her teaching. She works with her students in a very progressive way that makes enormous sense. Her attention to detail in presenting the repertoire and teaching points also has stuck with me since taking her course. If she were to offer a Revisiting Unit Two course, I would take it!
- R.V.: At the time I took the Revisiting Unit One course, it was set in a way that the class met on 4 days: one weekend in March, and another weekend in April. Having that whole month in between sessions was very valuable, as it allowed us to try new ideas with our students and having a great discussion about the impressions/results during the second session.
- M.A.: I was overwhelmed by all the amazing things I was learning about teaching little kids back then. These details wouldn’t have stuck. I’m so glad you have started this class!
- C. F.: If I gained this much from Revisiting Unit One, I’m looking forward to the new ideas in later Books!