Canadian Teachers at the 2012 Conference

Since I happened to meet Canadian violin teacher Leslie Wade by the door before the Tf3 concert started, then two, three…happened to find more others, then I came up with the idea of a group picture. It’s a little unfortunate that we couldn’t find everyone from Canada then, but it’s already fortune enough to have such a group of us here!

Image by Zixuan Liu

A group of Canadian teachers met over lunch at the SAA Conference in May, to discuss our shared issues.

We have one: distance.

And we have a lot of it.

Because we have a lot of distance to cover, and not very many people to cover it, it is difficult and costly to communicate and travel. Historically, this has led to many isolated Suzuki communities trying to do everything all by themselves. Just during our one brief meeting, we discovered things happening in our own country of which we were unaware. For instance, I learned that there is a French translation of Nurtured by Love! I live within a short walk of Faculté Saint-Jean, the Francophone campus of University of Alberta, an area with a large French speaking population. I was very happy to find out that this important book had been translated. (My next challenge is to find a copy!) There were many other things about the history of Suzuki method in our different communities which were new to many of us.

Recent advances in communication technology should now make it easier for the Canadian Suzuki community to share resources. But these developments are recent, and our communities have a long legacy of mutual isolation to overcome. We discussed many possibilities and have begun to work on some of them. The Suzuki Charter School in Edmonton has recently acquired teleconferencing capabilities, which would enable students and teachers to engage with their colleagues anywhere in the country (or continent!) where similar teleconference equipment was available. There are groups of Canadian teachers who do communicate regularly, but there are many others who are inadvertently left “out of the loop.” Our discussion focused on ways that we could get news and information out to all the Canadian members. We have already set up a “Canada” page and discussion forum on the SAA website to facilitate this.

But it is still dreadfully expensive to travel! Canadian travel costs are similar to those in South America. When I was talking with a Brazilian colleague at the conference, we discovered that we had paid very similar amounts for our airfare to get there. It costs just as much or more to fly a teacher from Castlegar, BC, to Edmonton, AB—a much shorter distance, but with fewer people travelling, costs go up proportionally. The cost of travel is probably the biggest barrier to Canadian teachers (outside of southern Ontario) who wish to take teacher training, especially if you play an instrument like viola, double bass, or recorder! We discussed existing options for funding travel costs, or even possibly setting up a Canadian travel fund within the SAA to which we could make tax-deductible contributions.

But the discussion kept returning to the new technology available. There were several teacher trainers at our meeting, and we discussed with them possibilities for having parts of the teacher courses available through distance learning options (correspondence, live chat, Skype, YouTube videos, teleconferencing…) Of course, none of these options are a substitute for real face-to-face communication, but how much of this can be used to ease the travel burden for teachers who want to access training? There is no definitive answer to this question yet, but it is worth exploration.

If you are interested in these issues and want to receive news of developments as we work on them, search out the “Canada” page on the SAA website, and let’s continue the conversation!