In a recent discussion with a group of Suzuki teachers, the question was posed, “What is a Suzuki student like?”
The crowd had lots of answers, a list of qualities and attributes, that describe “Suzuki students.”
- Is a good listener
- Is a confident performer
- Practices with their parent
- Attends lessons regularly
- Listens to the CD
- Responds well to direction
- Has a sense of ownership of their instrument
- Attends group lessons
- Has music friends and community
- Has a longer attention span
- Appreciates beautiful music
- Started early
- Progresses quickly
My initial reaction to this discussion was dismay. And guilt. When I heard this list, I thought, “But what about my students? What about my child?” When you hear this description of what a Suzuki student ought to be, do you feel a little discouraged?
I did. My students, and my own child, don’t always exhibit all of these habits or qualities. Nor is it possible for some of these qualifications to be met, if they started after age 8 are they not Suzuki students? What’s the cut off point?
Are the students that don’t fit the mold not really Suzuki students?
Of course they are. If you are a Suzuki teacher, all of your students, whether they know it or not, are your Suzuki students.
I think I know what those teachers were really saying. These are the habits and qualities we are striving to develop in our students.
It’s important, even vital, to strive for these ideals. But we do ourselves and our students a disservice when we think that the ideal student comes ready-made.
If you want the children in your studio to be consistent listeners, you need to make listening a part of your teaching objectives, and reward students for getting it done. (This reinforcement doesn’t need to be tangible–merely praising children and parents for listening is a kind of reward.)
If we want our students to practice regularly and efficiently, we need to take the time to teach them (and their parents) how.
If we want parents sit quietly and take notes in the lesson, or stay off their phone, or refrain from ‘helping’ their children during the lesson, we must be brave and have those difficult conversations we might have wanted to avoid.
We have the power to change our studio culture, and we don’t have to wait around for “ideal” students or parents to find us. We already have our ideal students! The children we teach offer us many opportunities to grow and learn–not only to develop better teaching techniques, but our interpersonal skills and more.
It would be a shame to let these opportunities pass while we waste time hoping for ‘better’ students to come along.
Take responsibility for making your studio vision a reality. We have so much more power than we sometimes think we do!
How do you intentionally build your studio culture? Please share in the comments!
An integral part of building a Suzuki culture is providing Suzuki parent education for new (and experienced) parents in your studio. Download your free Suzuki Parent Education PDF to share with your studios here.