The following is an excerpt from the ebook I am writing, The Suzuki Parent’s Starter Guide and it’s a helpful reminder for Suzuki Parents in every stage.
In traditional music lessons, the parent often drops the child off for the lesson and picks them up when it is over. In Suzuki violin lessons, the parent attends the lesson. At some point, when the child has reached a certain age, and a certain level of experience the parent is gradually removed from the lesson (and from home practicing sessions.)
In the beginning, the parent’s presence at the lesson is absolutely essential. We don’t expect four or five year old’s to remember to brush their teeth, let alone the complexities of learning to play an instrument. Even children that are older cannot focus on the lesson and internalize all of the little details they need to remember. The parent needs to be there to make sure that all of the lesson assignments are written down so that the parent can help the child practice them at home.
The parent’s most important job in the lesson is to take notes. I recommend using a spiral bound notebook and not an electronic device because it is so easy to get distracted on phones or tablets. Answering one quick email leads to ten minutes of something else and then you’ve missed a good chunk of the lesson! Limit phone usage to video recording new assignments or techniques.
We want to set our students up for success, and that means making sure that you and your child know how and what to practice. Unfortunately, there is not enough time in a thirty or forty five minute lesson to give the lesson and then write down everything again for the student. Parents can set their children up for success by making sure that all of the important information is captured on paper (or video) so that it can be practiced at home.
If you are unsure about how to take notes effectively, you have got to check out Paula Bird’s podcast episode for Suzuki parents on just that topic! It is awesome.
As you are taking notes, if there is something you do not understand, ask the teacher for clarification. Since you are the teacher at home, it is important that you understand the concepts and assignments.
It’s fine to ask your teacher for clarification if you need it. You can ask them ahead of time if they would prefer to take your questions during the lesson or in the last few minutes. If they want you to wait until the end of the lesson, just jot down your questions so you don’t forget.
The parent’s next job in the lesson is to let the teacher be the teacher. Dr. Suzuki said, “One Teacher in the lesson.” Often parents want to jump in and help their student during the lesson,
“Don’t forget your feet, sweetie.”
“That’s a c-sharp, we practiced that, remember?”
I understand why parents have the tendency to do this. We work so hard to practice with our children during the week, we want to make sure they do well in the lesson. We also don’t want the teacher to think we forgot important practice points, or worse, didn’t practice at all.
Unfortunately, comments like these do more harm than good. It is incredibly distracting for a child (of any age) to be on the receiving end of too much critique.
Jumping in to help our children could be taking away from the teacher’s goal in that moment, as well. It is impossible to think about more than one thing at once, so if your teacher is trying to get your child to play with a beautiful bow hand, and you are reminding your child to play with a straight left wrist… It’s a recipe for disaster, and often ends in tears. It can also interrupt the flow of the lesson, derailing the plan your teacher has for your child in that moment.
We don’t judge you when your child is distracted or forgetful in their Suzuki violin lessons. We get it, they’re kids! As much as we strive for parental perfection, it just isn’t realistic to expect every child to be well-rested, fed, prepared, happy, and ready to play for every lesson. They’ve had a long day at school, their little brother ate the last fruit snack, one of their favorite sandals went missing, or something else has thrown them off their groove. You don’t need to feel embarrassed if Suzie forgets the repeats. Truly, don’t worry about it.
Take advantage of the lesson time as an opportunity for you to sit back, (take notes), and enjoy your child’s playing and learning process. Let the teacher do the work of correcting and directing and re-directing your child, heaven knows you need a break, right?
Do you have a successful note-taking strategy or other system for staying on top of practice assignments? Please share in the comments!