As the beginning of school approaches, I like to take some time to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t in my Suzuki violin studio.
I love the magic of a new start, and the beginning of fall is my favorite time of year. It’s important to me to set myself up well at the start of the academic year.
It’s generally not difficult for me to figure out what problems need to be addressed in my studio.
Maybe there’s a specific student who is always late, unprepared, or whose parent isn’t taking notes or being present during lesson.
Due to our brains’ negativity bias, it is easy for us all to find the negative aspects of any situation. It takes deliberate and intentional effort to look for the positive in ourselves, our studios, and other situations.
Before I ever approach a parent or student about a problem, I make a decision about what kind of behavior I want to see from members of my studio, and about what I will do if these expectations are not met.
Here are a few examples from my studio:
If a student in my studio hasn’t paid by the due date, I charge a $10 late fee. If they have not paid by the 15th of the month, their lessons are cancelled until the bill is paid. I may put a wait list student in their time.
If a parent in my studio doesn’t come to the lesson with their child, I leave the door open and I will call the parent from the hallway while the child plays review pieces and scales. (If it’s a continual problem, I make a meeting with the parent to discuss parent roles during lesson.)
If a studio parent calls me after 7pm or on the weekend, I let the call go to voicemail and address it when it’s convenient for me and my family.
If a child is unprepared for lesson, I will have the child play only review pieces, bow exercises, etudes, and scales in lesson. I do not introduce new pieces or techniques.
In all of these examples, I share what I myself will do if the expectation isn’t met. This is important as I have yet to figure out how to force others to act the way I prefer. Since I can only control my own behavior, my plans are all focused on what my actions will be in any given situation.
Sometimes it’s necessary to communicate with studio parents about these boundaries, and sometimes not. I’ll discuss communicating these expectations with studio parents in my blog post next week.
I’d like to invite all you teachers to make some decisions about what kind of behavior you’d like to see in your studios, and what behavior you think is unacceptable. Then make a plan for what you will do to promote the behavior you want and discourage what you don’t.
Please share some of your examples in the comments. Just like our students, we teachers can learn from one another!
Brecklyn Ferrin teaches Suzuki violin lessons and Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes in Kaysville, Farmington, and Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the Suzuki parent of a 7 year old violinist, 5 year old cellist, and 18 month old Suzuki baby.
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