This article was originally given as a short presentation at the Suzuki Association of the America’s Leadership retreat last week. It was parent of a series of short talks about working productively with parents. If you would like to share it please do!
How do we work productively with the parents in our studios? How do we help new parents understand what being a Suzuki parent involves? How do we help them be successful working with their child as they learn and grow?
I was trying to come up with the most useful thing I could share with other teachers on the topic of working with parents. So, I started to think about all of the things I do in my studio like conferences, parent education, and parent talks.
There are lots of things we can do as teachers to help parents be successful. However, I would like to ask teachers to think bigger picture than that.
As a young violin teacher I heard a concept that blew my mind at the time. When you look at the beginner student in front of you – don’t think about what they need in order to learn to play twinkle. Think about what they need in order to play a Mozart Concerto and teach them with that in mind.
I believe we need to do the same thing with new Suzuki Parents.
- What do the parents we work with need to know about the process of helping their child thrive in the Suzuki method?
- What can we explain better from the start that will keep parents from struggling later?
- What bad habits can families get into that might not matter for a beginning student but will cause big problems down the road?
- How do we take parents – who probably don’t know what they are getting into when they get started with us and help them make the Suzuki method work in their everyday lives?
- How do we help get them come on board and be willing work with us to help their child succeed?
When I think about the families that I work with the most productively I think about families that:
Last Week’s Blog post discussed why every studio should hold Parent-Teacher Conferences – you can read the article HERE.
This week I want to address the importance of holding conferences with teens. In my studio I use part of a lesson each spring (this is happening in the next couple of weeks in my studio) to have a conference with each teen student on their own to honestly talk about how things are going, what they are enjoying and struggling with, and how I can be more helpful.
I have a questionnaire I send teens home with the week before our conference and ask them to fill it out very honestly (the more honest they are – the more useful the conference will be).
The day of the conference teens come alone to lessons (if they don’t already) and we talk through the questions on the sheet. I also like to share how I’ve seen the student improve over the year and what my next goals for them would be. Sometimes I also give them something to read or have some sort of information to hand out to them that I think addresses something I think they (or all the teens in the studio) need to think about.
Depending on the student this usually takes about 20 minutes of a lesson. It helps so much to have each student feel like they are on the same team with me, as their teacher. They are being listened to, their opinion is being heard, and hopefully they see that I want them to succeed.
Last year was the first year I tried this (in addition to meeting with parents of younger students) and I found it really helped the teens with ownership over what are trying to accomplish and it helped our working relationship each week because they knew I found their opinions to be important.
I also found out a lot about what motivates the teens I work with . . . certain community performances we do each year (like playing in the lobby before Oregon Symphony concerts) and certain types of music we play in group class, for a couple of examples.
Do you hold conferences with the teens in your studio? Does your teacher hold them?