Why Slow Progress is Not a Sign To Give Up

Progress

You probably signed your child up for lessons excited about what they would learn.

You pictured them playing their instrument with a big smile and steady progress.

You may have observed lessons or group classes and seen children playing music with ease and expected to see your child do the same.

So why is progress going so slow?

Why does it feel like you’re having the same lesson over and over again many weeks in a row.

Why does it seem like you’re practicing, but nothing is happening?

Here’s the thing . . .

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How Do I Know if My Child Will Like This?

How do I know if my Child will Like this?

Parents looking for lessons often ask me this question:

How do I know my child will like it?

Especially if your child isn’t sure which instrument they want to play

or are too young to really make that decision, you may struggle with this idea too.

You may know the research that having parents who are committed to their child playing an instrument long term is a huge factor in student success (you can read more about that HERE)

So, how do I know my child will like this?

Here is the honest answer . . .

There is no way to guarantee your child will like any activity you try long term.

Your child may become a professional musician, they may play through high school with music playing a huge role in their development, or they may study for a few years and develop other time consuming interests.

So what do we do if we’re not sure our child will love this?

I would argue the best way to ensure they do love it later is to treat it as if they already do.

What would you do now if you knew this was something your child would love and still be serious about in their high school years and beyond? 

Find the best teacher you can.

Get the best instrument you can afford.

Practice with them in a way that sets them up for success.

Keep them inspired by taking them to concerts and playing great music around the house and in the car.

Be an enthusiastic supporter of your child and provide them with the best instruction and equipment you can.

We wouldn’t give shoes that don’t fit and give callouses to a child trying out soccer for the first time. We wouldn’t let them skip going to practice when they didn’t feel like it. How will they love it if they never gain enough skills to make an educated decision about it?

Dr. Rebekah Hanson and I ran a parent talk at the Oregon Suzuki Institute last summer where we brought in a panel of teens to talk with parents. One of the questions we asked them was “at what point did you feel like you played your instrument well enough to really enjoy playing it?”

The panel of students was unanimous – it was around the book 4 or 5 level that they felt solid enough in their skills that they even knew if they liked playing. I think that’s fascinating!

So often students (and parents) give up before this point because it’s hard or they don’t like it. That would be like deciding you don’t like reading before you’re past the stage of haltingly sounding out words and before you can read a great story with ease.

The likelihood is that if you can get past the stages where everything feels challenging and start to make music with ease the love of playing will develop.

This is where you come in . . .

What would you do now if you knew your child would love this activity for the rest of their life?

Go ahead and do it.

It is never a waste to strive towards something and work towards developing our skills.

Those skills carry over into other things we will do in life and sometimes they carry us over from what we’re doing now as a beginner to a life long passion for something we love.

Act as if they will love it.

Put the time and resources into it as if it is something they love (or will love)

As a teacher I thank you for giving them that gift.

Motivation: The Importance of Feeling Capable

This Post is third in a series on keeping students inspired and motivated. You can read the first two posts here: Overview, Why Students Need Help Seeing Progress. 

 

“I can’t do this!” “It’s too hard!” “I’ll never get it!”

Comments like these (or trying to avoid practicing a specific practice task) are strong indications that a student does not feel they are capable of something we are asking them to do.

Some students may not even be able to verbalize these thoughts and simply act out or seem to lose interest in studying their instrument.

To keep our students motivated it’s important to to address these feelings. Feeling capable and seeing that it is possible to accomplish something plays a huge role in staying motivated.

I’d like to suggest 4 ways to help students feel capable & would love to hear what you think works the best for your children or students.

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Keep Students Motivated by Helping them See their Progress

Last week I started a new blog series about keeping students inspired and motivated. You can read the first post in the series HERE.

In that article I outlined three things students need to stay motivated and inspired including seeing progress, feeling capable, and finding joy in the process. Today we’re focusing on the importance of helping students see their progress!

Students stay engaged & motivated in the process of learning their instrument by being able to see that they are, in fact, making progress.

Practicing is hard. It takes a huge amount of concentration, discipline, and persistence to get it done everyday. It’s just human nature to feel like it is not worth it if we can’t see some kind of tangible progress along the way!

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3 Ways to Keep Students Motivated & Inspired

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

-William Butler Yeats

Happy New Year! I love the feeling of a fresh start that the new year brings. I am coming back from a couple weeks off feeling refreshed and with a renewed commitment to help keep my students motivated and inspired this year.

 As a teacher I feel strongly that my job goes beyond teaching the mechanics of playing the violin or viola. If all my students get from me is some technical knowledge about their instrument then I don’t think I’ve really done my job.

One of my first jobs as a teacher is to instill a love of music in my students, once that has been established it is much easier to expect them to work hard. Working hard at something we love is a totally different feeling than working hard on something someone else loves. How do we get this to happen?

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My 2016 Favorites

I love looking back at the end of the year to reflect on what my year was like and how I want to approach the new year. I thought as part of that process this year I would share my favorite things of 2016 related to teaching. I hope you will share your your favorites in the comments.

Suzuki Experience – Written by Suzuki parent Alan Duncan, this is a great blog about Suzuki from the parent perspective. I find myself sharing posts from this blog with the parents in my studio all the time.

The Plucky Violin Teacher This blog is a fantastic resource for parents and teachers alike. Written by Suzuki violin teacher Brecklyn Ferrin this blog has great ideas and resources about teaching and practicing. I highly recommend it. Breckyn’s blog was one of the first Suzuki blogs I started following regularly and is a big inspiration to me.

Teach Suzuki is written by Suzuki teacher Paula Bird, who also created the Teach Suzuki Podcast which can be found HERE on itunes. I started reading Paula’s blog a number of years ago and have found great information on it about teaching, running my studio, and even making goals for the new year. I had the pleasure of meeting Paula in person this year as she visited Oregon which was very fun!

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Why Short-Term Commitments to Music Don’t Work

why-short-term-comittments-to-music-dont-workI get many calls for prospective violin & viola students from parents requesting more information. I always explain my program and direct them to my website for more information.

A phrase I hear some parents use when they describe why they want to start lessons is: my child seems interested in music (or the violin) and we want to try it out to see if they will like it.

As a parent I completely understand that this is the approach we take for many things we sign our children up for. We often sign them up for many different types of activities in order to expose them to a wide variety of things and to see what they enjoy.

A word of caution though.

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3 Ways Students Can Learn To Give Through Music

3 Ways Students Can Learn to Give Through Music

 

It’s the time of year when many people are focused on the holidays and on giving. When this season is at it’s best, there is a big focus on acts of service and spreading joy. It is also a great time to teach our children and students about giving. Music can be a great way to do this!

Sharing music with family, friends and the community can be a great way to learn the power of giving. It’s an important value I want my own children and my students to adopt, this time of year, and all year long.

Here are some ways you can think about helping your students or children give the gift of music this season:

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3 Ways to Focus on the Big Picture in Practice

 

3 ways to focus on the Big Picture

 

One thing I’ve noticed about students and families that are successful in the Suzuki Method, is their ability to stay focused on the big picture.

There are endless details to keep in mind when learning a musical instrument, and it’s easy to get over focused on some of them and forget what is really important.

As a teacher I like to think of three basic ways for students and families to focus on the big picture: Tone, Technique, and Character.

 

Big Picture Focus: Tone

If you are working on a piece in practice and you are unsure of what to work on next, Tone is always a good answer.

Tone is defined (by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary) as “the quality of sound produced by a musical instrument or singing voice.” It goes beyond playing in tune. How warm is the sound? Does it having a ringing quality or harsh quality to it?

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50 Character Qualities Developed in Music Students

Character Qualities

 

I have been asking a lot of my friends and colleagues lately to weigh in on what they consider to be “success” within the Suzuki method.

Certainly a lot of answers include elements of learning to play the instrument well, but most everyone also agrees that who students develop into, as human beings, is just as important.

What exactly are we developing when we practice with our children everyday? or work with our students each week in lessons? Below are 50 character qualities that I have seen students develop, or have developed myself, through studying music.  What would you add to the list?

 

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart ”  

~ Shinichi Suzuki

 

 

  1. Time Management
  2. The Ability to Focus
  3. Problem Solving Skills
  4. The Ability to Take Instruction
  5. Realizing One’s Potential
  6. Tolerance
  7. Tenacity
  8. Determination
  9. Perseverance
  10. Self Esteem
  11. Responsibility
  12. Leadership
  13. Cooperation
  14. Creativity
  15. Responsibility
  16. Mental Flexibility
  17. The Ability to Concentrate Deeply
  18. Confidence
  19. Social Skills
  20. The Ability to Work in Groups to Accomplish a Goal
  21. Self – Control
  22. Delayed Gratification
  23. Pursuit of Excellence
  24. Consistency
  25. Poise
  26. Discipline
  27. Self-Expression
  28. Ability to Listen with Sensitivity
  29. Ability to Learn from One’s Mistakes
  30. Respect
  31. Pleasure in Sharing the Gift of Music
  32. Courage
  33. Sensitivity
  34. Precision
  35. Dedication
  36. Work Ethic
  37. Maturity
  38. Organization
  39. Patience
  40. Sense of Purpose
  41. Adaptability
  42. Reliability
  43. Self -Discipline
  44. Attention to Detail
  45. Enthusiasm
  46. Accountability
  47. Ability to Feel Confident Speaking to a Group
  48. The Ability to Break Big Problems into Small Chunks
  49. Independence
  50. The Ability to Think & Respond Quickly

I’d love to have you join us in the Suzuki Triangle Facebook Community to add your thoughts!