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Posts Tagged ‘advice on parenting’

The attached article deals with a topic I especially have trouble- making up piano lessons.  Teaching piano is such a joy!  The lessons bring beautiful children and loving families into my home.  Our relationships become very close and I often think of the kids as my own.

But there is a fine line when mixing business with friendships.  My policy clearly states that I offer make up lessons only for sickness.  I also give parents a copy of my schedule so they have the option of trading lesson times with another student.  Even with this, parents are constantly asking me to make up their child’s lesson.

I love the families with whom I work.  I don’t want to have hard feelings or lose their friendships.  But when a parent asks to have their child’s lesson made up it is very uncomfortable.

The Suzuki parent who wrote the article below, I think, says it well.

If you are a piano parents or teacher, please read and pass along.

http://ottawasuzukistrings.ca/makeuplessons

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Although my educational background certainly helps, most of my best teaching moments are purely reached by spontaneity and luck.  (Note:  This post is duplicated under “Listening Brings Musicality” )

One of my students I acquired purely by being at the right place at the right time.  GG (I’ll call her GG because she is a gorgeous girl!) was in 8th grade ready to give up  taking piano lessons.  Her disheartened mother thought she’d give it one last chance and enrolled her in the Kingston Suzuki Institute for the summer hoping to peak her interest.  GG was placed in  my theory class and, little did I know, she was from my home town.  I had never met the family.  Well, she and I had a lovely week together and by the end of the week I was asked to take her on as a student.

We started working together that summer and 4 years later, she is getting ready to perform her senior recital.  The first couple of years she soared.  She loved the music I chose for her and the new ideas I brought to her playing .  In the next two years she was overcome by the rigor of junior and senior year classes.  Not only this, she excels in skating and running, so needless to say, her practice time dwindled.  We continued lessons with smaller accomplishments.  By October this year, she had chosen a college and I began to think about how we would finish her year. She had started with one of the pieces from Debussy’s Children Corner Suite  and she loved it.  Being a Suzuki teacher, I recommended that she listen as she learned.  She really loved the piece and wanted to learn others from the suite.

GG is a very good player, but, in my eyes, not  extraordinary.  I thought since it was her senior year it would be good to give a private recital, but I was unsure of her ability.  As she learned Doctor Gradus I discussed impressionism and related it to art.  As she played I began seeing painters works in my mind:  Monet, Dega, VanGogh.  So I mentioned that it might be fun to create a power point along with the piece that she could show as she performed.

The idea blossomed.  In two weeks GG will give her senior recital.  She has created visuals for the entire Children’s Corner Suite and perfected the pieces.  Now this is the really interesting part…….

To create the power points for each piece she researched artists,  impressionism, and had to listen to each piece a million times to make sure her frames of art for each piece were aligned perfectly as she played.  She used the CD to create these power points, which meant she was listening to concert pianists perform them.  From doing this her artistry in playing soared.  I am left breathless after she plays each piece.  Her nuances are perfectly executed.  Artistry is not an easy thing to teach.  Listening provides an insight to performance ideas.

She has decided to create invitations for her recital and create her own program with notes on each piece and her approach to her visual presentation.

Although GG is not going majoring in music during college, at her last lesson she said that she is going to continue piano lessons there.  What a surprise from a girl who was ready to quit 4 years ago!   She has loved our project and it has given her new insight to music.  Not only that, it has inspired her to continue her music education experience.

Think of her on May 30th as she performs her senior recital.

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Although my educational background certainly helps, most of my best teaching moments are purely reached by spontaneity and luck.  (Note:  This post is duplicated under “Combining piano lessons with art” )

One of my students I acquired purely by being at the right place at the right time.  GG (I’ll call her GG because she is a gorgeous girl!) was in 8th grade ready to give up  taking piano lessons.  Her disheartened mother thought she’d give it one last chance and enrolled her in the Kingston Suzuki Institute for the summer hoping to peak her interest.  GG was placed in  my theory class and, little did I know, she was from my home town.  I had never met the family.  Well, she and I had a lovely week together and by the end of the week I was asked to take her on as a student.

We started working together that summer and 4 years later, she is getting ready to perform her senior recital.  The first couple of years she soared.  She loved the music I chose for her and the new ideas I brought to her playing .  In the next two years she was overcome by the rigor of junior and senior year classes.  Not only this, she excels in skating and running, so needless to say, her practice time dwindled.  We continued lessons with smaller accomplishments.  By October this year, she had chosen a college and I began to think about how we would finish her year. She had started with one of the pieces from Debussy’s Children Corner Suite  and she loved it.  Being a Suzuki teacher, I recommended that she listen as she learned.  She really loved the piece and wanted to learn others from the suite.

GG is a very good player, but, in my eyes, not  extraordinary.  I thought since it was her senior year it would be good to give a private recital, but I was unsure of her ability.  As she learned Doctor Gradus I discussed impressionism and related it to art.  As she played I began seeing painters works in my mind:  Monet, Dega, VanGogh.  So I mentioned that it might be fun to create a power point along with the piece that she could show as she performed.

The idea blossomed.  In two weeks GG will give her senior recital.  She has created visuals for the entire Children’s Corner Suite and perfected the pieces.  Now this is the really interesting part…….

To create the power points for each piece she researched artists,  impressionism, and had to listen to each piece a million times to make sure her frames of art for each piece were aligned perfectly as she played.  She used the CD to create these power points, which meant she was listening to concert pianists perform them.  From doing this her artistry in playing soared.  I am left breathless after she plays each piece.  Her nuances are perfectly executed.  Artistry is not an easy thing to teach.  Listening provides an insight to performance ideas.

She has decided to create invitations for her recital and create her own program with notes on each piece and her approach to her visual presentation.

Although GG is not going majoring in music during college, at her last lesson she said that she is going to continue piano lessons there.  What a surprise from a girl who was ready to quit 4 years ago!   She has loved our project and it has given her new insight to music.  Not only that, it has inspired her to continue her music education experience.

Think of her on May 30th as she performs her senior recital.

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In the past, I have kept a wooden box of chocolates by the piano for the kids to treat themselves after their lesson.  Lately I think I will also have a box of tissue.

Yesterday I had lessons with a brother/sister team.  The kids had a grandmother that was quite musical and the children’s mother is probably more musical than she admits.

The mom is very conscientious in practicing with the children and they always come to their lessons very prepared. Well, I guess the kids had a rough week of practicing.  The boy was working on a Bach minuet and hit a mental block and his sister was having a difficult time keeping all the songs in the Suzuki Book one memorized since she is a real visual learner.

As always, the kids played very well at the lesson with no hint of having had a stressful week.  After the lessons, the mom broke down in tears.  She was overwhelmed with pride.  The hard work not only paid off for the kids, but also for the hard working mom/coach.  She was crying for the children’s success and for the loss of her mom knowing how her mother would have loved to be experiencing her grandkids.  It was quite touching.

This is not the first time I have had a mom cry during a lesson.  I have had parents cry out of appreciation for what I have done for their kids, I have had them cry out of frustration implementing the role of the home coach, and mostly, I have had parents crying out of pride.  I have sat in that parent chair with my own kids and know those tears well as I have shed them for all the same reasons.

Parenting is not an easy job.  It is certainly the hardest job I have ever had.  But, when one enters the job with their heart and soul, the benefits are many.  Being a Suzuki parent takes perseverance and patience. It taxes the relationship at times and it enhances the relationship at other times.  My number one advice to a Suzuki parent is be consistent and never give up.

I offer my students chocolate at my piano lessons.  I offer the parents chocolates, tissues, and love.

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Being a music teacher, I am hired to develop my students’ musical abilities. I fill their brains with music of famous composers, theory and rhythm. But maybe even more so than Bach, Handel, or Mozart , the music they hear in their heads is the personal advice I give every time I teach. Am I helping them make good choices in their personal lives? Am I modeling good behaviors? Am I giving them advice that will be playing like a tape loop as music plays in my head?

It was a challenging week as a parent and teacher, to say the least. No matter how old one’s children are, a mother is a mother forever ; giving advice and worrying will never end. My children and students at school provided me with many sleepless nights this week.

My daughter, a college senior has so much reason for worry. She is preparing a very ambitious senior piano recital, even though she is a Spanish major/music minor. She has prepared 9 pieces beginning with Bach and ending with George Crumb totaling well over an hour of music. While doing this, she is scanning every potential job opportunity for when she graduates, working a few hours a week at the Red Cross, volunteering at an autistic school and, let’s not forget, attending her regular every day classes. This morning she landed in Costa Rica for a much needed spring break.

My son, a college freshman showed what he was made of by making dean’s list first semester. This semester, not only is he taking a normal freshman load, but also auditing Japanese classes and catering for work study. He planned spring break in Mexico. After much research and news warnings, we put a halt to the trip. Needless to say, it put major stress on our relationship. He has earned a spring break, but being the mom, I was so scared about the destination, I felt I had to step in. All week I have been very stressed out about this, so worried that I was ruining my relationship with my boy. Parent advice, once again, absolutely what he does not want to hear.

Then I got a phone call from my daughter. She had just finished an afternoon at the autistic school. She called to tell me “she got it”. She was pushing a child on a swing and all of a sudden the “parent worry instinct” over came her; she was so worried that the child was going to fall off and get hurt. She said she could only push in little bits because if the child fell she would be responsible. “Now I see why you worry so much about my brother and me. If I ever have kids I am going to wrap them in bubble wrap,” she said. I was laughing so hard and was so proud; my daughter was thanking me and showing that she was becoming an adult. It was a moment that I will always treasure. She even called her brother to share her revelation.

Also this week my high school students had a big argument during rehearsal. It ended with one girl leaving the rehearsal. After class she came in to talk to me about it. I put on my mom shoes and went to work. We chatted for about 30 minutes. After a few laughs, tears and tons of advice, she left with a game plan for future conflicts, I think.

As educators and parents we need to give advice to students of all ages, whether they think they need it or not. Will those words waltz around their head like a song on their i-pod? Will they heed our words? Will they continue to respect us regardless of how ridiculous they think our advice is? My guess is yes. I still hear my parents words and am very close to both of my parents.

I turned out ok.

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Keeping a journal or a baby book current is not as easy as it sounds, because daily work, raising the children and chores absorb soooo much time. Now that my kids are grown, I reflect on the importance of the task.
Things I wish I had done in retrospect:
1. Write a weekly note about my kids. There are so many things I remember about the kids growing up, however, I am now uncertain about which child did some of them. Although at the time I thought I could never forget, I did, and I only have 2 kids!
2. Written more letters to my children. Occasionally I would write a letter and leave it on their pillow. Mostly the notes would be to tell them how proud I am of them or of their accomplishments. The kids really did cherish the notes and I should have taken more time to do it.

Things I did that I am very glad about:
1. Take tons of photos and put them immediately to photo albums that are dated. However, now that I have a digital camera, I am not as diligent with daily photos. I am still very good about keeping photos albums of trips.
2. Kept an art portfolio and laminated their works. I bought each child a portfolio and whenever a very special piece was created I would slip it in. Later I did the laminating. If works were too big or delicate, I took a photo of my child with their creation.

3. Kept Christmas journals. I have a couple of these that I put on the coffee table at Christmas. One has our Christmas photo card that we send out and beside it is our Christmas news letter. It is so much fun to read the letters from years passed and to see at a glance how the family has grow from year to year. The other is a Christmas memory book (photo above). In this I log events of each Christmas holiday: parties, dinners, gifts shared, and all other Hallmark moments. There is also room for 2 photos. I include a family photo and a Christmas card photo that we receive. It really has been great fun reading passed entries and useful in remembering gifts and meals. I look forward each Christmas to sitting in front of the Christmas tree with a warm mug of coffee looking through these journals and they also are fun for guests to glance through.

4. I created books with my kids. Together we decided on a topic, wrote a story and illustrated it. When they were very young I would write the words they created. As they got older, they wrote the words using creative spelling and I would translate below. The stories brought out who my child was at the time and the illustrations were adorable.

5. Video taping. I really wish I had done much more than I did. First of all, cam cords were new when my kids were very small. But it always seemed like a chore to video tape, or whenever I did try I was often stung with a low battery. My advice; Make the effort. It is so worth the time.

To parents everywhere: Take the time to hold onto memories. I found that each photo, journal entry, art work is priceless.

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Shinichi Suzuki wrote a gem of a little book called, “Nurtured by Love”. Many Suzuki teachers recommend this book to their students’ parents as a means of familiarizing them with the well know method of teaching music lessons because knowing the philosophy helps explain the method. But I think the book is much more than that; I think it is sound parenting advice.

The philosophy is based on a small observation that Dr. Suzuki made about the way children learn. Children listen to their parent’s voice from conception. Through this, the child picks up vocabulary, sentence structure, and nuances from the parent. The child hears the language and learns to speak it fluently long before he looks at the printed word and before he learns to read. Parents encourage their child to listen to their voice, repeat the words many times and applaud their child as his language skills develop.

This is the basis of the Suzuki method; children learn to play the instrument by listening to a recording, emulating their teacher’s playing and having the parents play the role of coach by being present at lessons and following through with the teacher’s suggestions at home. Little by little, the written music is presented and the child learns to read.

Being a Suzuki teacher and having gone through the method with my children, I think that Dr. Suzuki’s audience should include all parents because, in reality, his words are sound advice on parenting. As I read the book I kept thinking of how his advice would apply to daily life and as I took my children through the years of music lessons, his words guided me on a path that I felt was humanistic.

The daily practice of piano showed me how children need and like a routine. Playing games during practice showed me that with a little humor, encouragement, repetition, and expectation children flourish. But the biggest items of all in working with children (anyone really!) are praise and respect. With praise and respect my children gained confidence as human beings. Praise first is the rule. Then, with gentle hands suggestions can be offered.

Think of this idea in the work place. Even though I have been teaching a number of years, it still feels good to hear a compliment about my work. It feels good to have my colleagues respect me. When my principal talks to others about what a difference I make with the children it encourages me to work even harder. Praise is a stimulating motivator. Don’t we all want to be nurtured by love?

If we offer praise and respect to our children in their daily lives they will grow more than if we criticize. Dr. Suzuki’s book is so much more than what I’ve written in these few paragraphs. If you are a parent, read it. If you are not a parent, read it anyways, and it may enhance all your relationships.

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