This poem appeared in one of those junk mail newsletters over thirty years ago. I feel that its message is still as strong today as it was then. Doesn’t this describe in a beautiful way, the wonder of the Suzuki method? The child doesn’t know anything when they come into our Suzuki world, except for siblings of course; and the parent and the teacher do indeed hold the child's destiny in our hands.
In our Suzuki triangle we work together as a team. The teacher shares their knowledge of the instrument, the experience of teaching, and the absolute passion of working with children. The parent brings their commitment and desire to give their child a gift of music. And the child comes with their curiosity and excitement.
No one has signed up for the negotiations and arguments. Yet, it is inevitable that these occasionally rear their ugly heads. That is when we have to tighten our common front together and soldier on until life changes course.
So what makes this Suzuki triangle so successful? It is the fact that not one side of the triangle is dominant. Each one of us has a vested interest in the process that we are taking on together. I feel that the teacher’s job is to be there 100% for the parent and the student. Yes, I know we don’t live the daily practice grind as you do, but I do feel that we can support the parent, while making our teaching points clear and approachable. But we must never forget our most important role: nurturing that child/pre teen/teenager before us. We are the closest person in that young heart outside of their immediate family. That is a responsibility to not take lightly.
The parent’s role is perhaps the most diverse. You are the advocate for your child at all times, in all places. In our Suzuki world, you are also the go between the teacher and the child. And as the poem says, you determine largely whether they succeed or fail. Wow! That is a huge responsibility! I respond in my teacher voice with “how can I help you?”
The relationship that the teachers and parents have is vital to the success of the Suzuki method. How can I help you? How can you help me? How can we help your child? We need to always keep communicating, sharing and discussing.
I can help you by understanding.... by understanding if you have had a busy week, by understanding if you couldn’t remember the minute details of the left hand position, by understanding that you and your child need a referee and not a teacher this week.
You can help me by being present in lessons and group classes. I don’t only mean physically, I mean attentive. Please ask questions if you aren’t clear on what is going on. Sit close and at the right angle so that you can see what is being taught. Don’t sit fifteen feet away and expect to see where the pinky is being placed on the bow. Take notes, take pictures and videos. Come to group classes to appreciate what your child is learning and yes, to learn yourself. Come to group classes so that YOU benefit from the second lesson every week, as well as your child. Too often, I think that parents come to group class to catch up on their email, check Facebook or to help their other children with homework. Or sadly, to drop off their children so that errands can be run. Your attentiveness in lessons and groups revitalizes me – the teacher who is in charge of the room. When you are interested, my teaching improves because I know I am teaching both the child and yourself. When you are not attentive, I found myself asking what it is that I am doing inadequately.
So what happens as the child grows older? Well, I know that my teaching changes. I direct more and more of my comments to the child, I use a more sophisticated vocabulary. I spend a lot more time discussing HOW to practice directly with the student. And how does a Suzuki parent’s “job description” change? They let the child direct more and more of the practice from time management to evaluation. They also begin to sit further and further away in the lesson, and yes they come to group class less frequently. This is a normal course of events and something that every teacher fosters and even choreographs. This is a healthy situation.
Every day I come to work grateful that I have a job I truly love. Every child I see is a unique and special human being and I am grateful that I am able to spend time with them and help the parent and child understand what it is to learn. I am also lucky to share this experience with caring, loving parents who are interested, flexible human beings. Let us continue to walk down this path together, each of us reveling in the joy of music and being totally present in the moment.
Thank you to Sally Gross for contributing this article!