I think Suzuki teachers have the best jobs in the world! We work one on one with committed students and parents and can teach to the individual child and not the repertoire. We work with extremely talented, experienced colleagues who take the time to listen and bounce ideas off each other. Every day is different; every child is different at each lesson and family commitments often change. It is this variety that keeps us energized, and I for one, am never bored.
As Suzuki teachers, we are probably the only other adults who are a constant in your child’s life, other than the adult members of your family. School teachers come and go as do religious education teachers or sports coaches, but we see your child weekly in a one on one situation for years. It is exciting to see them grow up and become young adults, and it is also humbling to acknowledge the amount of influence we have in their development.
I try very hard to maintain continuous communication among the three corners of the triangle: the student, the parent and the teacher. A student walks into a room and I ask, “ How was your week” or “how did your xyz event go”. This isn’t just polite chitchat; I do sincerely care about what is going on the student’s lives and ultimately their practice intentions for the week.
I encourage all my parents to contact me outside of the earshot of the student if something needs to be shared privately. This can occur briefly when the child leaves the room for a few moments, or perhaps via email or preferably by phone at a mutually convenient time. With an older student, I feel that the best approach is for the three of us to talk together during a lesson time.
So what kind of things should the three of us be in communication about?
Situations that have to do with the progress of the student
Rate of learning new repertoire
Performance opportunities inside and outside of the Suzuki school
Pros and cons of youth orchestra commitment
Work ethic modification
Did something like illness, travel or homework interfere with the amount of practicing that got done that week?
Productive use of time with a positive approach
The practice battle – teachers need to validate the parent as the home teacher
Creative practice tools
Did the child experience pain or fatigue?
Passive or Active?
Consistent or sporadic?
Do the child and parent listen together?
This is a fact of life and should be done in a timely and ethical fashion. If this issue is well handled, nobody will feel hurt.
The current teacher can help to make a smooth transition to the new one, and will probably be happy to do this for their student.
The parent has an incredibly important role in Suzuki education. We cannot work efficiently without you and we truly admire your dedication. You may hear remarks that they find difficult to say to us. If you think it is appropriate and have your child’s permission to speak to us, you may occasionally have to be their voice. Please let’s all keep the communication lines open.