Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Teach?

Why do I teach cello?

The easy answer is because I was asked to.  But the reason I finally said yes was because the cello is such a joy and I wanted to share that.  To take others on the journey.

Why do I teach Suzuki cello?

First, I decided to use the Suzuki literature.  It is a well laid out series of pieces which build on each other.  I surveyed other adult cello students to see what they were using, as well as teachers of children.  They all used and recommended the Suzuki literature as the basis for studies.  Also, I was familiar with the beginning Suzuki books as I learned violin with the first four books before switching to cello.  (The Suzuki method had not yet been adapted for cello at that time.)  But using the Suzuki books does not make a Suzuki teacher.

My philosophy of teaching and learning has grown mostly over the years of homeschooling our children, having started in studying education at university.  And for teaching cello specifically, I went into my memory banks and borrowed from my violin teacher, Rodger Alexander.  The main thing I took from him was to make it fun and positive for the kids.  I had learned using the Suzuki method adapted for use in schools, and was using an adaptation, myself, based on what I knew about the method picked up over the years from my own experience and elsewhere.

I found the community of Suzuki teachers to be quite helpful in sharing of ideas for teaching, and began to research more about the method.  I found that the main philosophies espoused by Dr. Suzuki match my own more than I realized.  A positive and supportive atmosphere, moving each student at their own speed - no special aptitude required to begin (though it's easier to develop musical aptitude, the same as learning a language, at a young age), developing proper technique and a good tone as a primary foundation prior to reading and music theory, developing the ear and becoming familiar with the sound of the cello by listening to recordings, creating a community for my students and playing music together...

There was one key ingredient to the Suzuki method I had not emphasized: the parents.  As well as reading about this and talking with other teachers, I also looked at my own students.  I had some students who were really blossoming and learning quickly, and I had some who lagged.  What was the difference?  The parents' involvement with practice time.  Of course each student is different and the degree of parent involvement needed may vary child to child and as they grow,  but there it was.  And it made sense.  What young child can take instruction about a fairly complex physical activity once, and follow through with this for the next week at home alone?  So now I provide parents with some training.  This includes the basics of playing the instrument to the point of playing Twinkle for the very beginners, information on the Suzuki philosophy, and helps and ideas for structuring practice time, motivating their child, etc.  I had never expected the kids to do it on their own at home, but neither had I previously provided the parents with the training and support they needed. 

I decided to embrace the full Suzuki method in my teaching, and have taken the basic training to become a registered Suzuki cello instructor.  It mirrors my own philosophies, and most importantly: it works!  Being able to play the cello has been a gift in my life, and I love seeing others finding this same enjoyment.  This is why I teach, and why I teach using the Suzuki method.

Read more about the Suzuki Method here:

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