how to teach past Essential Elements 1

Edited: September 27, 2017, 2:07 PM · Hello! I have been teaching for 4 years and did not have any formal training to do so. I use Essential Elements 1 and have had brand new beginners for students. I supplement this book heavily with exercises, games, duets and beginner solo pieces, and basically have my kiddos at Suzuki level 1 when they are finished - the whole process taking about 2-3 years. Anyways, I am wondering, where do I go from here? I am very comfortable teaching at this level but would like to build.

I am personally an advanced classical player but would not feel comfortable teaching shifting and vibrato - basically, I am worried that once I have a student for 5-6 years, I will have to refer them to a different teacher. And I don't feel comfortable taking new students who are at an intermediate level.

Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you!

Replies (23)

September 27, 2017, 2:16 PM · Graded repertoire like RCM and ABRSM, subsequent Essential Elements books and similar materials (e.g String Builder, Doflein).
September 27, 2017, 2:48 PM · Two to three years on Essential Elements 1 is a very long time! You must be teaching extremely young children. I would suggest to you that you observe as many violin lessons as you can; read Simon Fischer's book and also Ivan Galamian's; follow natesviolin.com; basically just get as much information as you can.

When I was getting started teaching privately, I found intermediate students much easier to teach than beginners. Incidentally, many of us had little to no formal preparation in teaching privately beyond memories of our own lessons, though I did make a concerted effort to observe a lot of lessons with other teachers as I was getting started.

(personally I find it very easy to teach shifting; less so to teach vibrato)

September 27, 2017, 3:44 PM · Keep in mind that every teacher has different experiences. Mary Ellen has given great advice.
September 27, 2017, 7:40 PM · Get rid of Essential Elements and get the All for Strings series instead. The EE series is ok, but has the same stuff as ASF in bigger notes so you have to buy more books sooner.
September 28, 2017, 10:14 AM · Thank you, very helpful! Yes Mary Ellen, my students are generally around 7 years old. I love the idea of observing other lessons and I will get those texts. Scott Cole, All for Strings?! I'll check it out!
September 28, 2017, 10:16 AM · I do also have a very strong idea in my mind, that I should not teach anything that I can't play myself flawlessly 100% of the time. This is valid?
Edited: September 28, 2017, 11:13 AM · "I do also have a very strong idea in my mind, that I should not teach anything that I can't play myself flawlessly 100% of the time. This is valid?"

Rumor has it that Galamian's playing was not as exceptional as his teaching, or so I've heard.

I have taught Brahms, Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, and Tchaikovsky concertos, all of which I have studied myself but I certainly don't have the practice time that would be needed to play any of those pieces flawlessly 100% of the time. I only avoid teaching those things I was never thoroughly competent at myself--the bowstroke in Paganini #1, for example. You're setting an awfully high bar for yourself.

September 28, 2017, 11:53 AM · It is hard for teachers to be absolutely perfect, and even they make mistakes.
September 28, 2017, 12:19 PM · At a certain state it would be impossible I guess.
"Even they make mistakes"
In the end they are "just" players with a degree. No violinist in the world does everything without any mistakes and the playing quality of teachers (with degree) is very different.
From my science experience I can tell, that most good profs I had were not the best scientists and the other way around. Same is what I see within my collegues today.
I had a very good violin teacher for 3 years that usually did not take her violin out of its case. Still she was a great teacher giving my technic a way way better turn than any other teacher I had.
I remember at my very first lesson she asked me, what my bow does during shifting in pieces. I was puzzled as I never thought of it before. This was the start to a very good teacher/student relation
Edited: September 28, 2017, 12:26 PM · Given how vital teaching is in the development of string players, I am always surprised how many teachers have little (or no) pedagogical training.

In some cases, this doesn't seem to matter as some do develop into fine instructors with an innate understanding of how their students learn and the different ways in which this can happen for individuals. However, many do not become good teachers and particularly have one way, and one way only of teaching. They then wonder (or worse, ignore) why some students don't learn with that method.

Surely there are avenues, formal training available for those who desire to teach. If there is, then please, I urge you to consider taking courses in HOW to teach.

There's a reason that teachers in school undergo formal, academic training in how to do their job. For string teachers to believe that they are some how a font of knowledge that doesn't need to study how we learn, and how to teach is both ignorant and arrogant. Most of all, it does a great disservice to your students.

Neil

PS: This is just a rant-in-general, and not specifically aimed at the OP.

September 28, 2017, 12:34 PM · "There's a reason that teachers in school undergo formal, academic training in how to do their job. For string teachers to believe that they are some how a font of knowledge that doesn't need to study how we learn, and how to teach is both ignorant and arrogant. Most of all, it does a great disservice to your students."

Wow.

OK then.

Not having undergone a formal academic course in pedagogy in no way equates to believing one is a font of all knowledge with no need to learn. And my students are doing just fine, thank you.

Who do you think teaches those courses in pedagogy, anyway?

Edited: September 28, 2017, 1:20 PM · Rumor is that several exceptional players called Galamian a hack for that reason (even some who themselves studied with Galamian for a time). Every time I hear those stories it makes me laugh, something about the hearing of petty rivalries among the best players and teachers humanizes them for me.
September 28, 2017, 1:25 PM · "There's a reason that teachers in school undergo formal, academic training in how to do their job."

It is an empirical fact that most pedagogy courses for the average school teacher make them worse teachers than they would be otherwise by promoting false theories of learning. Now good pedagogy courses are another thing entirely, but it seems that for some reason people who are good teachers don't tend to teach pedagogy courses, so we end up with the garbage being promoted in most cases today.

Hmmm... I propose a corollary to the famous maxim: Those that can't, teach. Those that can't teach, teach how to teach!

September 28, 2017, 2:11 PM · The day pedagical courses at university get usefull might come one day, but today its still pretty bad and useless if not harmfull. I usrd to take two of them, and was shocked. My wife has a highschool teacher degree and you wont hear anything different from her. Today the instincts and what people experienced themselves as students is still what most do when becomeing teachers. Same for profs at university.
Also there are degrees for violin teaching in Germany. I always prefered the ones with concert exams by far.
September 28, 2017, 2:51 PM · Formal training (in teaching, specifically) does very little to make someone a better teacher, in my experience and observation.

However, having taken private lessons for many years certainly does.

OP, what is the most difficult piece of music you have been able to play with 95% accuracy?

September 28, 2017, 3:59 PM · LOL funny, but not unexpected reaction to a suggestion that formal training in how to teach might help improve the standard of teaching. I'd be interested in seeing some peer-reviewed, evidence-based sources showing the "empirical fact that most pedagogy courses for the average school teacher make them worse teachers than they would be otherwise by promoting false theories of learning."

Oh and anecdotes are not evidence.

Obviously my observations will have no effect, other than to ruffle some feathers.

Neil

Edited: September 29, 2017, 1:54 PM · Neil, you brought up a fair point. But! Is there any empirical evidence that could show pedagogy courses could make a violinist a better violin teacher?

My personal, anecdotal experience is that music education majors are less accomplished in their instruments than performance majors.

Edited: September 29, 2017, 2:12 PM · I'm not offended in the least. Your archetype is common. I will describe it here: "one who, despite being a beginner and possessing very little applicable experience to the subject matter, claims to know more about it than a majority of experts because of false confidence brought about by having taken a critical thinking class in junior college."


Anyways, to nullify the argument you're making, you should probably know that there is a very large difference between what a "school teacher" and a "private violin teacher" do.

But you wouldn't know that, because you are neither a school teacher nor a private violin teacher. You're just a guy on the internet who recently learned Twinkle and now thinks he can "Teach the sheeple" about their flawed methods.

Good violin teaching is learned through experiences, some of those being:

1) Having been exposed to private violin teachers and recycling their methods for yourself.

2) Having gone from a beginner level to a more advanced level, and understanding what steps that took.

3) Realizing that what worked for you won't necessarily work for everyone.

4) Trying to teach and FAILING, and then understanding that failure and avoiding it on your next student (yes, all budding teachers have to experiment at first, and some of that ends in failure)


The problem with a "course on teaching the violin" is that it would spend a lot of wasted time/energy on generalizations. And what experience has taught me about teaching is that generalizations DO NOT WORK. Every single student is a different case, and needs a different methodology behind their instruction. And the more we rely on generalizations, the more time we waste trying to apply those to each new student, until we finally realize we have to UNLEARN the useless skills that would have been taught in such a course.

EDIT: this was a response to Neil, just to clarify. Also, I didn't mean to imply that all classes on teaching violin are useless. I was thinking more in terms of a University degree aimed at certifying string teachers.

September 29, 2017, 6:16 AM · There are in fact formal classes one can take in private string pedagogy. Most of them are in the Suzuki method. I recommend taking Suzuki teacher training even if you do not want to be a Suzuki teacher (if you can, they can be fairly expensive and time consuming) due to the systematic approach to set-up, the chance to discuss teaching approaches, difficulties, etc. You also get a lot of opportunities during this training to observe other teachers teaching.
Mimi Zweig also does a 1-2 week summer "retreat" for violin and viola teachers that is essentially pedagogy training. There are also courses offered for the Sassmanhaus method, Mark O'Connor etc.

Have you considered just continuing with Essential Elements 2, then 3 and 4 (Advanced Technique for strings (only in the older edition)? The third book covers basic shifting and 2 octave scales (also has vibrato exercises) and book 4 covers 3 octave scales and shifting up to 7th. I personally find Essential Elements book 1 almost mind-numbingly boring (for both me and the student) to teach as the main method in a private lesson context (I teach with Suzuki as my main method and supplement with scales and occasionally other method books) but you seem to have developed a system around it the works so why not just continue with the series? It is a well thought out method (although really for classroom instruction) that covers all of the basics.

Edited: September 30, 2017, 1:52 PM · Anika, I sincerely appreciate your modesty and restraint...
September 29, 2017, 11:09 AM · 100% agree about Essential Elements being mind-numbingly boring as the main method in a private lesson context. I bring it out very occasionally to use as a supplement; that's all. *Very* occasionally. It was designed for a classroom context and works better there.

I also use the Suzuki materials and many of the ideas up to about the Vivaldi a minor level (along with supplementary scales and exercises such as Wohlfahrt and the Whistler shifting books), at which point I ditch the Suzuki books entirely.

The Barbara Barber collections have some very nice pieces in them.

September 30, 2017, 1:52 PM · I don't know about Suzuki teacher-training in USA, but here in Europe it is demanding and stimulating. Before training, I was most successful with students who resembled me somewhat (poor things); now I can teach anyone, even on an "off" day. Suzuki himself seemed to have spent his long life (a few weeks short of 100 years!) bringing together his two loves: children and music.
September 30, 2017, 5:41 PM · Thank you everyone for your input! It is beyond valuable -

Erik Williams - OP, what is the most difficult piece of music you have been able to play with 95% accuracy?

I am about done with Mediation from Thais. I'll address this as well;

Formal training (in teaching, specifically) does very little to make someone a better teacher, in my experience and observation.
However, having taken private lessons for many years certainly does.

And I've been taking private lessons for 4 years (playing for 24, I know it's a drop on the bucket). It has been imperative to my teaching. I am scared to death of teaching, as I learned. It was in public school, with no thoughtful discussions or exercises regarding posture and breathing and zero planning in regards to future development.

Mary Ellen - " 100% agree about Essential Elements being mind-numbingly boring as the main method in a private lesson context. I bring it out very occasionally to use as a supplement; that's all. *Very* occasionally. It was designed for a classroom context and works better there. "

So true! I use EE but supplement it heavily (because the kiddos get really bored!), which is probably a strong indicator that it's not the best book for private lessons.

So much to consider, very happy for this dialogue!

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