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Not Just a Teacher

Kelsey Zachary

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Published: March 3, 2015 at 6:33 PM [UTC]

I'm in need of some words of wisdom here. I have a really fantastic group of students who would make any teacher proud. I love their enthusiasm and humour and fresh perspective, but what can you do as a teacher when enthusiasm transfers over into perfectionism to the point of being almost damaging? I've noticed more and more that kids at younger and younger ages are beginning to get so upset when something doesn't go perfectly right away.

There's always some degree of counseling that comes into your role as a teacher and it's a privilege (and big responsibility!) that parents trust you to shape and mold their kids young minds. I'm sure many of us have had a teacher or two who hasn't exactly lived up their jobs in the most positive of ways but it makes me think about what we can do to be better equipped to be prepared for a student who's a perfectionist, or a student who struggles with a learning disability or a student whose just lost a family member or one of the more difficult circumstances I've encountered over the years, a student who comes from an abusive home and uses their lesson as an escape and safe place. How can we be better equipped to be not only the educator but the mentor and the counselor that our students sometimes need and to be able to be sensitive to their situation or circumstance ? If only teaching was as simple as 2+2 = 4 .

And now a momentary departure from conundrums of a music teacher.

I had hoped to be finished knitting my ongoing sweater project by now but between bein g sick, out of town and being distracted by a couple other smaller knitting projects I've fallen off the bandwagon a little bit. I'm back on the band wagon though and I'm determined to finish it this week. Maybe I'll penalize myself a starbucks for every day over schedule I go? Why oh why does ravelry have to take up so much of my time surfing through patterns. I'm pretty sure if I determined to make everything in my favourites list that I'd have more than enough patterns to keep me busy for a lifetime. Oh well...... I've been make a steady dent in my large yarn stash since Christmas so I am at least keeping good on that promise to myself so far! I've included a peek at one of my more recent projects that I've completed for your viewing pleasure.

Kelsey's knitting

Now back to your regular programming.

The past couple of years I've been trying to motivate students to practice more. Kids are exceedingly busy these days running back and forth from soccer practice to English tutoring to skating lessons nevermind schools seem to be piling on more and more homework. So how do you get kids to practice when they are already so overloaded that even though they might enjoy playing and enjoy lessons they are too beat to practice at the end of the day.

My strategy the last few terms have been different kinds of practice challenges. The first one I tried was an in studio practice competition. I hung a large white board and all the students names were put on the board and each week that they
practiced a star would be placed beside their name. At the end of the term, the student with the most stars beside their name received a prize (my choice was a gift card for Vancouver's popular "Kids Books" bookstore). The 2nd term I tried a practice challenge, I wanted to do something to keep things interesting, this time it was a 70 day practice challenge. They had just over 70 days to practice 70 days (i wanted to alot a couple extra days in case kids got sick or needed a play day) If they somehow didn't think they could practice that much or missed a day, they could feel out bi-weekly music quiz sheets for extra credit that were geared towards teaching them a bit more about the music they are learning. Again, we did a small prize system to try and help motivate and spawn some friendly competition. It seemed to work! I was surprised how many kids actually succeeded at this!

This most recent semester which is a bit shorter and is just coming to an end I decided to try something a bit different yet again and to get in on the competition myself. It was a "can you beat the teacher?" practice competition. The kids had the entire semester to practice more than I did in only a couple of weeks. I took my shortest practice days to make it a little more challenging for me to keep up too! Anyone have any recommendations of what I should do for my next practice challenge that begins the last week of March after spring break is over?

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 4, 2015 at 4:48 AM
hi Kelsey. I'm sure that there are thousands of people who can give you lots of good advice about the kinds of questions your students are posing for you. But I am, admittedly with some reservations, going to take a different tack. I may change my mind tomorrow of course.
My tentative advice is to step back and be cool. You are not being paid to develop young minds except in one specific area and that is the art of violin performance rand perhaps more importantly practiicng.
Paradoxically, working this way may help you to help some of those students in the way you want to .
Idle thoughts,
From Paul Deck
Posted on March 4, 2015 at 6:08 PM
My experience as a parent may differ from others, but I have found that sports, language instruction, homework, volunteering, etc. do not displace violin, at least at home. Nor do they, if consumed in moderation, displace time to "just be a kid." What they do displace, at least in my family, is the electronic tablet and the TV (mine are too young yet for their own phones).

I think Buri is right, you've got to leave something for your young charges to be learning from their parents. Have the parents received instruction in coaching violin? Have they ingested the proper quantity of Suzuki Kool-Aid (which I would argue is relatively little but not zero)?

Finally, as a parent of two children who are extremely different in their personalities, I think you might need to spend a little time trying to identify whether the perfectionism you observe is intrinsic to the young student or whether it has been imprinted upon them, as I believe that will partly direct your response (if any) thereto. Perfectionism can be channeled but that is a gradual process, and as it applies to the violin it's only your place to ensure that it does not result in the child building up counter-productive practice habits.

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