I feel uneasy about my son's teacher

September 2, 2006 at 06:42 AM · Hi,

I have a 6 year old son who has violin lessons since about a year. But I feel uneasy whether his teacher is good for him, for several reasons:

- Sometimes after the lessons, my son feels angry and discouraged, for my impression the teacher has not a good feeling what is the right amount of challenge. I often need a couple of days of practising to reconstruct his motivation.

- He dramatizes bad habits which also puts a lot of pressure on me.

- He won't let me attend the lessons, claiming my son would be distracted (which might be true to a certain extent)

- I have the slight feeling that there is a sort of "competition" or "jealousy" between me and the teacher. On some occasions I have been active on organizing little children's concerts. I have also arranged small pieces for children's groups which we played at these concerts and have hoped that he would take up this in the lessons which he did not. It this perhaps indeed too much interference in the teaching by me? (I play piano and have a lot of chamber music experience, however I am not a professional and I don't play violin. However, since a year I learn observing and listening to my son's right practising).

- The teacher sometimes gossips on other students without anonymisation. He even does this when my little one is present and knows whom he is talking about.

On the other hand:

- As a mom, I might be biased. Perhaps some pressure is good for my child, and I might be too soft.

- Changing the teacher would imply to switch to private lessons. Currently, we are in the only music school of our village. The school offers the prospect of concerts, children's orchestras and chambers groups which I would not like to miss.

- I have cautiously asked my son what he would think about another teacher, but he only said that he would miss this one. Of course he can't imagine that another teacher would perhaps be different.

I would be curious to read comments on this. Thanks

Annette

Replies (40)

September 2, 2006 at 06:59 AM · > He won't let me attend the lessons, claiming

> my son would be distracted (which might be true

> to a certain extent)

From a personal standpoint, I find this incredibly distasteful.

I encourage all of my parents to attend their students' lessons (as long as they do not interrupt the lesson process, and keep questions until after we are done). This keeps up until the student tells their parent(s) that they want to go "solo." :) In my experience, my students who mature to the level that they need to discuss things with me that mom or dad don't really need to hear will make their intentions known when they are ready. For my grads that have moved on, many of them have let me know that my support as a third-party in their interactions with parents/conductors/etc. has been duly appreciated.

From a teaching standpoint, a teacher/parent alliance is one of the strongest tools in helping guide and motivate young players, and it's not possible to make that happen if the parents don't know what's going on!

September 2, 2006 at 07:57 AM · Well, sometimes when I ask a student a question while the parent is present, they glance over at their parent for guidance on their answer. Then this red flag goes up in my head and the little guy waving it tells me that my student will not be himself while his parent is there, since he has to look over every time I ask him a question.

Otherwise, I am fine with parents sitting in on lessons, since they will be the enforcers when I am not there.

You may come here for advice, but I would advise you to look at the situation and consider all the options and corresponding outcomes. Only you can decide how many flaws you will tolerate in a teacher before it's time to move on. I would like to remind you that no matter who your teacher is, you will find flaws. It's kinda like gambling, in a sense, that you have to weigh what you know about your teacher against this unknown possibility of what you may consider a better alternative. Is it better? How can you know? Decide if it's worth a try to change to something else for a while, and look deeply into all the possible consequences of your actions. (For instance, will you be burning any bridges? Will you possibly come back to this teacher if things don't work out with a new teacher? Are you okay with that?)

Be tactful. Be honest. Try to maintain positive relationships to the best of your ability, and when you cannot bear someone else's neglect any longer, then move on.

September 2, 2006 at 09:03 AM · "He won't let me attend the lessons, claiming my son would be distracted"

WAY more than enough to get me to switch teachers. This is your son we're talking about...you don't even leave your dog alone with the trainers since it's training is just as much training for you to continue at home.

Preston

September 2, 2006 at 09:29 AM · eeek - An attentive parent is the teacher's best resource. I'm teaching a 7 year old on another instrument, and having his Dad sit in (even if just for the end of the lesson) is really helpful for the Dad coaching him during the week on the various things to practice / watch out for or at least just keeping him on track.

How can a 6 year old possibly "capture" the pointers and remember them through the week? This must make the going very slow, because the teacher would keep re-capping the same points in the following lesson.

And if you feel it is wrong, and are even thinking about changing, then it is wrong and you should change. Pays to pay heed to your gut feelings on these sorts of things.

September 2, 2006 at 01:11 PM · I have two children that studied violin and I attended their lessons. The younger one did get distracted and acted out when I was with her during lessons. I noticed that she concentrated much better when she was alone with the teacher. Toward the end of the lesson I would pop back in and the teacher would review her progress and explain to me what she was expected to work on. You seem to have other issues with the teacher that perhaps you can discuss openly with him. In the meantime you can explore your options. Some private teachers have recitals and give their students opportunities to play together. Hope everything works out for you.

September 2, 2006 at 01:46 PM · I personally ask at least one parent attend every lesson of a 5-6 year old. The rule is "Mommies should be seen, and not heard".

I agree with Gene Wie.

Once in a while, a parent will intrude a bit too much on the lesson process. Sometimes I will ask a question of a student, with full eye contact, and the mom (or dad) just automatically answers, while the child memorizes the dirt streaks on their socks. If this happens regularly, I will make a call saying that it is time for the child to try a lesson by themselves.

So Anne, as far as lesson attendance goes, maybe you can discuss some ground rules, and then start sitting in again. Communicate! Your six year old might just need his Mommie there!

Your son's anger and discouragement need to be addressed. Have you asked your son why he is so put off? Can he articulate this yet? Is it possible that he likes his teacher, but not the violin?

September 2, 2006 at 01:49 PM · ...I've sat in on all 3 of my children's lessons...

...all their teachers had THEIR parents sit in on their lessons...

I think it's necessary to a certain extent so that the parent can guide practice at home if necessary.

This teacher doesn't sound very professional.

September 2, 2006 at 04:01 PM · Thank you everybody so much for your interesting answers!

It is interesting that almost all of you focus on the aspect of parents sitting in the lessons. The teacher did not want that from the very first beginning, without knowing how I would behave.

Last winter, I insisted for a while, for two reasons. The first was what is also frequently repeated on this forum: I need to know what and how the teacher wants my son to practise, just an exampe: how does the kid must hold the bow hand, fingers, arms etc. The teacher only explained this to me at the end of the lesson, during about 5 minutes. As I don't play violin myself, this is not enough. I know how to correct pitch and rythm, but not the motorical things. And during practising, I want to use the same terms and emphasis as the teacher.

The second reason was indeed that I wanted a sort of control, because sometimes my son seemed unhappy after the lesson. I felt more comfortable when I was in it.

My son doesn't yet practise for himself, he wants me to direct him.

But after some weeks, the teacher again wanted to be alone with my son, claiming that now I know enough to correct him at home. Indeed, now I know more, but 5 minutes at the end aren't simply enough.

Of course I can imagine the rules you cite myself: I never answered questions he has asked my son, and I never interfered, but of course I listened and watched, and both, teacher and kid probably felt my presence very clearly (My son liked it).

Anne, you ask "Is it possible that he likes his teacher, but not the violin? " I am quite sure that he likes his violin, more than the teacher. He is good natured and gets along with all his teachers, and he is conservative and never likes changes, like changes of teacher. He has chosen the violin by himself, because he likes the sound, however he initially expected progress much quicker. When he was 5 he expected that after some weeks his playing would be as good as Nigel Kennedy's and he was surprised that in the first lessons he had to clap hands or just play empty strings. ;-) Now he knows and accepts that practising is work.

As I said in my posting, after some days after the last lesson, he (and I) are happy again and enjoy practising. It is not every lesson after which my son is unhappy, but sometimes he feels that teacher asks too much, and sometimes the teacher asks too little, e.g. he wants my son to rehearse the same (boring) piece again. The piece went well at home but not during the lesson, apparently.

I believe my boy is very musical. When he is playing with his toys, he subconciously keeps humming and singing, and often I hear his violin pieces, and he sings the ones he had just practised often in absolute pitch (but only those, I check this sometimes on the piano). (By the way, the teacher is fond of him, he recently took his last exam and chose my son for an examination on teaching, which went very well.)

The problem I have with changing the teacher is that this probably means that I have to leave the music school. But I hoped that this would be a good community for my son during the next years. Or I had to talk to the director and ask for teacher change, which would be a difficult situation, because I needed to complain about my son's teacher. He is still very young and just starting with teaching.

Anne

September 2, 2006 at 04:54 PM · You have established you are not obnoxiously interfering during you son's lesson (Yeah!).

If your son wants you to help him practice, fine. This can be a beautiful thing for both of you. As Bram von Melle said above, "An attentive parent is the teacher's best resource".

If the teacher is just starting to teach, HE can learn from your child- hard and fast rules are never right for everybody.

The analogy I use is the "Three Legged Stool": the child, the parents, and the teacher. If your teacher's leg is not the right length, go find another teacher! Good Luck!

P.S. I like Nigel Kennedy too.

September 2, 2006 at 05:30 PM · If your son comes back from lessons angry, etc. run, do not walk to change teachers. He should come out happy and motivated.

September 3, 2006 at 02:00 PM · Hi,

I was going to comment, but I won't...

Cheers!

September 3, 2006 at 03:48 PM · I have to agree with what was said above. At six, the child needs parental direction during practice, and your attendance at the lesson would seem essential. There are other reasons to be alarmed at a teacher who insists that the child be alone with him during the lesson. If your child is upset and angry after the lessons, I would suggest you change teachers even if it does mean paying extra for private lessons.

September 3, 2006 at 11:27 PM · C'mon, Christian, what were you going to say? Oh, I bet I know.

September 4, 2006 at 06:21 AM · Some teachers prefer to work alone with a student as they can then asses what the child really has learnt and not how well a parent has practiced during the week.While it is true very young children will learn to copy much quicker with an attentive parent in tow often a child who has had tow work things out for himself will make slower progress at first but will be rewarded in the end by a greater understanding.

Repeating pieces is not neccessarily being boring or slow but is a way to improve intonation,tone and musicality.A plea to always play harder more technically demanding pieces is not learning to play the violin but a quest to become a circus gymnast.Once the technique has been mastered the music can begin.

Eventually playing in an orchestra or another chamber group will become your sons greatest stimulus and will provide him with musical friends.

However it is highly unusual if a parent requests to be present that they should not be allowed to do so.Does the music school have some policy on this? I should talk this over with the director of the music school.If he/she knows that you feel uncomfortable about the situation a chamge of teachers should't be too difficult if it is the teachers policy and not the schools policy.

September 4, 2006 at 03:28 PM · Thank your for more answers!!

I have again explored what my son thinks about a teacher change, and he has surprised me. He findes the teacher very strict but said, very determinedly "No way that I change! You know, I am the best student of this teacher. I wouldn't be with another teacher." I am surprised that suddenly he is so ambitious! He is not in other areas, e.g. school ;-) I still think that it probably would be better to change.

As an example, before we resumed lessons after a summer break, we started practising again, and we worked on his bow hand, that he sometimes tipped slanting, so that not all bow hairs were on the string but only an edge (difficult to describe...)

During the last days before the lesson, this seemed to have improved. But after the lesson, the teacher complained bitterly about my son's bow hand, that he tips it all the time... I was astonished because he hadn't done that any more at home. But since this lesson, this bad habit has become much WORSE, including during our practise! And my son becomes angry whenever I adress it. Nevertheless I do adress it, because bad habits must not be practised. He did not become angry during our practise before the lesson, and both of us seem to be under a lot of pressure.

Janet, yes, probably it would be best to find out about the school's policy. However, the other parents I know do not sit in the lessons, but they did not expect to.

You say: "a child who has had to work things out for himself will make slower progress at first but will be rewarded in the end by a greater understanding.." hm, my boy is only six. It would not work that he practises on his own. He needs encouragment and motiviation, and also correction and reminders. As an example, he needs details like: "Now we try to play this section 3 times in a series and make sure that the little finger is at its place..." He would not be in the mood of thinking of what the teacher has said by his own, for a whole week. A 6 year old is still a very little child and can't take on much responsibility. He also needs to be reminded of putting his shoes at the right place, to brush his teeth, to help in the kitchen... Telling him this just once within only 45 minutes per week and then expecting he would stick to it won't work.

We both don't mind repeating pieces, but the one specific I referred to was a boring one that went already well at home. Sometimes I decide on myself that an exercise is still too demanding and my son and I agree to practise only a part of it.

Christian, is there anything you want to tell me by posting that you don't want to comment? If so, I don't understand.

Anne

September 4, 2006 at 07:28 PM · Hi,

Emily - would love to know what you know that I know... (Email me?!)

As for my decision to not comment in the end, it was simply that I thought that it was best left out of this particular discussion. That's all.

Cheers!

September 4, 2006 at 09:25 PM · Run away. He sounds really creepy. Frankly, if it came down to a choice between lessons with him or no lessons, I'd choose no violin lessons and take up piano or chess or something. Let me just say again- run away.

Howard

September 4, 2006 at 09:20 PM · Maybe Anne you are underestimating what a six year old is capable of. I dont as a rule have parents sit in on lessons, only if they request. I like to teach the child, and like to know what they understand.A child might need to be reminded that it is time to practice but then should be left to their own devices.This relieves parental /child stress on subjects like the bow hold.In my mind this should be corrected by the teacher.Successes are then 100 percent the childs.After all who is taking the lessons.If your son is as motivated to play the violin as you say he is maybe you should try leaving him to practice on his own and see what happens.Methods like the Suzuki require parental invovelment ,other methods do not.Maybe you should look for a Suzuki teacher where you would be required to sit in on lessons and your son would be able to join in on the Suzuki groups.However you imply that he is happy with his teacher so something must be working.

September 4, 2006 at 11:23 PM · Hi, Anne. As a mother of 8 year old girl, I find it a little odd that the teacher doesn't want the parents to get involved.

My daughter started her violin lesson when she was 6 and now has pregress to grade 7 level. Now she is with her second teacher, who is well known teacher at a music school in London. Her previous violin teacher strongly suggested that I attend every lesson. It was real pain for me because I didn't have any knowledge in music let alone violin.

In my opinion, 6 year old is not old enough to have proper relationship with teacher. I was sort of cordinator in her violin lesson. I have learned enough knowledge to 'ask questions,' now, thanks to this website. 6 year old is not old enough to know what she knows and what she doesn't, so I think parent's involvment is quite important. We sometimes have discussion what she was told during the lesson, which turned out to be good for her. I was really grateful to her previouse violin teacher for letting me attend the lesson.

Now she is with second teacher. The switch was not my idea but her previous teacher introduced another teacher he thought was suitable for her grade. Present teacher also strongly encourages me to attend the lesson. She says that pupils with supportive parents progess faster than others.

Sometimes, children of younger age take the suggestion of changing teacher for their own failure. They are afraid of breaking up relationship that has been already established and blame themselves for such break up when that happens. Though I am not a violin teacher, I know this from experiences in teaching.

Think about chaning teacher seriously. The best teacher is the one who has the ability to find children's potential and make use of all the resources available for them

September 6, 2006 at 10:22 AM · Anne, I think it's good the teacher brought it up that there's the possibility of you not being there. In my area, most of the music schools are at the opposite extreme, and you are looked down upon as a parent if you are not as involved as possible, present at every lesson, and fully in charge and engaged at all times.

In fact, I have found that my presence is not always welcomed by my children in many situations and that they are sometimes, depending on the circumstances, much better behaved and able to focus and concentrate when I am not there. (This doesn't happen to be the case for my 7-yo daughter and violin, but it is for other things). I think your teacher has given you a valuable opportuntity to see both sides of the coin and figure out how your son fits in.

I would actually be more concerned about some of the other personality issues that you alluded to. For example, the gossiping about other students--that sounds totally unprofessional to me. I'm also not sure what you mean by he "dramatizes bad habits," but that potentially doesn't sound good either. Sometimes it might be helpful for someone to exaggeratedly show students what they are doing wrong, with the point being to correct it, but I don't think that should be a regular approach. And if what you mean is that your son is picking up and imitating bad habits that are dramatized by the teacher (even if that's not the teacher's intent) then it sounds like the learning styles aren't matched.

If you really don't want to change teachers, could you have a private discussion with this teacher outside of class? Make it sort of "musician to musician," maybe say something like "I've noticed my son acting out X bad habit when he gets home. Have you noticed that too? Where do you think he's learning that? Do you think it's a problem?" and so on. Or "My son mentioned some gossip to me about another student at the school, and I was wondering if you'd noticed how the students relate to each other." Don't blame the teacher for any of these things, just approach it as an information-gathering and relationship-building session. Maybe, since you aren't there, you don't know exactly what the teacher said or did and it would give him an opportunity to clarify himself.

Karen Allendoerfer

September 6, 2006 at 11:08 AM · Anne,

I would give it careful thought. Both my children started out at 8 (so bit older than yours), but I have NEVER sat in the classes of the elder, and she is doing extremely well (now 14). The instrument is different (clarinet) but this teacher has never had any parent sit-in class. He is an extremely good and well-liked teacher and also does all sorts of extra things, like organise concerts with duos, trios, quartets, mixing older students with younger etc.

For my son (violin), I only started sitting in after about 2 years of classes. His teacher has had some other parents sit in from the beginning, but only asked me to come in when he thought that my son wasn't putting in "quality" practising in the week. After a few months we reduced it to once in a fortnight, because my son does get dependent on me and it wasn't productive any more.

Now I go in just when asked, and maybe not for the entire class. I think it is dangerous to categorise sitting in on classes as being good or bad per se.

I would really go and talk it over gently with the director of the music school to see what their policy is and also openly discuss with the teacher what he sees your role. In our school the vast majority of parents DO NOT sit in on classes.

I am assuming you don't have another violin teacher in the school so you can't ask for a change. In the longer term, a good music school offers so many more possibilities to develop as a musician (and make musical friends!!) that I wouldn't move out in a hurry.

September 7, 2006 at 06:04 AM · Anne,

How upset is your son after lessons? The lessons really should be the highlight of the week, something your son looks forward to and is motivated by. Lessons for young children should be fun. Does your teacher incorporate any creative ideas or "games" into lessons?

Does your teacher care about your son as a person? Does he seem to enjoy teaching or does it seem like he'd rather be doing something else? A good teacher should appreciate and care about every student. You can tell a lot by a teacher's attitude. Since he's a young teacher, if he's willing to learn and do better, you might give him a chance. We've all been there. Teaching is hard and there's definately a learning curve.

As for the tipping bow, is your son raising his right wrist slightly? That's often what can cause too much tipping. Which direction is the bow tipping (stick towards scroll or towards the bridge?)

You mentioned repeating boring songs. No song should be boring. Old songs aren't babyish or too easy. They are your son's "repertoire." Every violinist (including Nigel Kennedy!) has a repertoire of pieces they know well. If songs are not reviewed they will be forgotten. Maybe you can work with your son to develop a "repertoire list." See how many songs you can get on the repertoire list and keep there. The more he reviews old songs, the more he will improve and become a fluid player.

Last of all, switching to a private teacher outside of a school does not mean that your son will no longer have recitals or group experiences. Any certified Suzuki teacher will have a program that includes regular group lessons(at least once a monthy, usually bi-weekly or once a week)as well as recitals. I can't speak for traditional teachers since I'm less familiar with the traditional approach (I'm a Suzuki teacher) but I'm sure some traditional teachers would also include group lessons and recitals. It's something to think about. For such a little guy like your son, you might want to do Suzuki for a while and ease back into traditional method when he's 12 or so.

No matter what, the question you have to ask is overall, has this violin experience been mostly positive or mostly negative? If the answer is mostly negative, then it's time to move on and find a teacher with whom your son can relax and have fun in lessons. (That way he'll learn better.)

Thanks for reading my extremely looooong post!

Good luck,

Laura

September 9, 2006 at 11:52 PM · Hi, My mother has always sat through my violin lessons. She often took notes throughout the lesson on what I was supposed to practise during the week. It was really helpful and although she does not know much about music she would ask questions during the lesson (but not to a point of disruption) and often was able to pick out what I was doing wrong.

September 10, 2006 at 01:35 PM · Hi,

thank you so much for all your thoughtful and more answers! This is really an extremely interesting and qualified forum, and I am glad that I have found it!

Not surprisingly, some answers contradict each other, and I know, in the end it is me who must make up my own mind. So far, not much has yet happened, mainly because I have not yet got hold of the school's director. Moreover, the last lesson apparently went quite well, and my boy did not seem upset this time. Nevertheless, I was unhappy with the really short instruction I only got at the end (complaint this week: bow partinioning, appartently the tipping did not seen too bad during the lesson although the problem is not yet solved.) I have started interviewing other children's parents on their experiences.

Just some individual replies:

@ Howard: "Run away" I take this serious, and probably I'll do.

@ Janet: "A child might need to be reminded that it is time to practice but then should be left to their own devices." Hm, this is what many people here say too. Suzuki teachning is rare in Germany where we live, and I know only few parents who actually sit in their children's lessons. Nevertheless, each child is different. But my boy would not be able to stay focused all on his own. A lesson does not give time enough to give the experience how it is to practise. It can only give tasks to practise at home. Just to explain what I mean by the EXPERIENCE to practise: to stay focused, to divide a piece into smaller segments and to work on each of them, then to combine them again, to play slowly, to listen to himself etc. You only understand what that means if you are not only told it but also have experienced it. And very importantly, my son needs a lot of instantanious praise or critique. This motivates him to do it again.

I hope very much that he will practise on his own when he is a little older. That then he will know how to listen to himself and to decide whether he will work to improve a specific segment, and to remember what the teacher has said what he should focus on. I let him decide by himself, whether he practises alone or with me, and he wants me with him. When he is not friendly with me, I say "I want to be treated in a friendly and respectful way, otherwise I stop practising with you for today!" This he understands.

@ Sophie: "A 6 year old is not old enough to have proper relationship with teacher" Your daughter's both teachers seems to be really sensible! What you say about the kid's feelings about the breakup of a relationship with a teacher, e.g. it might blame itself for failure, is really important. Yes, probably my boy would feel like this! Perhaps this is also a reason that he does not want to change currently. I take this possibility seriously.

My son has also noticed that apparently the teacher perceives him as his best student, and he is proud of it. (When the teacher took his teaching exam with my boy as "sample student", my boy got a lot of praise from the professors. They advised the teacher "try to keep this student".)

@ Karen: "My children ... are sometimes, depending on the circumstances, much better behaved and able to focus and concentrate when I am not there." Ha, this I know too, this is a typical mother's experience. Probably there is some truth about this in the lesson too, nevertheless, on the few occasions I was present, this was not too bad. And my son liked me being there.

On the private discussion with the teacher: Of course this is an important advice. From time to time I have done just this, talked privately. However, the teacher seems to be immediately in a defensive mood, although I think I am not too bad at diplomatic behavior. There seemed to be a lot of tension in these conversations, which I really did not intend, and I am quite sure, it was not my fault. I talk to all my son's teachers, and normally, this is very cooperative. Also, as I said above, sometimes I arrange littly pieces for a children's concert at our home (with some of my son's little friends from school), and the teacher does not seem to like that.

@ Parmeeta: I hope when my son is 8 years, he will also practise on his own. Perhaps he will do this already sooner. I wait until he decides this by himself. He knows that he should do this one day.

@ Laura: "As for the tipping bow, is your son raising his right wrist slightly? That's often what can cause too much tipping. Which direction is the bow tipping (stick towards scroll or towards the bridge?)" The bow is tipping towards the bridge. And my son is doing the contrary of "raising his right wrist", he lowers it. As far as I can observe, other violinist raise it, and his teacher wants him to raise the wrist. This is difficult to explain... I don't question these things, as I don't play violin myself. I try hard to understand what the teacher means.

Yes, and a teacher must have a chance, and is learning himself. This I accept totally. I also do not think that only the very very best teacher should be good enough for my son, indeed not! But I want him not be demotivated.

"Does the teacher seem to enjoy teaching?" I have a little bit my doubts about that, but during the few minutes I only see him, this is difficult to tell. He seems to be under a lot of pressure, as he complaints about other students who don't practise enough, who misbehave, who are late, or who don't perform properly.

About having a repertoire: Yes, that is important. And my son does have a repertoire of quite a number of pieces that work well. But they are the pieces he choses by himself. Normally, he accepts all pieces he is assigned, but occasionally, he does not like a specific one. The boring one I mentioned went already well, except during the lesson.

I would love to find a Suzuki teacher. But there is no such school near enough for us. (The only (really only) aspect I am skeptical is the late music reading in the Suziki method, the rest seems to be very convincing.

"overall, has this violin experience been mostly positive or negative?" Hm, his experience INCLUDING the practising with me, and occasional playing for friends, aunts and grandma is definitely positive. I just wonder whether the lessons could be more positive too.

Hi Kimberly: Thanks for your kind remark, and I wish you much fun and progress with your violin playing! Greetings to your mom!

Music has made my own life richer and I am thankful for it. I want to give my son the same chance.

This has become very long...

Anne

September 12, 2006 at 01:49 PM · Hi Anne,

It sounds like your son has the opposite problem that I was talking about with the tipping bow. I'm imagining that his bow tips towards the bridge then. I assume his wrist is lower than his hand? (Generally the wrist and hand should be approximately equal in height. The wrist should never be lower.) If this is the case, his bowhold is most likely incorrect as well. The base knuckles of his hand may be collapsed in/scrunched up. You might check and see if the base knuckles are rounded. All the knuckles should be relaxed and rounded.

As for your teacher, I'm sorry to say it, but I would certainly switch. If he doesn't seem to love what he's doing, and really care about each student then he's in the wrong profession. Every teacher feels frustrated from time to time when students call for a make up lesson after having forgotten the lesson, or call 2 minutes before the lesson to cancel. But even in such cases, it's not the sort of thing you complain about to other students. And certainly, there shouldn't be frustration about students themselves. The students are learning! They are learning how get into the habit of practicing every day. They are learning how to behave properly in a lesson. They're not going to be perfect all the time! It sounds to me like your teacher doesn't really get what teaching is all about and probably doesn't really understand children. I may be wrong, but that's my impression. I'm still a young teacher and have a lot to learn about teaching (maybe I'm too idealistic, but I think that's a good thing) but I do know that I care about every student that walks through my door, regardless of if they practiced each day that week, if they are playing well, if they are being cooporative or a bit silly that day. You need a teacher who feels this way. That's the sort of environment that will be more motivating. A teacher's interest in a child should not be conditional to how the child performs. It should be unconditional because that child is unique and special, as I'm sure your son is. He deserves a teacher who recognizes what makes him unique and appreciates him for who he is, rather than for what he accomplishes.

-Laura

September 12, 2006 at 01:51 PM · in continuing the last post, this is not to say that a teacher should have low standards or expectations. I do think that having high expectations is more respectful to students than having low expectations.

In regards to practicing, while I do ask my students to practice every day and I do expect it, I do have more understanding now when it doesn't always happen. I took my dog to a basic obedience class back when she was a puppy. We were supposed to practice a few minutes every day in preparation for each class. It was so hard to fit in those few minutes! By the end of the class, I had built the habit of daily practice with my dog, but that took 2 months! I finally understood how parents feel. It is hard to build that habit and it's very easy to fall out of a practice habit too. I still require daily practice, but coming from a point of understanding, I'm not frustrated with a family if a child has not had a good practice week.

-Laura

September 12, 2006 at 01:53 PM · My son has also noticed that apparently the teacher perceives him as his best student, and he is proud of it. (When the teacher took his teaching exam with my boy as "sample student", my boy got a lot of praise from the professors. They advised the teacher "try to keep this student".)

I can't remember if I posted this before, so please forgive the possible repetition, but I believe this is an important point: you never want to be the top student in a teacher's studio. It sounds as if you son would be doing more for this teacher than vice-versa. Whenever you feel that your child is bumping up against the top of his teacher's studio, it's time for a change.

A really good teacher knows this and sends his/her students on to a more advanced studio, but as you can imagine, many teacher do have trouble parting with their top students.

September 12, 2006 at 05:07 PM · Hi,

I've read a lot of stuff now said by everyone... A totally different perspective, if I may; more like questions. Have you asked yourself what you or your son may doing to contribute to the problem? Have you asked the teacher or discussed this with him/her? And by this I do not mean to attack him/her or get defensive, but ask for their honest feedback and simply listen and take the advice into consideration.

It is true that some people are not always overtly friendly or engaging. Sometimes, there are some people with whom communication is just not possible. However, most teachers usually react the way described if a situation is making them uncomfortable.

Anyhow, my own two cents questions (from the other side of the teaching table...)

Cheers!

September 14, 2006 at 05:44 AM · Maybe the teacher is more competant when they don't feel like they are being judged by the parents. I don't like parents to sit in on my lessons because it is hard for both me and the student to develop a personal relationship that is required for the lessons and interest in music/instrument to grow.

Do you sit in with your kids when they go to math class? Private tutoring of an educational nature? Why would music lessons be any different? It is a lesson, and to learn, a child cannot be dealing with home issues or any other issues or thoughts that come first. As said at first, too, the teacher knows how they are most effective with a child, which should be respected.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Warren

September 16, 2006 at 09:59 PM · The fact the the teacher is a NEW teacher may have a lot to do with his attitude. He may be defensive because he knows he is inexperienced and believes he is under attack for that reason. Or, he may think he knows it all already (a lot of beginning teachers think that!). If you are not allowed in the lesson, I would consider changing teachers.

You have said that there is little chance for Suzuki experience where you are. Although I am a violist, twenty-six years ago I wouldn't have THOUGHT of teaching my daughter to play a stringed instrument. We are both headstrong, and World War III would have erupted. We traveled 125 miles (one way) to San Diego once a week for our 20 minute (later 30 minute, then eventually hour) lessons. We were delighted with our Suzuki teacher, Mary Manaster. Not everyone who SAYS he/she is a Suzuki teacher IS a Suzuki teacher. Some just use the books. Make sure they have the official training and are certified by their local (national) Suzuki Association. Even if they ARE certified, there can be a big difference in teachers. See if you can sit in on some lessons of other students (with potential teachers) to observe the teachers and their interactions with the students, the methods they use, etc. On our weekly trips, we always made a day of it, hitting the museums, the zoo, planning fun and educational activities.

September 26, 2006 at 12:18 AM · First Time Post,

But I merely want to say that at the age your son is, the "triangle" or Parent, Child, teacher relationship is CRUCIAL to success. If the two of you (I mean you and the teacher) are butting heads it will not work. Sit, talk, come to an amicable understanding. If that cannot be worked out you should probably find another teacher. I cannot stress how important it is to work together for the good of the child. When the child gets older that's another story, but at this age all three units have to be on the same positive page.

September 26, 2006 at 12:45 AM · Hi--

I think you should try talking to the techer, explain that your son is upset after lessons, ask what you might be able to do to work things out so this doesn't continue, and if nothing changes, change teachers. I had a teacher for a while who nearly made me quit the violin, they had a very controling teaching method, and told me all about how I was a bad violinist, and should not even think of going to college as a music major, etc.

-KW

September 26, 2006 at 01:47 PM · Do you sit in with your kids when they go to math class? Private tutoring of an educational nature? Why would music lessons be any different? It is a lesson, and to learn, a child cannot be dealing with home issues or any other issues or thoughts that come first. As said at first, too, the teacher knows how they are most effective with a child, which should be respected.

As a parent, teacher, and human being I completely disagree with this line of reasoning. It makes a great deal of sense for parents to be involved with their education. When I hire private tutors (e.g., our Japanese tutor) you can be darn sure I'm in hearing distance of the entire lesson if not sitting in on it. My four kids have been studying music fairly seriously since about 1991 and until they were in their early-teens I attended pretty much every single lesson with the teachers' express approval. In fact, most of the teachers request or require a parent's presence.

September 26, 2006 at 02:45 PM · Tahnk you Annette, for replying individually to our posts.

Again I would stress that although he was 8, it was the beginning stages for him. As I mentioned, I sat in when he was 10 or so, because he seemed to be losing direction and didn't seem to improve. So I sat in and took notes like some other posters said. However, after a while, once he had the basics, he was again doing much better on his own when I was not there. His teacher does pencil in detail things on his music and gives him a "things to do" at the end of some lessons...if he feels the need. His sister has never needed that at all.

Like her, most children (and there are 625 of them in any year) have never had a parent sit in. And this is one of the best Conservatories in the entire country, regularly producing national winners etc. and whose orchestra has been invited on National TV etc.

This summer I was with a toddler who refuses to be fed since he turned about 8-9 months. You can put things on his plate, and he eats very well (messy of course!!) but all by himself. On the other hand, there are other children who have to be taught how to eat and are quite happy to fed until they are older.

OK its not music, but just to say that each child is different and so it would be useful to talk to the teacher (as suggested by one poster) and the director before making the final decision.

Someone suggested that people outside schools also have group recitals. That maybe true, but here in Europe there are fewer Suzuki teachers, especially in smaller places. And e.g. our music school has 2 hours a week of string or wind orchestra or several choral activities plus music ensembles where you would get both string/wind/polyphonic instruments playing together for younger ones and also repertoire with piano from the first year. Different combinations all the time.

In addition chamber music and the full orchestra when they get older. I think a private teacher would find it very hard to have such resources. Its just something that I feel gives them a much more complete vision of music development, besides of course the solfeo, harmony, etc that is taught.

September 28, 2006 at 04:40 PM · I have a question about your son's "bow tipping issue." I'm assuming of course that he's tipping the bow towards himself instead of away from himself (a certain degree of which is appropriate for violin and viola).

Has he been presented with a solution on how to solve the issue (like watching his bow when he plays), or is he just being told "don't tip your bow that way?"

September 30, 2006 at 02:04 AM · Gene,

The problem with watching the bow to fix the problem is that it may not fix it. I remember as a kid being told to watch my bow because it was too close to the fingerboard. I'd then watch my bow play near the fingerboard, feeling helpless to stop it as I couldn't seem to keep it in the proper contact spot. Constantly I was told don't play near the fingerboard. What I discovered later is that there was a fault in my bowhold and bow arm that needed correcting. Simply telling a child to watch out often will not fix the problem. The teacher needs to analyze the root of the problem and give the proper antidote. I'm thinking in this case that it's a combination of a faulty bowhold the right wrist being far too low. However, since I haven't seen him play, it's hard to say for sure. The teacher should be able to analyze the problem and come up with the proper solution. That's the whole point of having a teacher! Kids can learn notes on their own but they don't yet know how to problem solve on their instrument. Telling them to look at the problem though in most cases is not going to magically fix the problem. There are a few nice easy cases where that does the trick, but it's not usually so.

-Laura

September 30, 2006 at 12:16 PM · I really agree with you watching how my daughter struggles with her bow. She used to be just told to fix it, and we thought just paying attention and practicing would solve the problem. When that didn't help, she got very discouraged. Her new teacher suggested a few things about her bow arm. Within a month, many obvious problems were gone. That made her enjoy practicing. She still has work to be done but feels hopeful.

September 30, 2006 at 09:39 PM · Ihnsouk,

That's so nice to hear. Isn't satisfying when that break through comes? It's so much more enjoyable to play when you are taught HOW to fix things rather than just being told to "fix it."

-Laura

August 6, 2007 at 12:57 PM · I think a teacher not allowing parents to attend lessons is not a good thing at all. I REQUIRE parents to be at the lesson (provided they don't interject or interrupt during the lesson) for the following reasons:

1) It's important for the parent to witness the improvement/growth/learning of their child with their very own eyes. They can hopefully see 1st hand that they're getting their money's worth.

2) A few teachers that I know have been wrongfully accused of "misconduct" in the lesson by their students. If the parent isn't at the lesson, how do you think the parent would know if their child is telling a lie or the truth? (Sometimes kids can tell lies not because they don't like the teacher, but because they don't want to do lessons anymore.)

3) Most students (maybe not all) like to please their parents so they seem to be more obedient at the lessons.

Hope these thoughts help...

August 6, 2007 at 01:08 PM · I don't know anything about being a music teacher but I do know about teachers, I work in a public school. The issues that raise alarms with me:

1. Your son's anger and frustration after lessons.

2. Teacher gossiping in front of the child, anonymity or not, is inappropriate. (Why is he engaging you with this, someone he feels competitive with? What tales will he carry about what you say or how you respond?) Whatever his motives for gossiping about other students, it's grossly inappropriate.

3. You should be in the lessons at your son's age.

You might not wish to remove the chance for performances from your son; however, if he begins to hate the violin and refuses to continue, because of his anger with this teacher, you won't have the opportunities to perform anyway. I say go with your gut feelings, if you feel uneasy then switch teachers.

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