Recently, I acquired a violin student. And I’m quite happy!
I began teaching violin regularly about 5 years ago. Before then, I learned a good deal of violin pedagogy in college. I attended a top conservatory, and had the chance to observe and learn from an excellent violin pedagogue. One of the best in the United States.
It was incredibly fascinating, learning about this teacher’s method. She really taught me that learning violin is more than just showing up to lessons. It’s about understanding the physical mechanics of the body, and knowing how to impart those concepts in lessons… and to small children! A big part of her success is due to the heavy reliance on parents. Ideally, a parent is fully involved in his/her child’s education, and serves as a teacher in the home, who practices daily with his/her child.
After leaving college, I certainly was armed with a plethora of knowledge. But when I started teaching kids on my own… my education fell short.
Namely… I wasn’t dealing with compliant students… or parents.
At first, I tried to really get parents involved. I’d explain to parents that their presence in the room would greatly contribute to their child’s progress. And yet… they’d just drop their kid off and leave, no matter. It was then frustrating, trying to teach small children, as young as 5 years old, and give them practicing homework to accomplish on their own. When parents would pick their children up, I would then talk to the parents, trying to cram what I wanted them to do with their children as they walked back to their cars.
It’s hard to do your best, when the other person doesn’t do their best either. Or rather… makes no attempt to do their best. I remember… I wanted so badly for my students to be accomplished musicians. I made an effort to establish friendly relationships with each of them, and explained each concept in language unique to each student.
And yet, my efforts fell on deaf ears. Quite inconvenient, when they are supposed to be listening. It is music after all!
I tried to remain motivated. And… it wasn’t that bad, in a sense. I taught for a solid 3.5 years, sometimes having as many as 11 students. During this time, I learned a tremendous amount. I was able to modify the pedagogy I learned in college, into a system that worked for the type of students I had. Not only did I have to teach performance, but I also had to teach literacy. Note reading. Which involves “note names” (A, B, C, etc.) and rhythms. (Quarter notes, half notes, etc.)
Progress was slow, but the children learned well overall. Sadly, I had to drop my students permanently after I became ill in November of 2012. I was hospitalized for a full 3 months. I guess it was a relief at the time. I was exhausted from an over-booked schedule. I was a full-time grad student in Queens, and a near-full-time music teacher at a private school in Brooklyn besides. Sometimes, I’d be schlepping 3 instruments at once: a violin and a viola in each hand, and a cello on my back. Through the bus and subways. At the time, I wanted it this way. I wanted to be prolific and productive.
Needless to say, I was stressed. But even worse: I was denying that I was stressed. Of course, this concept can fully open another conversation, but for the purpose of this blog entry, I will not “go there.” I hope you understand. 🙂
A couple of weeks ago, I obtained a new violin student. And… I realize how much I miss teaching. Even better, I am more confident in myself, and I seem to be teaching more efficiently as well.
I have had a dream for a long while, that I could somehow integrate my love for teaching violin with my desire to help those with mental illness. Sort of like… Professor X from X-Men. Starting an academy, where students would learn artistic disciplines, from excellent teachers of course. But… it would be different. The lessons with teachers would not only serve the purpose of teaching the curriculum, but also allow the student to develop as a person. Material would be presented in a way, that would stimulate the student’s creativity and curiosity.
In this process, the student would be able to develop confidence in his/her ability to strive towards excellence. So often, these days, children feel useless. They attend classes taught by people who are burned out and tired. The curricula of the grades, K-12, is retarded (meaning, held back), and concepts are taught far too apart from one another.
In my opinion, there should be no summer vacation. Children would finish everything by the 9th grade, age 14, and would have teenage rebelliousness that would be quelled by the overwhelming responsibilities of college. Additionally, no summer vacation would develop a superior work ethic at an early age. Children should view school, as an adult views a job. Indeed, it is a child’s job to do well in school. You don’t get 3 months off from work usually, unless you’re a teacher!
The logistics of such an education reform would be time-consuming and difficult to implement, given the status of our current system. But it bothers me to no end. The lazier we are with how we run our education system, the lazier our children become. And what future does that spell for us?
Anyway, my dream would be to have a school for kids. Like Professor X. But… my school wouldn’t only have “mentally ill” kids. There’d be “regular” kids thrown into the mix. Because truly, everyone is different. And… having both groups together helps each be more tolerant and diplomatic with the other. I remember… when my brother was young, he attended a preschool that was mixed. Some were learning disabled, others weren’t. Overall, the teachers were far superior to those at regular preschools, because they were actually practicing some sort of evidence-based pedagogy, instead of just babysitting crying kids with no curriculum except for a diaper table and some finger paint.
I hope that, sooner rather than later, I can acquire some more students and start a little school. Teaching students, one on one, and then having a group meeting every weekend. Sort of emulating a Suzuki school with the group lesson concept, but also… creating my own system.
Also, adult beginners would be with children beginners. I think that, as the 21st century progresses, we need to tear down the barriers between child and adult. Because, children are far more savvy than in the past. They have the internet, and they are exposed to everything an adult knows by the time they’re 7. So let’s stop trying to baby them. PLEASE.
Anyway… please comment here if you’ve read, and let me know what you think of what I’ve proposed. I want to take this idea further, but I need feedback in order to do such. IN the near future, I hope to create a couple of videos, promoting myself as a violin teacher. I live in Queens, NY. If you know anyone, send them my way.