I am a big believer in Professional Development.
There is always more to learn, and we should embrace this learning at every opportunity.
One of Dr. Suzuki's common phrases was "I have a new idea!!...". He would then proceed to tell his students/teacher trainees about this new idea. Sometimes, this idea blossomed and evolved to great things...other times, even the next day, he would say "Yesterday's idea was not good...please forget it".
Learning evolves, and my teaching evolves because I am continuously learning every day.
I learn from attending Professional Development, through colleagues, through my students, through reading, through listening.
Our whole lives are shaped by our environment...the good, the bad and the ugly!
Below are some thoughts that I would like to share with you from my Suzuki journey, which apply to both my Suzuki violin teaching studio and my Baby & Toddler Music Classes (Musical Tots & Pre-Twinkle Tots), based on each of The Seven Concepts of Learning.
Every Child Can Learn
Shinichi Suzuki's movement all started with a ‘light-bulb’ moment…when he realised that all children learn to speak their native language at a very high ability.
He, and all Suzuki teachers, believe that this ability to acquire speech during our first years of life speaks to a universal truth about the human spirit: We are born brilliant, with an incredible capacity to learn.
As teachers, parents, and mentors to children, it is our responsibility to embrace this ability and to help create an environment for children so that every child can learn to their highest abilities.
Children develop skills through repetition. The more advanced they become at these skills, the more we extend their learning, gradually layering new skills on top of the old.
Children learn by what they hear. A baby hears the parent speak every day. And when baby is ready, they will say their first word.
Great smiles, joy from the parents. Lots of hugs, phoning other family members to tell them. A lot of excitement and joy. Absolutely no correction.
When we are practising, we handle it differently, as we have been asked to practice it by the teacher. We need to encourage our children, rather than correcting them.
Practising with your child is hard work. It has to happen every day. The parent is responsible for practising.
If the parent were to use the word ‘Better’ after every repetition, then the child has a positive comment after each repetition. ‘Better’ than what? …it doesn't matter. ‘Better’ is a great word. Try it!
Allow the child to work out their own problems. If we say ‘Better’ they know it was better than the time before and they will try harder again to make it even better again.
Thorough mastery of one skill allows the next skill is to be easily learned. Children love repetition, but adults however, become ‘tired’ of it! Try and be the best role model to your children by having fun and enjoy repetition!
Parents must not hurry, give up or compare their children to others.
Every child can, but every child will do it at their own pace.
We expect a child to learn how to speak. We need to put the same expectation into their music learning.
Patiently wait and watch for the smallest steps to evolve, so we can move on to the next step.
Parents need to sit back and relax and let it happen.
Suzuki Method talks about the “Mother Tongue Method” of learning. The “Mother Tongue Method” is learning music in the way that a child learns their own language, through repetition and praise. When a child speaks their first word, the parent will praise the child and encourage them to say it again. We can use this same ‘method’ in the learning of music.
Just as every child learns how to speak their own language, every child can learn music.
Suzuki educators know, that ability is firmly and gradually developed at one level before introducing the next level.
An important facet of Suzuki teaching is the “education of Momma”. This does not refer to the "Mother Tongue Approach" but was used by Suzuki to point out the importance of the parents in the process.
The thorough mastery of one skill will ensure success as the next skill is introduced. Parents must not hurry the child but allow for confidence before proceeding.
Parents and teachers must not "give up". Just as every parent knows that their child will learn and speak their native language fluently, other abilities can be developed. http://www.suzukiece.com/Pages/concepts.htm
Every child can develop musical ability in the same way they learn their native language, or ‘Mother Tongue’.
The learning involves listening, repetition and encouragement, with words and musical ability being added and layered upon week by week, without anything ever being discarded.
Every child, regardless of age or musical background, will be able to develop musical literacy in the same way they learn their mother tongue.
Learning depends on the environment, so we always need to be doing our very best to create a calm environment that will allow learning to take place.
Your participation as parents is so important…every parent has the ability to nurture this learning.
The teachers are here to facilitate this with the structure of the weekly classes and the carefully chosen Suzuki curriculum, but there are no special skills required of you as parents.
If you model behaviour for your child during class, and take the songs home and listen and sing them daily, your child will develop finely.
“Every child has the potential to develop amazing ability” – S. Suzuki, Young Children's Talent Education and Its Method
“Knowledge without repetition is not the mastery that we need to have, knowledge plus 10,000 repetition times is what we need for perfect mastery” – S. Suzuki
“Ability equals knowledge plus 10,000 times, and knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus 10,000 times is skill” – S. Suzuki
“Every child can thrive - the key is upbringing.” – S. Suzuki, International Suzuki Journal Spring 1997
Ability Develops Early
Children are sponges – they are learning and absorbing everything in their environment from the moment they are born.
Actually…they are learning and absorbing everything in their environment from the moment they are conceived!
One of the most important skills for a young child, is the ability to listen carefully.
In Musical Tots Baby & Toddler (SECE) class, we strive to create a calm, learning environment. It is difficult to focus your listening attention if there is a lot of extra noise and stimulation around.
We also attempt to minimize the talking/explaining during class. Instead, giving as many musical and non-verbal cues as possible. This way, children can focus on the activity, and are not working extra hard to process additional language or stimulation.
From Shigeki Tanaka – teacher at the Hongo School in Japan:
“What I can say with conviction is that Suzuki's Talent Education is a human education. Every baby has the potential for high ability development. Because all abilities are fostered by the environment, parents and teachers must make efforts to improve the early environment for children, so they will be willing to learn on their own. Suzuki taught that human ability is not inborn, and that at the core of the human ability is heart. He wished to foster a beautiful heart in each child, thereby contributing towards a peaceful world” – from ‘Everything Depends on How We Raise Them’ by Shigeki Tanaka
Pablo Casals says, “Perhaps it is music that will save the world”.
We must not wait to develop character, because it is in infancy that the children have the most sensitivity. If we can start work early, then perhaps it will be music that saves the world.
“There is no telling to what heights children can attain if we educate them properly right after birth.”
- S. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love
“Ability is not inherited, rather every baby is born with an equal potential for ability which will be nurtured along with the living soul throughout his life.” – S. Suzuki, The Wonderful Strength of the Living Soul
“Nurturing is the basis for developing ability.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero
“Children learn abilities best when they are having fun.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero
“Everyone has a sprout of talent.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero
“We are born with a natural ability to learn” – S. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love
When SECE founder Dorothy Jones first met Dr. Suzuki in 1972, she heard him say the words that would forever change the direction of her life:
“Music education of a child should not start at birth but should start nine months before birth.”
Two years later when she returned to Hawaii for the 2nd International Conference, he said,
“I was wrong. The education of a child should not start nine months before birth, but nine months before the birth of the mother.” - Dorothy Jones, Founder of the SECE Curriculum and SECE Teacher Trainer
Success in one task that will lead to more success.
“The earlier a child learns the satisfaction that comes with success, the earlier that child can
move on to new skill development in any of the domains. (cognitive, affective kinesthetic)” - Framework for Suzuki Early Childhood Education (SECE ) 2014
Environment Nurtures Growth
This is incredible...
The environment that we prepare for our students to learn in, is so important. It is paramount to their learning.
We need to provide them with a safe environment; one that is filled with love and with joy; a happy space; and time.
Time, so that we are not hurried or rushed. We need to make sure that practice happens every day. It needs to be a joy for them to play.
We need to be encouraging, we need to motivate, we need to nurture. The environment is not just the space that they are practising in, it is also the presence that we, as parents, bring to the practice.
If we are rushed and busy and not allowing enough pressure-free time to spend with our child practicing, then they will see this, and they will then want/learn to rush and finish their practice quickly.
Making the time and giving them our time is just so important.
Dr. Suzuki said, “Everyone has a sprout of talent. Developing that sprout into wonderful ability depends on how it is cultivated”.
We are the cultivators, the parents, the teachers, their peers…WE are the cultivators.
So, it is up to us how we are going to nurture that seed, to see the sprout and make it to grow.
Everything we do we should do in love.
The kindness and love that we portray to those around us, will be seen by our children, and that kindness and love will also flow through into our children's character development, and then they too will develop a heart and a character of a fine, noble human being.
“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” – S. Suzuki
How do we put the heart into our environment?
It is certainly not with criticism…but with joy and cheering on our children's efforts.
How we teach our children is just as important, if not more important, than what we teach them. Sensitivity and love for beautiful music in the family will develop. Character development is a goal for all of us; and music does provide a vehicle for developing this.
Parents need to be aware of what they are doing at the lesson and in practice at home.
We need to avoid tapping, sniggering, Eye-rolling, Tut-tutting, a disapproving comment or a sigh; or ‘helping’ the teacher by commenting on the bow hold or repeating the teachers instruction.
This can come across as a criticism to the student/child and so we need to just be aware of what we are doing...Sometimes we may not even realize we are doing it!
Really think about and be aware of what you as the parent are doing, both in the practice time and in the lesson time. This is something to think about.
We also need to make sure that we make the time for our listening. The more we listen, the more the brain absorbs the music, and the quicker we learn.
I recently had a student share a video with me that they found online called “Listen Like a Maniac” by Michele Horner.
They told me that they had been ‘Listening Like Maniacs’ for the two-week break between terms, which I said was awesome!
Then I started to teach the student the next piece of the violin repertoire…I played her one section, stopped, and asked her to have a go…She played the entire section, all with correct bowing! 100% Correct!
I asked her with a grin, if she had had a sneaky go at the piece, and she said ‘no, but we have been Listening Like Maniacs!’.
Listen Like a Maniac - https://vimeo.com/184025782
Listening is so powerful. Listening with repetition is even more powerful.
As the parent, YOU are responsible for the Listening.
There are two types of Listening: ‘Environmental Listening’ and ‘Active Listening’.
“Environmental Listening” is by putting on the recording while getting dressed in the morning, getting ready for bed at night, reading, riding in the car, eating meals, or doing chores. Having it on in the background.
“Active listening” requires participation while listening, such as, tapping the beat or rhythm, singing the fingerings, singing note or pitch names, or even singing made-up words.
Parents need to encourage and participate in both active and environmental listening often with their children.
Practicing with your child is hard work. It must happen every day. The parent is responsible for practicing.
If the parent were to use the word ‘Better’ after every repetition, then the child has a positive comment after each repetition. ‘Better’ than what?…better than the last repetition.
‘Better’ is a great word. Try it!
Sharon Jones, (Founder of the SECE Curriculum and SECE Teacher Trainer) tried it, and her and her daughter Claire had the best practice in six months!
Dr. Suzuki was a brilliant observer of human nature and of children…how they learn, and what they need. What they don't need is criticism, or suggestions for how to make it better.
That is the teacher's job. The teacher tells the child how to improve on something, the parent’s job is simply to be a coach or a cheerleader. ‘Better’ is a positive thing for the child to hear.
Give it a go!
“Talent is not inherited or inborn, but has to be educated and developed.” – S. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love
“If a child hears good music and learns to play it himself he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance.” - Clifford Cook, Suzuki Education in Action
“Children live, see and feel, and their ability develops to fit their surroundings.” – S. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love
“The environment determines the person.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero
“It is a superior environment that has the greatest effect in creating superior abilities.” – S. Suzuki, Nurtured By Love
“When parents, teachers and adults around the child are supportive and helpful, when they reward the child with positive feedback for efforts they make and when they show acceptance of the small successes that children have, the environment is nurturing and helpful for growth” – Framework for Suzuki Early Childhood Education (SECE) 2014, Dorothy Jones
“Whether to develop character or ability, educators and parents must clearly and consciously, understand that they should pour their energy in this period, into education” – S. Suzuki
Generally, compulsory schooling starts at five years of age. Suzuki's method was to work with the parents and with the children to create an environment in the home, that would not only help the child, but set the child on a path to lifelong learning.
Children take in and learn from everything in their surroundings. In the Suzuki Music Classes, we as teachers and parents do our best to create a calm, positive, and encouraging environment without pressure.
This nurturing environment created by the parents and adults in class, encourages development and growth within each child.
Children Learn From One Another
Children pick up so much from their friends in class!
This is why it is so beneficial to have a multi-age class – the younger children look up to and imitate the older children, and the older children learn sensitivity and develop empathy from being around the younger ones.
Recently, after mastering the beat on the woodblock, a child in my Musical Tots class was asked if she would like a standing turn for the woodblock. She did, and performed the beat beautifully! So measured and precise.
The very next week, she again had a standing turn, and the girl who was having her turn next, also decided a standing turn was in order.
Children Learn From One Another!
All children learn from their environment. Their environment is not only the physical space, but also the adults and other children around them - their peers.
Children use their senses for learning, and while younger children often copy older children (who serve as models), the older children learn to develop sensitivity and empathy toward younger children.
Children are like sponges!
“What children enjoy most is the group playing. They play with children who are more advanced than they are. The influence is enormous and is marvellous for their training. This is the real Talent Education." – S. Suzuki, Nurtured by Love
“Children enjoy playing together very much. It is fun to play together in an ensemble...Since more advanced students will also be playing, their advanced style will be absorbed by the newer children, not just the sound but also the stance. Through their ability to adapt themselves to the environment, they can pick up something better than themselves with sensitivity and joy.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero
“Children who play with other children learn from them. All children use their senses for learning and their senses will motivate them to imitate their peers (especially if it looks like fun). They identify readily with children who are a little older and represent a “working” model. They often look to children just a little younger to practice the social skills that they have learned from older children.” http://www.suzukiece.com/Pages/concepts.htm
“The social reward of a supportive parent or adult (or other child), will speed the learning and remove doubt about what constitutes success in a child's learning experience. No encouragement negates the fundamental reward of success in any learning experience. It is possible for the physical environment to provide the reward necessary but if there is no encouragement from any aspect, the learning is not complete.” - Dorothy Jones, Founder of the SECE Curriculum and SECE Teacher Trainer
“If a child is able to write neatly...he should be praised for that ability and encouraged to become better so that his motivation will increase.” – S. Suzuki
“Where love is deep, much can be accomplished” – S. Suzuki
Parental Involvement is Critical
As parents, you are your children’s first and most important teachers! Not just in the early years, but throughout their journey into adulthood.
Your active involvement is absolutely critical to their growth. Not only do children love to hear you sing and dance, they also want to be just like you, and will want to sing and dance with you.
The behaviour that you are modelling is what they are learning the most from.
By being fully involved in the SECE class, a parent models many different skills – gross motor skills, language skills, singing, rhythm, beat…and since the child sees their parent ‘doing’ all of these things, they in turn try to imitate these skills….AND they have fun doing it!
Parent and child journey together in enjoyment and amazement at what is possible. Parents listen to the recording daily with their children and enjoy singing and learning with them. In our SECE classes, we talk about the wonderful “three looks”. The child is immersed in what they are doing and looks from the parent, to the teacher, to the rest of the group - what an amazing development!
A question that has been asked is: “I don't have any musical skills myself. Will I be able to help my child to learn?”
The answer is YES! By being immersed in the SECE class with your child, your ability will grow too - from the home listening of the CD, to fully participating in the classes, and experiencing the joy of seeing your child succeed in every class.
The SECE environment is positive and nurturing for all participants. Parents who had not developed their musical skills prior to the class, are surprised to find that their singing voice, their ability to match pitch, and keep a steady beat, all improve over time, with repetition. This is not only enjoyable, but essential in future Suzuki instrumental lessons, where parents will continue to be actively guiding their child's home practice.
Children will copy what you do, so one day, after hearing you sing and watching you do the actions, they will feel safe and confident enough to sing or play on their own!
“The fate of the child is in the hands of the parent” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero
(That’s a scary thought!)
Parents need to be aware of what they say in front of their children. If children hear you say that you were tired of listening to Twinkle’s, then soon they will also say they are tired of listening to Twinkle’s.
It's learned behaviour.
We must not compete with other students in the studio, or in our family. Do not ask other parents’ what piece their child is working on, as this suggests competition. The child will be very aware of the question that is being asked. Try to avoid this.
If someone asks you what your child is working on, a great response is, Beautiful Tone, Bow Hold, Bowing, Scales, Ringing Tones, Finger Patterns, etc.
Beautiful Tone! Isn’t it glorious!
Another good response. “We are working on beautiful tone. What are you working on?”
When parents enrol in SECE class with their child and attend on a regular basis, experiencing class together increases the parent and child bonding, and as a parent you will learn how to observe how your child learns.
“It is important that your baby hears you singing the songs and saying the rhymes many times. They will eventually repeat them too. This experience will help lay the foundation for speaking and reading. Repetition of the familiar is very important for the young child’s emotional and cognitive development.”- Dorothy Jones, Lullabies, Action Songs and Rhymes Handbook
“An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together” - S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero. Pg.21
“Children only know the way their parents act, and so they act accordingly. Small children do not learn by will power, they learn as a natural function of growth” - Shinichi Suzuki - Ability Development from Age Zero. Pg.56
“Develop ability from what a child can already do, and that ability will promote the happiness of doing things better and better. An unlimited amount of ability when parent, and child, are having fun together. This is simple but often overlooked.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero, p. 21
“When parents are supportive and actively help children, their accurate feedback helps the process of learning to focus and learning becomes thoroughly mastered. Although a child learns by experience to avoid a hot stove after touching it, the feedback for much learning is more often muted and needs to be supported by an adult.” - Dorothy Jones, Founder of the SECE Curriculum and SECE Teacher Trainer
"Children behave the same as their parents. They absorb the actions of their parents by merely watching them...Children only know the way their parents act and so they act accordingly."
- S. Suzuki - Ability Development from Age Zero
As parents, we are our child's environment.
“Children learn to smile from their parents.” – S. Suzuki
“...what better person is there to instruct children than the parent? The parent’s love, their patience, and their dreams make the strength of instruction more powerful than anything else." – S. Suzuki, Young Children's Talent Education & Its Method
Encouragement is Essential
Encouragement is so important…it completes the learning process.
Children in the early years, really want to please the adults around them.
Our Encouragement helps the child to understand that they have learned something successfully.
Without this positive encouragement, they do not understand when they have learned something.
It is so beautiful to see when a child has their turn and is then encouraged and praised by the adult with them.
I was recently at a Suzuki Branch Workshop as an ‘adult’ in a SECE class for a family who had two children with them at class.
This little boy was about 18-months old, and only knew me through coming to the occasional violin lesson with an older sibling…so I was familiar to him, but he didn’t know me very well.
The joy on his face, after he had a turn on the Xylophone or the drum by himself, was so beautiful to see!
After his turn, with a huge smile on his face, he ran into my arms for a bear hug! This continued throughout the three-day workshop. So beautiful!
There was also a time when he saw his Mum first, and ran to her for an encouraging hug, and then looked at me, and ran to me too for another, which I gladly gave him.
The joy on his face was priceless!
“We're love is deep much can be accomplished” - S. Suzuki.
“If a child is able to write neatly, he should be praised for that ability and encouraged to become better so that his motivation will increase” – S. Suzuki.
“The social reward of a supportive parent or adult (or other child) will speed the learning and remove doubt about what constitutes success in a child's learning experience. No encouragement negates the fundamental reward of success in any learning experience. It is possible for the physical environment to provide the reward necessary but if there is no encouragement from any aspect, the learning is not complete.” - Dorothy Jones, Founder of the SECE Curriculum and SECE Teacher Trainer
Success Breeds Success
The delight on a parent’s face when their child does something for the first time is priceless!
After having many turns on the woodblock in SECE class over the last year, one student suddenly changed how she was beating. She started only beating the important beats of the rhyme…Little Tommy Tucker (rest), Sings for his Supper (rest)…she did this all by herself, completely in time with the rhyme we were doing. Her mother was ecstatic, squealing with delight! The joy on her face was awesome! The child seeing her mother’s positive reaction was so pleased with herself! Big cuddles and praise were had! It was such a lovely moment between them!
Later in the term, another child was asked if she would like a standing turn. She did, and performed the beat beautifully! So measured and precise.
The very next week, she again had a standing turn, and the girl who had her turn after her, also decided a standing turn was in order.
Success Breeds Success, but also, Children Learn from One Another!
Just like the carrot in the book ‘The Carrot Seed’, we are seeing the children’s talent sprout more and more above the ground at every class.
First the child experiences success being led by the teacher. Once they have achieved the step, they spend time repeating the skill, with the support of the teacher and parent alongside. Soon, after repeating these successes, they may even do it all by themselves.
This is all led by the individual child's development. The important part is that the skills build on one another. That is the beauty of having a set, repeating, bi-weekly curriculum that doesn't change. The repetition is crucial to success.
“Everyone has a sprout of talent. Developing that sprout into a wonderful ability depends on how it is cultivated” - S. Suzuki
“Develop ability from what a child can already do, and that ability will promote the happiness of doing things better and better. An unlimited amount of ability can develop when child and parent are having fun together. It is simple but often overlooked.” – S. Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero.
“...extremely easy material was chosen at the start, and all the children accomplished what was set with no mistakes and full marks. This was a start in building confidence and enthusiasm. He made sure that every child understood the material and made no mistakes." - Dr Suzuki, The Law of Ability and The 'Mother Tongue Method' of Education
“Ability develops through practice” – S. Suzuki, Nurtured By Love
“Success in any task has some implicit rewards that when the environment provides some social or physical rewards, like approval or a hug, the child quickly learns to repeat the effort” – Framework for Suzuki Early Childhood Education (SECE ) 2014