Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Our Greatest Responsibility

Sometimes when things get stressful you have to draw up some new pre-twinkle flash cards
There is always a lot going on. In the world, in our neighborhoods, and in our families. I now have three kids within one degree of separation from me who have been shot. One lived. I'm a white upperclass suburban piano teacher. I'm a conservative who is just about to go door to door and take away the guns from the idiots. I'm not sure who is an idiot and who isn't. . . but. . . I guess that's part of the deal.

We've been working super hard on the November Suzuki Association of Minnesota Fall workshop.  It's gonna be great but we have to get the news out there and get people to actually sign up!  

Sometimes you just nag, nag, nag because people in your own house leave SO MUCH STUFF everywhere. 

Tra la la. 

I brought St. Francis in from the garden and put him on the staircase. I'm reading a book about him, and here is a great quote:

Fear, constriction, and resentment are seen by spiritual teachers to be an inherent blindness that must be overcome. Those emotions cannot get you anywhere, certainly not anywhere good. Thus all mystics (St. Francis) are positive people--or they are not mystics! Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognizing and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God. The great paradox here is that such a victory is a total gift from God and yet somehow you must want it very much.  Page 9, Eager to Love, The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, by Richard Rohr. 

He goes on to reference Philippians 2, verses 12 through 16 which I'll let you look up if the spirit moves you.  

This is the biggest deal. To turn over negativity at every moment, every day. That is our warfare. At least it's mine. I'm guessing it's also for teachers, parents and everyone else. We have to develop the conscious habit of being positive. And recommit again and again and again. We have to practice being positive. We must want it very much. 

It just always catches me off guard, like when the driver behind me is flailing her arms in anger because I didn't turn fast enough. It takes constant practice to create calm.  

I tell parents, don't let practice be negative for more than a day. Reflect and change things up. It's our responsibility.  

It's not just a stifling or denial of human nature, there is plenty of real bad stuff out there and our kids and students are gonna do plenty of truly annoying things. We have to correct the behavior. We just have a responsibility to our people to do this in a positive way. 

I return to that mantra. Correct the behavior, correct the behavior, correct the behavior.  Don't get swallowed up in negativity and project the end of the world onto your daughters inability to tidy her room or your student's complete lack of practice or the helplessness of whatever is on the news.  

Work out your positivity with fear and trembling. This is our work. This is our responsibility. 

This may be our greatest responsibility. To remain positive again and again and again. Moment by moment, breath by breath. 

No one ever practiced because they got yelled at. Nobody ever gained a spark of joy tidying their things without a hopeful process. No one ever signed up for a workshop because the committee got cross. And I don't have a cute little answer for the gun control.  How do you teach a nation that their lives and the lives of others are sacred, it's not a game to play. One kid at a time, sweet Jesus. 

What the heck, I'm gonna close with that scripture anyway. . . 

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." Philippians 2:12-16

We must want it very much. I think that is enough for now. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Powers of Observation

On this fall walk the sights and sounds and smells were so delicious. How much we learn from the observations of our senses. A picture is worth 1,000 words. Listening to a passage just one time clarifies confusion. One of the tenants of our Suzuki programs is to learn using our senses.  

At the individual level, this means we try to use fewer words while we work with young children. We try to demonstrate and allow them to learn with their ears and their eyes and with gentle touch.

At the studio level, we can also learn using our senses. This happens best by observing the lessons of other families.

I don't ever ask students if it's okay for families to observe their child's lesson. It's just a given that folks will be coming and going. Observation is a big part of a thriving studio. Children see the lessons of their peers and instantaneously understand the big picture. This is how we bow, this is how the teacher greets me, this is how the lesson goes, this is how she borrows my hand, these are the games we play and the fun we have, while getting down to business.

Parents learn from observation as well. Guess what, my child is not the only one who ever did something flakey during a lesson. Kids are kids and they have great days and not so great days. Your child is not the perfect child and you are not the perfect parent.  But you are the perfect parent for your child.  Parents hear upcoming pieces and get a glance into the details and processes that are yet to come.

I have several families who started lessons this summer and fall. They are doing their required observations.

I'm going to go out on a limb and expand this requirement. I'm going to ask each student and family in my entire studio to observe the lesson of at least one other student each semester. It makes the most sense to observe someone at your age and skill level or a slightly older wiser student. I'll be handing out the updated weekly schedule and parents can shoot me a text when they are coming to observe,  just in case there is a special circumstance that day, or one of the children is ill or absent.

Observing also expands the joy of community in our circle. Parents say good job to other kids or little words like, "hey, you have really added some dynamics to that Sonatina since group lesson." Maybe even just noticing that you lost a tooth.

Kids will earn a Kotr-buck for their effort--and parents will continue to grow and understand--watching someone else's lesson costs you nothing and you gain so much--just using the power of observation.