The beginning of the school year is a very special time for children. There is a sense of excitement and readiness for learning in the air. So, it is the parents and teachers responsibility toprovide the best possible environment that preserves this readiness, nurtures awareness and supports optimum learning.
When we give children our full attention, they feel acknowledged, empowered, important, and nurtured. Attention is totally different from judgment. With total attention we bring awareness to the child. Ultimately this awareness that develops through our attention enables the child to change and grow.
As Dr. Kataoka said:
“We must, with effort and perseverance, patiently nurture the ability to concentrate, listen and differentiate.”(1)
In the lesson and at practice the parents main job is to put total attention on the child. For example, if a parent is texting, e-mailing or other forms of non-attention to the lesson, the child has less awareness for learning. Part of the room is focused on something else. When it is the parent or the teacher that is thinking about other things, it becomes especially difficult for the child to remain focused. If another child is playing with a toy during the lessons it is distracting. However, if the adults are focused on the lesson, the child can still concentrate. If another child is reading a book, they are engaging in a similar kind of focus, so it is much easier for the child having the lesson. Ideally, when everyone is watching the student have a lesson, the child can really concentrate well. The child loves this experience and learns to communicate to the other people in the room through the sound of the piano.The same kind of attention is valuable at home. In the book Journey Down the Kreisler Highway (2) violinist and Suzuki teacher Craig Timmerman writes:
“Your children will always carry the memory of your working with them each day of their childhood. Can you imagine the warm memory that will be theirs to carry around in later years when they leave home? That memory and knowledge will provide a security and appreciation that will be deeply rooted…It seems that there is always a special bond within families who give this kind of gift to their children. Undoubtedly it will take years for your children to fully appreciate the gift you have given them, but when that realization does come, what strength it will have.”
This “special bond” is nurtured by the attention and focus of the parents without judgment on both their child’s home practice and lesson times. It is important to distinguish between attention that develops awareness, which fosters intrinsic motivation; and attention that accompanies judgment (be it positive or negative) which is a type of extrinsic motivation. In one of my earlier posts, “Affirm, Motivate, and Inspire” (4) I discuss how extrinsic rewards diminish motivation:
“I believe this is partially because the child looses their sense of autonomy and feels controlled rather than nurtured and supported. The question then is not whether to use a “carrot or a stick” to influence a child’s behavior, but how can we preserve and nurture intrinsic motivation?
At the beginning of the school year, children are ready and eager to learn. We nurture that motivation by having the highest quality music and music experiences in the daily environment. This includes observing other students lessons, group classes, individual lessons, home listening/watching videos, practice, and attending concerts, We maintain this desire to make music by listening and noticing as the child is learning. Then, as we give the child an affirmation or acknowledgment of what we are observing it increases their ability to learn and improve without the emotional roller coaster of good and bad. The acknowledgment of what they are doing correctly provides them with the valuable feedback that enables deep concentration and learning. This is Positive Affirmation. We will be discussing how to use language in a way that supports this way of working with your child at the parents meeting.
The intention for the New Year is the development of awareness through optimum learning.
The resolution for the New Year is to provide an environment which preserves and develops intrinsic motivation.
“It is the readiness of the mind that is wisdom.”
Shinryu Suzuki (6)Bibliography/links
1. From Piano Basics Newsletter Volume 2.6 November/December 1997
in the article “Prince Shotoku and Pianists”2. “Journey Down the Kreisler Highway-Reflections on the teachings of Shinichi Suzuki” by Craig Timmerman published 1987.
3. From this blog “Core Suzuki Piano”
, the article “Affirm, Motivate, and Inspire“
published January 20104. “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”
by Shunnru Suzuki, page 113