Sunday, January 24, 2010

Work Ethic

I spent the weekend with Sidney in Madison at a Suzuki Strings Workshop. It was a great time for mother/daughter, daughter/instructor, assistant teacher (me)/daughter, and assistant teacher/instructor. I found the guest instructor especially inspirational. He also runs the childhood developmental psychology department at the university where he teaches. I love the Suzuki method of instruction and am learning that it is not only a way to approach teaching how to love and play music. It is also a valuable tool in parenting, and recognizing developmental cues in how to approach your child.

There were many key tag-lines all which are applied in violin lessons, but can also be appreciated more broadly as a parent navigating your child through many things.

**Listen everyday and watch for their self-corrections and praise those.

**Abandonment and independence don't belong in the same sentence.

**Ownership happens over time in snapshots, pieces of moment to moment.

**Many times a question asked already has an answer attached to it, so answer a question with a question.

**As a parent you need to find that balance between desertion and micro-managing.

Sidney wanted to go to this workshop. Even if this meant that she was on the young end or the only one from her class there, that was OK. She lights up when she hears a violin. This doesn't mean that we don't have the same practice struggles as other families, she just really seems to dig it. Unlike me at her age, nerves when playing haven't been an issue for her. She's never fretted over a solo, she just enjoys it. Now, she will get bug eyed and nervous when unprepared, but we had a repertoire and reviewed pieces all week. The big payoff was playing at the capitol rotunda today.

This morning after her first session Sid doubled over with stomach pain. She couldn't rehearse for the performance at the Capitol and was devastated. No mom, it's not nerves, I just don't feel good. I can't stand up for long without having to sit down, my stomach hurts! Should we leave or wait to see if it passes? Every time I tried to mention leaving she would begin to sob and hyperventilate. It was a bad scene. When the final rehearsal was happening and we were outside the room sitting on the floor, she would just break down when they played a song she was supposed to be playing. Finally, after waiting until it was time to head over for the recital she said she couldn't stand to play, I said well, lets head home. We got in the car and she began to sob again. We decided to find parking again and she wanted to just go in, see the inside of the capitol, sit and listen.

We found a spot for her to sit on the floor and she asked for me to find her instructor and tell her. I'm often amazed at Ms. Melzer, at how well she handles the kids. She's tuning violins for the performance and I approach her and let her know what's going on. She stops, and walks across the rotunda to Sidney and lets her know it's OK. She'll get to play here again and she has to take care of herself now. If at any point she feels like getting up and playing even part of a song, she's welcome to and she can leave at anytime.

The older kids begin to play and she decides she'll sit on the floor and just play one song when it comes to her levels playing turn. She then plays all of the songs, through sheer will. Instead of bows, she sits on the floor and rocks between songs, then pulls herself together gets up and finishes. She really wanted this. I spent 2 hours wringing my hands and battling what to do, but she wanted to stay. She had wanted to go so bad. She finished through pure will and what will for her be a defining moment in developing her work ethic. I'm so proud of her!

This truly was a moment that converged and like mentioned above she took ownership.
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  1. Awesome post.
    Where does she take lessons, and how old was she when she began?

  2. You are very perceptive. Sidney must truly have been sick to have played in that fashion. Otherwise she could just pick herself up and play with the others. I hope she's better now.

  3. Jefferson offers Suzuki Strings starting second grade year, so she's been taking about 18 mos. They practice through the summer too at school.

    @Marilynne, thanks! She went to bed early and hopefully will be more herself this morning.

  4. i wanted to say I have two daughters...viola 13 years now plays in college...cello 8 years audition for college this week...i appreciate what you do mom!!

  5. @ELK thank you so much! My son wants to start cello next year so looks like I'll be learning to assistant teach in that too :)



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