If t goal as a practice coach is to point the way toward independent learning and eventually to get out of the way in order to allow this to happen, we should consider how we guide the student’s minds even from the earliest Suzuki years. It is very easy to point out behaviors and create fine little players through adjusting this finger, and that note, and the other slur: but it’s vastly more important to develop within each player the thinking process behind the changes. Be prepared: going about things this way often seems much slower! So…how do we encourage young violinists to use their thinking minds?
- Ask, don’t tell! Try for open-ended questions that involve them exploring their own minds. What did you think of that sound? Where was your bow playing? Do you remember what was trickiest about this passage last time? What section of this were you most unhappy with? What did Ms. Jenna want to see most improved in this section? What frustrates you about this?
- Insist on self-observation. Don’t always be the judge. In fact….perhaps very seldom be the judge! “Where was your bow playing?” Is much more mentally stimulating than "Your bow was not in the middle - move your bow back to the middle!"
- Try their ideas!
- Validate their thoughts and emotions. "I see that you really are thinking when you work on this spot – I am so glad that you are learning to see and hear what is good and what needs work!" "You are frustrated with this because you care." "Did you hear that beautiful sound? Wow – you really found a way to solve that problem!" "This is tricky – and I love the way you keep trying!"
- Sometimes…be silent. If they know that mom or dad will always point out the mistake or dictate the next project, what’s the point of thinking? Or if whenever they try to think mom or dad interjects verbally, how can you know what they might come up with on their own?
- And sometimes, allow them to “fail” in order that they might learn more.