Time Management and the lesson

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Dorothy Delay

Some days I feel like time management is the hardest part of a lesson.   When a scale or etude repertoire is on an edge for a student, there are really too many options as to what to teach or focus on.  Intonation, bow speed, shifting?

Lessons with Dorothy Delay famously didn’t start or end on time as I imagine she didn’t want the lesson to end until something was communicated and effects could be noticed by student and teacher.   And perhaps she encouraged her students to stretch instead of learn in small increments.

The Suzuki method when taught with pureness of spirit simply adds or revisits layers of technique development with each lesson and piece.  Progress  flows. If one technique isn’t conquered it is revisited until it is, in as many incarnations as possible.  But this is so difficult in practice!   Sometimes learning doesn’t happen in steps. Sometimes the path to technique is circuitous. Sometimes a lapse in practice or lessons brings a new perspective that doesn’t necessarily inhibit progress, but creates a new path to progress.

I’m a big proponent of the unstructured play movement.   I always like those facebook posts that recommend leaving children to their own timetables with play and I love the idea of unstructured summer vacation.  I love simply being an observer with my child and his friends, present for moments requiring redirection and car service, or when playing with him,  fully present and interacting, willing to dive in without timetable or agenda.  Unfortunately at times, my inclination is to teach in this unstructured way, in the way when if the student at I arrive at the same page and want to dive deep, oh, I’m ready and willing.    However, the next student and the parent with other things to do, or another child in waiting or dinner, or a million other things,this method is not practical.

The violin is hard. Sometimes it can take months to learn a new technique. Sometimes it seems that to maintain momentum in practice, we simply need to move on.    A student may not simply  persevere through these times and focus on the technique at hand when they are at home practicing.  They might find something else to motivate their practice.

I try to channel my inner Arturo Delmoni with my more advanced students.  He was a teacher who always managed to incorporate scales, etude, and the piece or pieces into the lesson plan.   To manage time, I try choose just one thing to develop  in each component of the practice, so we can make incremental progress.  I’m pretty sure that Arturo studied with Ms. Delay, I remember him describing playing the Bach Double in a crowd at her funeral, but he didn’t channel Ms. Delay in his teaching. We always started and ended on time.

My notes made after lessons are often the foundation of what I teach in the next lesson.  If there’s something I couldn’t prioritize in the last lesson that needs to be addressed, I research options for approaching the problem, then listen in the next lesson to see if still needs to be addressed, then focus on that, unless something else bubbles to the top of the priority list.  But just one thing, so if the unstructured approach to solving the problem bubbles, we can allow it to bubble, for a while anyway.

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