My child does not want to practice the violin!
The child does not want to practice his instrument, yes - this "cruel reality" is not only for many parents everyday life, also to the violin teacher this everyday life often seems even crueler. Under certain circumstances, this can accompany a whole professional life and... shape it. How much nicer the life of the violin teacher -but also that of the parents- would be, if they succeeded in motivating the children to practice happily of their own accord. This is possible!
I would like to share with you the best idea that I have come up with in my long professional life as a violin teacher.
The fact that children don't see any glory in getting themselves down and picking up their violin when the weather is gloriously nice outside or when they could be playing by the paddling pool is somehow also understandable. Let's be honest, by doing so they also betray having a healthy sense of what is beautiful in human life.
Who does something without hoping for a certain gain or advantage from it? This is exactly where the "secret of motivation" lies. In contrast, motivating them with the hope that one day in the distant future they will be able to play the violin very beautifully has not proven to be sustainably convincing -at least with the majority of my students.
How about motivation where the young sprouts can see a daily, immediate gain? An immediate "booty" and that every day of the week? Then they would certainly pick up the violin and practice with joy and, above all, on their own initiative. Yes, it is possible to provide such motivation!
In short, my system works as follows:
I promise the students to bring my treasure chest full of treasures before the next school vacations. They may help themselves from it and take gifts. But - who gets how many gifts? That is regulated with the help of a point system.
I put an exercise sticker* in their homework book, which looks like this:
In it, the child is allowed to have mom or dad put a signature on each day that they practiced. Each signature corresponds to one point. So a maximum of 7 points can be collected in one week. If violin is not practiced on a day, the point may not be entered subsequently, the point is lost. During the violin lesson, the teacher enters the number of points collected in the speech bubble. On the last day of school before the next school vacation, the points are counted and the student may redeem his points for gifts from the treasure chest. The more points the student has accumulated, the larger the gifts, the more "treasure" the student can redeem.
Many of my students have now gotten into the habit of earning 7 points each week. They proudly come to violin lessons and I find that they have been busy practicing the violin even on Sundays and holidays. As the vacations approach, they become more vigilant and aware of earning points. I've gotten out of the habit of the classic teacher question, "Did you practice this week?" and now it's, "So, how many points were you able to earn this week?"
Once when students complained that they didn't have time for the violin on certain days of the week, I encouraged them to save their point by practicing for 10 minutes in the morning before school. Even that was taken up and done with enthusiasm! After all, every point needs to be saved!
If they couldn't practice after all, they come to class wistful about their small point yield. They look enviously at the others who have more points. I can comfort them! :-)
Since then, my life as a violin teacher has become much more beautiful. I wish you the same, dear colleagues!
Your Felipe Manrique
* If you don't want to make the practice stickers yourself, you can order them HERE.