“Children will be drawn to their recorder in a way that will give the word ‘practicing’ a new meaning.”
Summer vacation is upon us – what do we do?
I have to admit that the summer vacation makes me nervous. Although I do long for some rest after the stressful year, the thought of all my young students disappearing into the big void of computer games, television and ‘doing nothing’ makes me uneasy. Apparently, this is not just my problem. Many teachers report that their students do not touch their musical instruments during the summer vacation, say alone practice. One colleague of mine told to me that “students who like to practice will keep doing so over summer vacation, but students who don’t like to practice – nothing will make them even look at their recorders (not even scolding parents)”. When I asked her how many of her students like to practice, she started to laugh…
On one side I completely understand the students’ point of view. They need rest, they want to have a break from responsibilities, they want to have fun, and practicing isn’t fun. Practicing is boring. But on the other hand, refusing to practice over such a long period of time is hazardous to the learning process of the instrument, and sometimes it can take the student 3-4 months backward.
So what can we do?
Fighting this void and against computer games and TV is really one of the more difficult things there is. I’ve always tried talking to the parents about the importance of maintaining some structure in the summer vacation and it does help in some cases when the parents are more committed. However, in many cases it helped very little or not at all.
A more effective thing I started doing is organizing some sort of mid summer activity with my students. Anything that would be a reminder of what we did during the year. I try to organize a special kind of lesson with fun and social games that have something to do with the recorder – playing a song together one note for each person, “musical chairs” when one of the students is playing-stoping ect. This could be done also with several groups together (if you have a few groups or good colleagues). The point is making it feel like a party, having fun with the recorder and socializing with other recorder students. After such a long time without, I always feel that the kids are more than excited to play again their favorite songs and with their favorite playbacks. An event like that could really help, but there are 2 problem: A. The summer time is very often full of activities (especially for us, musicians) and we can’t always organize something like that. B. It helps, but it still doesn’t solve the problem – in most cases they will not practice their instrument before and after this event.
I don’t know how many of you already tried using JoyTunes-Recorder with your students during the year, but from my and many of my colleagues’ expeirence, this method turned out to be the most effective aid yet during the summer vacation. Having a look&feel of a computer game, my students play it like they would so many other computer games – for hours. They don’t even notice that there are practicing and keeping everything we did during the year fresh.
A colleague of mine, Tchia Rudovski, wrote me about it – “my student came back to a lesson, and it was as if the last time we met was yesterday. He was even in a better condition…”.
I truly recommend it as an elegant summer vacation solution. If we know our students are going to waste so much time playing computer games, why not encourage them to play one that is actually beneficial for recorder.
As a personal note, I truly believe in taking breaks and vacations, but I think it has to be balanced properly. Freedom and rest are effective if they are in the right proportions. Structure is also a comfort zone for most of us, even if we like to complain about it. Children can be lost without a goal, and without motivation, but only a few will admit that. I feel that we, as their parents, teachers and role models – can and should help them find alternatives for their general boredom and “doing nothing” concept…