Note: This letter was submitted as an article for the Upper Midwest Flute Association newsletter in 2014. At the time, I had no administrative involvement with the camp and attended only as a trainee.
For the last two years I have ventured out to the Lake Sylvia Flute Institute in Annandale, MN spending a week in June developing my skills as a Suzuki flute teacher. With an area outside of the caretaker’s home dubbed the “wifi café” that occasionally gave out a steady signal and questionable cell phone service, you’re given an opportunity to disconnect from the digital world which truly gives you a chance to meet everyone and be in the moment.
While there I’m struck with the sense of community the camp fosters. Teachers, parents, and students all help cook and clean, working together to make sure the week runs smoothly. After being a part of this camaraderie and seeing the friendships grow between the students I learned that when you’re building your own studio you are really building a community. Through group lessons, performances, and Suzuki workshops I seek to emulate this wonderful example and hope to soon add my own students to the mix at the institute.
As the week progressed and I worked to develop my teaching skills it dawned on me how much I had to absorb and put into practice in my own teaching - a daunting yet exciting task! With my teacher trainers David Royce-Gerry and Kelly Williamson’s guidance I learned new skills, such as how to sidestep and work on a skill in variety of ways, and was given advice from guidelines to the first lessons to how to make the Suzuki triangle work efficiently. Now post-camp I find myself consulting notes from trainings from time to time to refresh my memory.
One thing I wrote in my notes are suggestions given to me by other teacher trainees and my teacher trainers about pieces which I should learn or give a listen. In a discussion about organizing concerts and planning for lessons it was brought up about how it can be difficult to carve out time for yourself. Though it is important to keep steady, consistent lessons for students it is also important to take time for yourself and allow time to refresh and reenergize your mind and body. Looking back at that conversation helps remind me that a happy, well-rested teacher is more effective and observant.
As the learned skills have been put into practice and developed and my own flute community has grown I often look back and think about how much I have learned since attending camp that first day. I have become a better teacher and, as a fringe benefit, have found that my playing has improved as well! A nice reminder that learning never ends. Here’s to many more years of creative teaching!