- Environment of the children is very important to their education “All Japanese children speak Japanese”
- Ability Training: all children can be well-educated, not just the “talented”, with patience, repetition and love.
- He saw the enormous capacity for children to learn
- Talent is not inherited, it is developed. “[I]t does not exist at birth but has to be created”.
- Ability grows as it is trained…” and “[p]oor training produces poor ability”.
- Talent is not inherent and accepted students based on their willingness not their talent.
- Developing ability “depends on action and the directing of our attention to doing things”
- Also has a deep connection to the Zen Buddhist philosophy of actively participating in philosophy and religion
- Language learning & environment => Talent Education/mother-tongue method
- All children can learn when they are in a good environment for learning
- Character first, ability second: he believed that people raised in his method would grow up to be great people, not necessarily great violinists.
- “First character, then ability” was the motto of Suzuki’s alma mater, Nagoya Commercial School.
- Repetition: once a skill has been learned, it should be “thoroughly mastered by repeating it again and again”.
- “Do the thing over and over again until if feels natural, simple, and easy”. “[R]epeat and repeat an action until it becomes a part of ourselves.”
- Develop excellence through repetition – it is not good enough to simply be able to play all of the pieces. One must be able to play with a fine interpretation and musical sense.
- Constant repetition: “If we cannot be patient but stop a project halfway through-then later state again, drop it, start again, and so on- this kind of repetition will not bring good results”.
- Practice: if one practices consistently and correctly, superior ability and skill will develop.
- Koji: a student of his spent time working with his uncle in a bar and after he left the bar, he lost his good manners and respect. Instead of reprimanding him, Suzuki and other members of the household surrounded him with love and care and spoke kindly to each other. Koji eventually regained his respect for others and his manners
- IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENT
- Encouraged his students to be surrounded by great music by going to concerts and listening to recordings.
- Principle of Talent Education: ‘ No one will be left behind; and based on love; it will foster truth, joy and beauty as part of a child’s character. If nothing else, it will at least teach children….to be warm hearted and to enjoy doing kindnesses to others.”
- Imitation first will lead to creative development as a process to learning. If children are learning by imitation and they are imitating a great violinist, their own playing will be at a higher level because of who they are imitating.
- Suzuki wanted to inspire human beings, not just musicians but human beings to be good people to have a good heart.
If you haven’t heard of this book, I highly recommend you at least read this book report. Daniel Coyle spent a considerable amount of time researching ‘talent’ and how it’s developed to write The Talent Code. The book is fantastic, fairly easy to read and has many major implications for music learning and learning, in general. A large portion of the book discusses music learning and teaching in a number of different situations. The book even opens with a description of a student practicing and the process in which she undergoes deep learning.
That’s what this book is about: deep learning and motivation. And how to achieve ‘talent’ or thorough skill development. How this book differs from other books or writings about learning is that it discusses learning and how to tap into ‘talent’ through a basic neurological mechanism we all possess. It involves scientific research and study on a specific neural insulator called myelin. Myelin is what helps us acquire skills, any skill.
But first, what is myelin?
Myelin works like insulation wrapped around a wire. It protects the nerve fiber and makes the firing electrical impulse stronger and faster. When we practice executing a skill, any skill, myelin responds by wrapping layers of this insulation around the nerve fiber and each layer adds more speed and skill. The thicker this myelin layer becomes, the fast and more accurate our movements and thoughts become.
The biggest take-away: it does not discriminate. The growth of myelin enables all skills, both mental as well as physical.
The below graphic depicts how myelin works, wrapping itself and insulating the nerve. The more myelin around the nerve results in a faster and stronger execution of skill, any skill. But what does that take? You guessed it: lots of sustained practice.
The discovery of myelin has huge implications for ‘talent’ because it shows us talent is grown, not born, as the subtitle of the book declares.
Under the right circumstances, talent is developed, which is really what Dr. Suzuki has been saying all along. Now we have scientific research to back up Suzuki’s philosophy and method and a specific neural mechanism that we can study.
The book is divided into three parts, all of which have great implications for skill development as it relates to music learning. However, the most applicable music learning is the idea of deep practice.
Deep practice is built on this simple paradox: struggling in certain, specific ways makes you learn the skill better and better. The experience of struggle – making mistakes, figuring them out – makes us learn deeper. The more we encounter difficulties, the more we fire impulses, the faster we learn. So, making mistakes is okay!
Then, more of this kind of practice we do, the more we develop the neural skill circuit and the easier the skill becomes. In addition, this type of practice fosters automaticity. After we’ve sufficiently built up this network of intricate brain circuitry, we actually forget about it! Which first, enables the skill to feel natural and second, enables the skill to function in the background without our thinking about it.
However, it takes work, lots of hard work, to do this for a sustained amount of time. Think back to learning to hold the bow. It’s a pretty intense process that can take weeks of sustained practice. But fast forward two year: holding the bow has become a skill we don’t even need to think about. You pick up the bow and *bam* you have a bow hold without even thinking about it. Same with holding a pencil, driving a car, swinging a baseball bat, etc. These skills aren’t easy at first but after practicing, firing those circuits and building myelin, they become easy, effortless and natural.
Things to keep in mind:
- Struggle is not optional – it’s neurologically required. In order to deeply develop a skill, we need to make mistakes, pay attention to those mistakes and teach ourselves how to not make those mistakes.
- Practicing and continuing to practice is necessary to keep building myelin and, as a result, make things easier.
- Myelin is universal – it only cares about what you do
- Myelin only wraps, it doesn’t unwrap. This is why it’s really hard to break bad habits. In fact, you can’t break a habit, you have to build new habits by building more myelin.
- Skill is a MUSCLE. You build it, grow it, work it. And never stop doing this.
- Break it into meaningful chunks.
- First look at the thing as a whole, for example, Perpetual Motion. Absorb the whole thing. Also known as, in Suzuki Land: LISTENING. Listen to music all the time, absorb the music, learn to imitate the great players.
- Then divide it into small pieces, say, 4 notes at a time. This is called chunking.
- Lastly, practice slowly, then going a little faster to learn everything about it.
- Repeat it.
- Repetition is invaluable and irreplaceable. Repetition builds myelin. Repetition strengthens our brains.
- Feel the burn.
- Learning is uncomfortable because you are reaching just beyond your abilities. We didn’t learn to walk by giving up after one or two tries. We struggled. Fell over. But got back up again and endured despite failing.
Learning is messy and it’s going to be bad before it gets good. That’s just the nature of it. It’s hard to watch someone struggle but more often than not, we just need to learn to take the back seat and embrace it. Embrace the uncomfortable and realize that the struggle actually enhances learning and skill development. While we try to keep our students from making mistakes (and sometimes this is necessary), it’s actually more beneficial to allow them to make mistakes, muddle and figure it out on their own. This also helps create independent learners. So keep in mind, when things sound rough, “[t]o get good, it’s helpful to be willing, or even enthusiastic, about being bad.”
The basic premise of Dr. Dweck’s book is fairly simple: the attitudes and beliefs with which people view themselves guides a large part of their lives. These beliefs strongly affect interactions with other people as well as how successful people are in school, work as well as other domains.
Though education is the most interesting facet of this research, I also found the research in sports and in the workplace very interesting. I’ve included a few tidbits from virg
- Presenting skills as learnable
- Conveying that the organization values learning and perseverance, not ready-made talent and genius
- Giving feedback that promotes learning and future successes
- Presenting managers as resources for learning
- Fostering alternative ideas and constructive criticism – independent thinkers AND team players.
One of my goals as a teacher is to instill a love of learning as well as challenge students with opportunities to help them grow and develop their ability. Just as Dr. Suzuki repeated over and over again, the potential of every child is unlimited, we just have to help them and give them the tools to grow talent and ability.