What I have learned feeding a woodstove

By Margot Jewell

In this pandemic time, I had the wonderful privilege of being able to move to our family summer home. The challenge came with the cold weather in the winter. As I engaged in the pleasurable task of setting fires in our two wood stoves, it occurred to me that there were many parallels to building and sustaining motivation in my students.

As with Suzuki, there are some fundamentals that are essential to success in building fires. We need: kindling, setting the fire thoughtfully, good quality wood, oxygen, and a spark to get it going.

I learned that you cannot expect large pieces of wood to catch the flame. Setting up the wood in a way that facilitates the spread of the flames is the most important part of building a fire.
In Suzuki, we set the environment in our studio space, as well as help the parent to set up a nurturing environment at home. We can build skills and motivation in our studio by introducing a new task with activities that can be mastered quite quickly , just as the small sticks need to catch fire first. The teacher’s enthusiasm, and modelling produce the spark of motivation in Suzuki that is like the match.

The fire needs to be maintained by regular checking; gradually adding larger pieces as well as shifting the wood.

In Suzuki, the child’s motivation is built as bigger tasks are achieved and more skill is developed. In the younger stages where the skills are smaller, more frequent maintenance is necessary. With more advanced children who have the big logs burning, an inner motivation will sustain their enthusiasm and they will not require as much supervision as the younger children.

If the fire has been allowed to die down, a return to the kindling stage with extra oxygen may be needed to help the flames reappear.

In Suzuki, the teacher needs to be continually assessing the child’s motivation and adjusting the activities to facilitate the burning of the flame. We need to build the newer, more difficult skills, on the older well-established skills. To rekindle enthusiasm after the fire has lost its flames may take considerable effort and patience as it also will in the Suzuki journey.
The final lesson I have learned is that the quality of wood used is especially important. This includes the age, type, and whether it is split or not.

In Suzuki, how do we teach with quality? How can we change ourselves or our approach for each child to make the lesson as effective as possible for every student, especially when using the online medium?

My takeaway from this analogy is that the most effective teaching is done thoughtfully rather than randomly. Our motivation is love for the student and family and consideration of their unique needs, especially in these more difficult times. That is our joy and challenge as Suzuki teachers!