Suzuki Sunday: Peeko

I think every teacher should read Nurtured by Love. Dr. Suzuki's pithy and brief manifesto is packed with meaning.  I have always loved his story about Peeko:

Peeko was a parakeet who belonged to the Miyazawa family in Tokyo, one of the places Dr. Suzuki used to work.  The family knew that parakeets could be taught to make human-like sounds, so they decided to teach the bird to say its name.  Being a Suzuki family, they knew that repetition was important, so they repeated the bird's name about fifty times a day for two months, roughly three thousand times in all.  Suddenly, one day, the bird repeated, "Peeko."

My teacher-trainer mentioned this once in a very powerful context.  What would have happened, she wondered, if the Miyazawas had given up after only two thousand repetitions?  Two thousand is a great number.  The family could have been easily justified in saying, "This bird simply can't learn to talk."  But they continued to speak to it, with patience and love, until the day their efforts were rewarded.

Another interesting fact is that after this, the Miyazawa family decided to teach Peeko his full name, "Peeko Miyazawa."  Again, they repeated it about fifty times a day, but this time it took only four days (two hundred repetitions) before the bird could say the longer and more complex word, "Miyazawa."  And then, when Mr. Miyazawa began coughing with a cold, Peeko also learned to make a coughing sound -- without any attempt on the part of Mr. Miyazawa to teach him!  He simply applied the knowledge he already had.

I'm sure you can see the analogy a mile away: parakeets may be extremely intelligent birds, but they certainly can't compare with the intelligence of young children.  Imagine, then, what a child can do after hearing his recording every day for just a week -- or repeating a difficult passage only ten times.  Consistency is key, of course; a small number of repetitions, repeated for many days, is much better than one exhausting blitz practice session just before the lesson.  In fact, the "saturation point" for most children is around ten times, after which the piece will begin to fall apart.  So, be inspired by Peeko's example, but don't feel the need to duplicate his exact circumstances.  :)  Just try again the very next day.

Remember Dr. Suzuki's famous quote: "Ability = knowledge x 10,000 repetitions."  And listen, listen, listen!  Your recording is a powerful and amazing tool.