Mr. O'Toole's Official School Rules:

1. Expectations.

Professional standards:

I aim to be smartly-dressed and punctual for all my lessons.  
I rarely work hard, but I often play.
If I am enjoying my playing, I continue.  
If I am not enjoying my playing, I stop.
I expect my pupils to follow the above example.

2. Music

a) choice of pieces

Important.  I prefer my pupils to tell me what music they would like to play.  Usually, this is the music they will have most motivation to practise and therefore make the quickest progress.  I have plenty of Bach, Vivaldi, folk tunes, youtube clips, scales and sight-reading if they run out of ideas, and I can supplement their choices with pieces to build specific areas of technique.

b) fluency

Very important.  Your audience's ears are generally not sharp enough to discern whether individual notes are perfectly in time and in tune, but they can read your body language and your emotions extremely well.  If you are not feeling confident, you will sound like it.  If you pretend to be confident, you will probably sound better than if you are't. 

c) accuracy

Important.  It comes more easily the more you trust it will and the less you think about it.  Playing half-speed (but still musically) can help.  So can recording yourself and listening non-judgementally.  If the out of tune notes make you wince, try playing them a bit less out of tune next time.  

There is an inherent problem in learning to play accurately with our conscious minds switched on.  Every bone we need to move to play the violin has pairs of opposing muscles controlling it.  When we focus on something we believe will be hard, we tense up.  When we are tense, both these sets of muscles switch on at once and everything grinds to a halt.  Our music sounds like hard work, because it is.  I try to avoid this situation by trusting that our unconscious minds can program our fingers.  We learn to walk and talk without reading books about them or following strict exercise plans.  Similarly, our violins can allow us to learn to play them, provided we don't work too hard or think too much about it.

3. Language.  

a) 'Sorry' 

I say sorry if I have behaved in an unprofessional manner.  I expect the same from my pupils.  For example, 'sorry I am late', 'sorry I have forgotten my music', 'sorry I was away last week.'  That's okay. Please don't do it again next week.  

My pupils often use 'sorry' as a way of apologising for their own existence.  'Sorry I got that note wrong,' or 'sorry my violin's out of tune,' or 'sorry I'm so rubbish today'.  This is not acceptable language.  

You are expected to play wrong notes while you are learning.  Your wrong notes are your best teacher.  Listen to them.  They will tell you more than I can.  Violins do not stay in tune perfectly.  One day you will learn to tune your own violin instead of asking me for help.  If you have not learned how to tune it yet, you do not need to apologise.  Just have a go.  Carefully.  You are not rubbish today.  If you think you are, discard that thought.  It will not help you improve.  You are simply a violin pupil who is less experienced at violin playing than your teacher is.  That is why you are here, with your teacher, having a violin lesson.

“Why do girls always feel like they have to apologize for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that?" Nicole asked. "You go on websites and some girl leaves a post and if it's longer than three sentences or she's expressing her thoughts about some topic, she usually ends with, 'Sorry for the rant' or 'That may be dumb, but that's what I think.” 
Libba Bray, Beauty Queens

b) Swearing  

Mr. O'Toole is a professional, and therefore he does not need to use swearwords.

In a classroom context, swearwords are unacceptable. They can be disruptive and offensive.  I do not tolerate swearing in violin group lessons, string ensembles, nor in extra-curricular chamber music.

"Nigel Kennedy's version of "The Four Seasons" is like a breath of fresh 
air which is bound to blow away a few cobwebs around this well known 
work. It is sure to appeal to the young people. A thrilling performance."
George Martin, 1989 

Sometimes, when students are scared of using 'bad' language (and therefore of feeling 'bad' feelings) their playing lacks drive and sparkle.  Vivaldi when played well can sound like musical swearing.  I do not believe it is a coincidence that Nigel Kennedy (who uses plenty of f-words) spent a whole year at number one in the classical charts with his Four Seasons.

"Thanks whoever bought it because you're helping us do something with 
music which shouldn't be allowed"
Nigel Kennedy, Royal Albert Hall, April 1990 

Adrian Chandler is the director of La Serenissima.  He is one of the UK's experts on Vivaldi performance and research.  He is not known for his polite language.

Swearwords in my violin lessons must be directed into thin air, behind a closed door where the rest of the school is not disturbed.  'Oh *&%$*!!!' is acceptable.  Swearing must not be directed at anyone or anything.  'Oh my *%$*ing violin!!!' is not acceptable.  I would prefer my pupils to release their tensions through music than through language.  Finding a creative way to release difficult emotions is one focus of my lessons.  Gaining mastery over the complex mind-body co-ordinations needed to play violin freely is another.  Considerations of music theory, literacy and exam preparation come an important second.

"Our study suggested that, in many cases, taboo language serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity, and as a mechanism to cope with stress. Banning it could backfire. The challenge is to master the art of knowing when to turn a blind eye."
Professor Yehuda Baruch, University of East Anglia.

4. Play

The most important thing of all.  Within applicable laws, school rules and the above constraints, as much as possible please.  This is a serious point.  The more fun you are having with your playing, the more sparky your brain cells become, the quicker you progress, and the more interesting your music sounds.  If your music isn't fun, why are you playing it?