Celebrating Learning Curves

I’ve been teaching music students for 3 years now and something that I’ve been just really getting a handle on lately has been the advanced planning and being realistic about what we really will get through in a 30 minute lesson.  Like most teachers, my desire is to see the student leave each lesson having really learned something and some lessons are more productive than others in that area.  But there are times when we end the lesson and I can’t work out what we’ve actually done!  And then there are the days when I really feel that the student truly doesn’t want to be there.  There is clearly no internal motivation regulating their progress and so the lesson is dry and lifeless.

My thoughts then turn to this question: how do we create an environment that allows a student the freedom to pursue music in their own time?

How can I have both the feeling that we’ve ‘achieved’ something, as well as be comfortable in the knowledge that what that day’s lesson might have been about, had nothing to do with achievement and everything to do with connection and relationship?

You see, I have a theory about learning.  I believe that when a person is truly connected to something, they will pull out all the stops to make it happen.  I’ve been learning this as I watch my almost 13 year old, my youngest son, beam with sheer unadulterated delight when he’s on his skateboard.  I don’t see the same kind of excitement and fervour when he’s trying to learn guitar.  Don’t get me wrong, I think he enjoys playing an instrument, but I can see that that magical ‘connection’ hasn’t happened yet and no amount of cajoling, pushing or coercing is going to make it happen.

But when he’s on that board, as he is EVERY day, regardless of the weather (thank God for a double garage!), I see that intensity and passion spilling out all over the place.  I see that this is something that regardless of anyone’s help or not, he will continue to work hard on this pursuit of getting to be a great skateboarder.

So how does this relate to teaching music?

It’s all about that internal drive that motivates the mind, the body, the emotions, the will, to forge ahead despite the setbacks.  As teachers, there is an unspoken expectation to show results.  Sometimes it’s not unspoken.  Sometimes parents are extremely tenacious about the pursuit of results.  And we have to work within that framework to a large extent.

But my hope, with my personal students, is that what they get out of their lessons more than anything else, is a desire to pursue that which stirs them.  And if it’s not music, then that’s ok.  As I leave my personal expectations at the door and allow my son to find his own timing in connecting with music, I give him the freedom to pursue what for now, is his whole world and passion.

In this, I find that I also need to accept that I may have two sons who never pursue music as a life long activity and be content with that.  It’s hard.  Of course I desire to see them lost in the land of creativity.  But I really believe that as we allow our children to focus on what they are passionate about, accepting that the subject may not be what we had personally hoped for, we give them room to pursue music in their time and when that time comes, the pursuit will be full force because they have chosen it for themselves.

So what that ultimately leaves me with, is the realisation that expectations must vary dependent upon the unique personality, capacity and motivation of each person that you work with.  If we as teachers can take on board the perspective that each student is different and the timing of their learning is going to be very varied, I think we can offer these wonderful people a freedom to explore the world of music on their terms making it a self regulated pursuit that comes from an internal desire to discover.  And that, I think, is worth the risk.

Letting go of good things

Often we talk about letting go of things that hold us back – relationships, bad jobs, clutter, bad habits etc.  But how do we cope with the reality of letting go of the good things, in order to embrace a new season in life?

As I watched a video this morning of some wonderful friends dancing, and I contemplated the amazing group of people I have been surrounded by in the past 5 years, I became unexpectedly emotional.  The realisation that at some point, I may not be within coo-ee of these friends – that eventually I or they, may take on a new season, and perhaps even a new destination – hit me, and even though I felt a sadness, it was mixed with the deep wine of love and mercy that comes from communing with like minded folk and living life day to day, side by side. Continue reading

Choice – and so the thoughts continue…

A few days ago I wrote about choices, about feeling overwhelmed by life and by the outcomes of our choices.  I knew at the time that my thoughts were unfinished, and am certainly aware that I’m not through all the processing as yet, but I thought I’d share some new thoughts 🙂

The main thread I think from before, was that perhaps the more things we chose to take on, the less time (and subsequently the less energy, emotional capacity, mental acuity,  etc) we have to govern those choices well.  I was pondering how to deal with this reality that we all face on a regular basis and a couple of ideas have come to my attention this week that I thought might be worth sharing with you.

The first thing I’ve discovered so far, is that the old ‘write it down to make it plain’ adage is really valuable.  Now, I know that I have a tendency to be ‘wordy’ (gasp!!) but you don’t have to be a wordsmith to be able to write down how you feel.  In fact, sometimes it’s better if you only know how to ‘write it plain’…because it will be…well…plain… 🙂

I found that as I wrote out my feelings, my mixed emotions started to become clearer and more defined.  Sometimes writing it down can be a bit confronting, but remember that you don’t have to share your thoughts with anyone so know that it can be really candid and personal if you need to.

I suppose Habakkuk 2:2-3 was right:

And the Lord answered me:

“Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.

So with that scripture in the back of my mind, I think what happened then, was that I found my heart feeling a bit lighter and the fog in my mind starting to clear.  I encourage you dear friend, that if you are feeling overtired; if your conversation seems strained; if you are having trouble making simple decisions – it’s possible that you need to spend a little time alone, with pen and paper in hand, and those things that are bothering you.  I won’t guarantee you’ll find the answers yet, but I can tell you that this process seems to take you into a new place of perspective, which will at least give you time to regroup and take stock of things in a more clarified way.

And with that, I will close out for the night – bite sized thoughts are great to chew on over the weekend.  I’ll let you know what I discover in this process of processing as it…processes… 😀


Choices, choices, choices…

Ok, so I can’t be the only one who struggles with the above phrase.  We seem to be so bombarded with choice these days.  And the more choices I have thrown at me, the more cumulative the effect seems to be, and sometimes not a positive one at that.  And it seems to be coming from every angle too!  TV, radio, books, internet, social life, family and household commitments, work commitments, SLEEP!, food, rest, fun…and then there’s the pressure to ‘make the right choice, right purchase; have the correct opinion or knowledge on something; find the right solution for a work issue; be the ‘right’ person for the job, effectively negotiate family disputes, be the ‘best’ kind of friend… and I’m sure you, dear reader, you could add a whole heap of other pressures that cause us to have to make definitive choices every day, to this list.  We all have a list I’m sure 🙂

So what is my point?

Hmmm…perhaps I am still mulling it over, but there are days where I just wish there were not so many options.  Sometimes I wish the simple choice of eggs on toast for dinner or Spaghetti Bolognese was the most serious decision I have to make today.  But of course, we are surrounded by the need to make choices, from those that are externally life changing (life partners, job changes, family or no family, etc), to those that are internally life changing (that being our mindsets, attitudes, self talk, etc).

And every day, we choose, even when we think we don’t.  Not choosing, is still choosing 🙂

So how do we find our way out of the chaos of dealing with choice?

Honestly, I don’t have a 10 step plan.  I don’t even have a 3 step plan.  In fact, I don’t have a definitive answer.

I do know however, that with each choice made, there are consequences – sometimes ones that play out well, sometimes not so well.  Perhaps the conclusion I am coming to is that the more things I say yes to, the less time I have to govern the consequences of those choices and so ultimately, I find myself feeling ‘caged’ by choice, instead of being ‘set free’ by choice.

Gosh, that’s all a bit gloomy isnt’ it???  :p

I wonder sometimes (well, in honesty, probably on a daily basis!) why God allows us to traverse some really tricky territory in our lives.  I am coming to the conclusion at this point in my life, that it’s because as we traverse these areas (which if we really think about it, we kinda chose), as we live out the consequences of our choices, we become more attuned to working out which choices are better than others; we become more refined in our approach to making those choices, and hopefully, our choices have a more effective outcome in our lives, having both a more positive internal and external effect on us, and on those around us.

So in saying all that, despite the fact that I face plenty of my own personal choices to govern right now, I think I would tentatively thank God for pushing me into the difficult territories throughout my life (and for allowing me to make some not so great choices), because I know that his desire for me is only one that is good.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on choice.  It’s such a huge part of who we are, considering God first gave us the choice to choose to follow him…or not.  Looking forward to hearing your hard-earned wisdom 🙂