October 18, 2018

March 12, 2017

what, can, how, should, did, could, if, do, does, where, when?
Polls, you know-questions, opinions, attitudes
Sometimes polls give an accurate reading of a group temperature and other times (ahem) not so much.
But we still form them, give them credibility, and use them.
Why? I wondered.

I suppose in a way a teacher is a pollster from week to week, taking a student’s temperature, if you will, assessing their trends, varying the questions depending on the answers, and delving into more queries. Polls are markers in a way, and markers can be useful.

Then I got to thinking about students and the markers we set for them. We set lesson markers, for instance. Have a lesson, make suggestions/adjustments, assign lesson material, they go off and dutifully practice- repeat.

I have many inspirational cards and magnets hanging in my studio. “It’s not what the world has to offer it’s what you bring to it”, “Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do”, a magnet of Glenda the Good Witch saying, “You’ve always had the power.” (Am I so shallow that my life philosophy can be contained on magnets? Please answer silently;)

But the thing is I believe these things and I imagine many others do too. The card and magnet designers must be making money because they keep churning out more and more. It’s just that it can be a big curve for a young student to embrace this idea of self-empowerment. It’s new. We’re used to people telling us what to do to fix us.
FIX ME!!!!

I used to love it when a student gave me credit for their breakthroughs (stroke ego, nice ego, there, there, ego) but not so much anymore. Now I find it utterly thrilling when a student owns their breakthroughs (oh, yes of course I appreciate it when a student appreciates me) but it becomes deeply meaningful when we are partners in the process. What if the balance is that the student takes the direction and applies it mindfully throughout each practice session in the week? No more, no less, obediently

sure to get an A

That’s called a good start.

Of course I’d like to work with that student. They have the makings of, well, I don’t really know yet. TBD

The curious student? The student that implements concepts, is motivated by improvements (remember, though, learning curves around elusively at times and sometimes disguises itself as setbacks and plateaus), and the student who is interested enough to want more, wonder more, ask more, read more, learn more, listen more, risk more. Now I’m not suggesting that you should only ask your teacher for answers-for heaven’s sake there is an entire world out there at your fingertips. The world knows worlds-more than any individual ever will.

A curious student might skip a flute practice session to do dedicated score study (actually a terrifically important practice session), or skip flute practice to practice sight reading (an important skill), or spend an hour linking T & G exercises to their repertoire and feel satisfaction in the double practicing that comes with finding those connections (a student connecting the dots of their education), or be a student who is willing to sound like a sack of nails in order to search for their hammer to build something in the future, or a student who is invested as deeply as I am in their learning, a student that is invested more. Thing is that the student might not always see their progress as objectively as a teacher can (or vice versa sometimes, too.) After all, you’re with yourself all day every day. You know your momentary achievements, setbacks, frustrations, accomplishments, day to days, weeklies, and you might find yourself down-talking to precious you. Teachers get to assess your progress weekly, identify trends, and take the temperature of your learning. A teacher knows what you baked for your lesson last week and what you baked for your lesson this week. They remember how it tasted last week and tastes this week. Sometimes they know you are sooooo close to winning a baking award they might quickly offer praise and then, as I say, get in the trenches with you to get to work. Maybe you feel dishonored, discouraged and think that was the very best you could do, or like there should have been more celebration (and maybe you’re right). They start nudging you onward. Take note here, please, for that nudging is an endorsement in all-things-you. You see, they hear and see the result of your curious and dedicated work and are eager to assist with the next step. That next step is enabled due to your great work throughout the week.

This is a critical moment for the student so they feel secure in their prepared work, ready to move forward with the next step and self-confident enough to take the reigns and run. I want the student to understand this coaxing and nudging and, sometimes, shoving, is designed to assist an unlocking of their next step. So, the way I teach at that moment-because I really don’t like to be the most excited person in the room all the time or have more faith in you than you do- is to point to the wall. This moment usually occurs early in the first semester (do you remember UT students?) when I point to a mid-point spot on the wall-a spot where I’ve noticed the student often feels they are in their musical journey. Then I point many inches higher and explain that high-wall spot is where I am teaching them at that exact moment in the lesson. I’m teaching the next phase in their process since they accomplished the last one (yay!), and isn’t teaching the next step in that process actively investing in their potential, their building blocks, and acknowledging their firm foundations achieved?

When the frustration, irritation or all the other -ation’s that can happen in a lesson strike, I point to these points on the wall and trace a line from their mid-wall spot up to my high-wall spot. By coaxing them upward, challenging them, one isn’t dishonoring the job done, it’s honoring the work accomplished and the progress that is yet to be. It’s my job, my responsibility, and my honor to be your weekly personal pollster and I bet most of your teachers feel the same. That urging you experience might awaken potential you may not have recognized in yourself. When we hear your improvement and see your joy we sense our polling was pretty accurate. You can then make the choice to give your teacher credit (a thank you is always a welcomed sentiment) then grab and go! Self-empower and hold that feeling as you coax yourself to your next wall spot. You are, after all, with yourself all the time and know yourself better than anyone. You sound like the perfect teacher for you☺

So, back to polls for a moment. Polls do not do their job if you’re not honest in your answers. Your teacher probably doesn’t need your life story each week, but communication and honestly assessing your weekly commitment/work ethic/practice design is incredibly useful feedback for your pollster-teacher. Otherwise our polls might be so incorrect we’ll end up with an elected official that never should have–oh never mind that now.

So, hey, let’s call it what it is from now on-not your pollster but your teacher who is guiding you from mid-wall to that high-wall line-guiding you up your own personal potential pole.

Now, 1, 2, 3-
Look up, smile, believe, and get climbing!