"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Learning, speed and courage

Dear J,

Today, in the middle of a jam session (ukuleles, Grade 3), one student came quietly, shyly, over to where I was tuning the ukes.

Student:   Everybody's playing all of the chords, all at once.
Me:          Yep.
Student:   It's really loud in here.
Me:          Mmm hmm.  Does it bother you?
Student:   Well... (looking down at her uke, randomly plucking a string) they're all playing all of  the chords.
Me:          Want to show me the chords?
Student:    I can play them! (Playing the chords, accurately, slowly) It's just that everyone else is going too fast. I can't
                go that fast.
Me:           Yep.  That happens to me, too.  Just keep going at your own comfortable speed. It'll get faster on its own, as
                you play.
Student:     (Calming down) Oh. OK.

A normal interaction in the world of learning music, right?  That's what I thought, too.

Until tonight.  I was struggling to understand yet another mystery of using Internet technology: looking at web-based tutorials and trying to keep up.

I can do it.  It's just too fast sometimes.  I want things to go at a pace at which I can grasp the information--don't we all?--and when it doesn't, it's completely frustrating.  Makes me want to shut down and stop trying.

Experiencing that firsthand made me realize something important about our kids: they have courage.

 Just about everything they're doing in life involves  new, or nearly new, learning experiences.  Constantly.  But they keep going--they don't shut down, and they respond quickly to help. Until it becomes overwhelming: that's where  the slow withdrawal from learning begins.

So maybe we need to think about how to make the pace of learning comfortable--challenging, but accessible--for every one of our students.  We have all kinds of systems in place for that:  good, but not enough.  Maybe we need to change the very structure and expectations set for our school days.

No answers, just thinking about how to nourish that courage to learn.  For all of us.

more, later.

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