"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


Navigating into the new

Yesterday, I became frustrated while trying to figure out how to use Tweetdeck.

Computers are still pretty new territory for me. I'm confident enough to be willing to try new things, but when what I'm trying to do hits a standstill, it's enough to make me shut down for awhile, and want to stop trying altogether.

In this instance, a friend calmly walked me through the steps to figure out how to overcome the roadblock.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized two things:

1. There's actually an underlying sequence of steps, a way to approach the challenge, which sorts out the confusion and leads to possible solutions.

2. I can learn that approach.

How empowering is that?

It occurred to me later that this is what I need to give to my students, for whom playing music is somewhat new territory, as computers are for me.

I can help them towards autonomy by giving them not only knowledge specifics, but--more importantly--the framework within which to approach learning. A rubric, a set of steps, to help them evaluate for themselves how their performance is and how to make it better.

So, for instance, lately I've been setting a set of questions before the kids, to help them think through their playing, and discussing the answers afterwards.

Me: OK, Kindergarten Musicians. Here's what we're listening for:
Did you start singing together?
Did you end together?
Did you stay at the same tempo in the middle?
Were your words clear? Did you need a grownup to help you?
Did you like what you heard?

My friend gave me not just the specific 'fix' for yesterday's quandary, but a tool with which to approach new situations with confidence, on my own.

I'm hoping to give my students not approval or compliments, but the tools with which to assess and approach new music with confidence, with autonomy.

Pretty exciting stuff. (and thanks, to my friend who had the patience to help me over the hurdle...)

*If you, like me, are still a neophyte with computers, you might want to take a look at this helpful little tool: www.dudecraft.com/2009/08/tech-support-cheat-sheet.html

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