"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


Process and Product

Which matters more, process or product?

I've been playing upright Bass this summer: for the first time, working to improve simply by playing, rather than through endless hours of drills and theory.

It's working: I can hear progress.

Been thinking about how that process can be applied to the school year. As an educator whose medium is music, the product (concerts & student music journals, mostly) tends to be a primary focus.

What if it weren't? And what if the focus on end results simply leads to what Seth Godin calls 'cul de sacs'?

Immersion in theory and preparation, for me, has sometimes meant that my tools are quite sharp, but lacking in the comfortable usefulness that only experience can bring. Merlin Mann, writing for the site 43 folders, characterizes this particular cul de sac as "tool mastery vs. productivity....– Finding and learning the right tools for your work vs solely dicking around with the options for those tools is just so important, but also so different." (Read the entire article here--heads up, though: sometimes he uses strong language--not for the faint of heart. But a great article nonetheless, with some valuable insights. )

Too much 'hands on learning' leads to lack of foundational knowledge.
Too much 'theory' and talk leads to understanding without functional skills.

Both are needed--but it's not an easy balance, is it? Not in our own learning, not in our classrooms.

I've been mostly happy with leaning towards a classroom full of active musicians, with enough music theory to enable independent progress.

Somehow, though, that's been more difficult to attain in my own learning. Pushing past the comfort zone--in music, in using technology more effectively, whatever--can heighten the desire to postpone 'shipping' in favor of 'preparing'. --Something I'm definitely continuing to work on.

How about you? Where are you, in your classroom or in your own journey of learning?

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