There is a curious paradox in teaching. Occasionally, through some magical collaboration between myself and student – perhaps we’re tackling a technical problem, or I’m trying to discover why perhaps note reading is difficult for them – I discover a new trick or technique to the learning process. (Last week I began experimenting with having a student set up in C position, close their eye and I play notes and they have to name the note I’m playing by feeling which finger is moving, as one example of a “trick”). These discoveries are always born from a special need or set of circumstances that are so unique only to that day, that student and that lesson – to that moment.
The paradox is this. What do we then try to do? The next lesson, we try to apply that new teaching trick generically to a different student, as if it was that trick its self that was magical. It wasn’t. It is the process of discovery on the part of the teacher in working with that one student, on that one day, in that moment. In being open to a specific student’s unique needs. It’s teaching in the moment.
Sounds kind of Zen but I do find my best lessons are those when I begin at zero. What does this mean? To me, it means several things…
- I do not premeditate any lesson plans, and on the rare occasion I do, I’m willing to ditch them in a heartbeat if I sense something better may happen, or if the student arrives with a better plan.
- I do not prescribe before I diagnose. A thorough process of diagnosis ALWAYS brings the solution at the same time, all in one process.
- I try to put trust in my past cumulative experiences, and that if a particular skill-set is needed, it will be there for me. I have to put trust in my own knowledge and LET it come out if and when needed.
- I try to use my intuitive “right-brained” intelligence to feel what a student needs the second they walk in the door. A student needs to be emotionally ready to handle the material, not just mentally.
- As we progress through the lesson, I try to disconnect from any of my own emotional attachments to the outcome. It is about carefully following the needs of the student and what’s best for them in the long run. I can force them through a difficult example but is this really learning?
- I try to detach from the idea of a “good” lesson or “bad” lesson.
- I constantly put myself in my student’s shoes. “Would I understand this if I was in their position?” “Am I connecting with them in a way that is engaging and meaningful?” “Am I involving them in the learning and teaching process?”
It’s like I’m always pushing “reset” – rebooting the system, re-centering and bringing things back to nothing – to ZERO.