Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Learning is a Mystery

I really wanted to entitle this entry "I Don't Believe In Learning," but thought that would make everyone hot under the collar.

And it's not true.  But ... it's kind of true.  I teach.  Four days a week, minimum, I do it.  Recently, I have been despairing that no matter what I do, no matter what they do, nobody can ever get better. 

BUT.  They do.  I do.  I mean, I'm better now that I was a year ago.  And so are they. 

But you NEVER see it happening!  I can practice double tonguing until the cows come home, but I don't get better. But then, two weeks later, I'm better.  And I can work with sight reading with my students week after week after depressing week, and they never learn anything.  But then, a month later, they do it better. 

How is this possible?  It's like... I have no idea, actually.  Sometimes I wonder if it's just time passing.  That time itself makes it happen. 

And I know I know I know that's not true.  How is it that I can hold both thoughts in my head simultaneously?  I get some kid coming in, worried because she has a concert on SATURDAY and she needs to learn this one solo in that piece NOW!  And I mentally shake my head. 

My brain whispers, "Dude.  There's no way.  It doesn't work like that.  If you don't know it now, nothing will get it learned by Saturday.  For.Get. It."  Yet I work with the student.  They figure out rhythms.  Fingerings.  Slurs and breaths.  Dynamics.  And then on Saturday night, I get a text "HEY K8! IT WAS AMAZING! YAAAAY!"
(They like all-caps.)

I guess they did learn something.  But  I didn't see it happen. 


Steven Knoerr said...

They say that babies sleep so much because their brains need to compile all this new data they are receiving in the form of visual, audio, and tactile stimulation. They're learning depth perception, up and down, who is who, and all the other things we take for granted. But the learning has to happen while the babies sleep, which means it's invisible to anyone watching.

Maybe the same thing has to happen with your students. Perhaps you go through the teaching, but then it takes a while for their minds to assimilate the knowledge in such a way that they improve.

Or, possibly, it could be aliens. said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head. I often have to remind myself that I somehow learned everything I know so far. I certainly wasn't born reading or driving or coaxing a needle into a vein, but I am crippled with anxiety about going back to work because virtually every job will require me to LEARN (or re-learn) how to do something. And yet logically I know I CAN learn things. Thanks for a well-timed post!

Sanstrousers said...

I've been trying to work with my 6 y/o on ordinal numbers, and she just didn't get it. It was like the info seeped out through her ears at night. Then one day, she just started pointing at stuff and saying what order they were in. Magical!