October 15, 2015

No-Judgement Zone

So....I have seen many students this week, but this post is about two of them, both of whom are students at public schools that have pretty amazing orchestra programs.

While these two young people are very different, their similarity is that both of them are now plagued by upcoming "seating auditions" that are called "playing tests".    In these two lessons, I found both of these students talking down on themselves.

On Wednesday, I was able to tell a student to simply focus on practicing, taking the advice of his teacher, and being unattached to the outcome.  

On Thursday, however, I found myself confronted with the issues of self-esteem that really do plague students who are in high-level, competitive environments.    Here's how it went down:
Teacher: Why did you stop?
Student: Because it sounded really bad.|
Teacher: Okay - first, it didn't sound bad, you simply made a mistake. Second. Do you watch television? Do you see commercials and advertisements?
Student: Yes.
Teacher: So you've seen the ads for Planet Fitness, right?
Student (starting to laugh): Yes.
*Teacher goes to the dry erase board, picks up the pen, and starts writing*
Teacher: Like Planet Fitness, this is a JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE! Stop judging yourself!
*student laughs*

Interestingly enough, these encounters with students have reminded me of a time at Rice University when, after playing the Fourth Sonata of Eugene Ysaye (at that time, the most difficult piece I had played in my life) in a lesson, my teacher made my lay down on the floor.

Teacher:   "Well, you got through it..."

Me:   "Yeah, and it sounded like CRAP!"

Teacher:   "No, it didn't sound like CRAP.   Breathe a little and then we'll get to work."

Teaching, while a noble profession, is also a HEALING profession (at least for me).  How many years during high school did I hear that I have to practice hours and hours because of people in another city?   How many years of hearing the competitive rhetoric did I experience, which shaped me years ago yet led to (as may of us have experienced yet refuse to acknowledge) a warped sense of self-esteem?    

It's about the work.   It's about the day to day that we do.   THAT's what we have to impart as educators, and maybe that is what we as educators need to remember....the results are secondary, yet they come from the day-to-day focused attention to the craft....

More soon,
Sam

1 comment:

kimberlee dray said...

I like your blog and resonate in perfect harmony with the issue you raise here. Playing the violin is tough enough already without the competitive aspect complicating it.