Are you standing in for their imagination?

Posted by: keyboardklutz

Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 07:28 AM

I haven't had a lesson for years but I remember during that time realizing that many of the instructions my teacher gave me were actually practice suggestions that I could have come up with myself. Either she hadn't credited me with the imagination to come up with my own solutions or only saw it 'her way'. It was a while before I realized these examples were not important points of pedagogy but individual solutions out of many possibilities. This confused the problem with the solution - causing the student to mistake the pointing finger for the moon itself.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 07:39 AM

Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I haven't had a lesson for years but I remember during that time realizing that many of the instructions my teacher gave me were actually practice suggestions that I could have come up with myself. Either she hadn't credited me with the imagination to come up with my own solutions or only saw it 'her way'. It was a while before I realized these examples were not important points of pedagogy but individual solutions out of many possibilities. This confused the problem with the solution - causing the student to mistake the pointing finger for the moon itself.


'could have' or actually 'had'? It's all too easy to think you could have figured something our for yourself, once you already know it. The thing about practise methods is that a number of them are pretty universally useful. Above all, practise is something that usually needs to be taught, as it rarely falls into place.

There a certainly not many new students who have a good answer, when I ask them how they will practise. Students need to learn a number of approaches that are universal, before they can start using their own minds to find other ways. To claim that a teacher who simply does their job by trying to convey something so important can only see it their way, is really stretching the limits. Leaving a student to find their own way often means finding an inferior way. That's why we learn from teachers. Do you think that Einstein would have got so far, had he been left to deduce every single basic premise of science for himself? Some things are best learned and understood, in order for you to pave your own way. Especially as most of us are not Einsteins (or their musical equivalents).

That's not to say we should never question anything, but progress is most easily furthered when we expand upon foundations of what others have already discovered.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:12 AM

***Still ignoring this geeza's posts***
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:25 AM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Leaving a student to find their own way often means finding an inferior way. That's why we learn from teachers.


Don't you agree that everyone learns in their own way though? I don't believe that one method of teaching is going to work for every student, that includes practicing.

I ask every student how they do things to get a sense of the way they work. Then I will tweek their method if I think it needs tweeking. After I know what works best for them, I write on their sheets how they should do it. Some kids like to "stop by" the piano for a scale here and there. Other kids like to sit down and not leave the piano until they have played everything twice. I will not tell a kid one way is better than the other. As long as they are practicing and they are making satisfactory progress, I'm happy.

This reminds me of a sewing class I had in high school. I had been sewing for years when I took this class and I knew an easier way to attach an inset sleeve. I got a D on that project because I didn't do it the way she told us to. My sleeve took half the time, and it was attached. She was trying to get us to do it her way, and I got marked down for not following her directions. Instead of her seeing what I did, and that it worked for the shirt and me, she simply knew that I didn't do what she told me to do. What is the difference as long as it works?
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Ebony and Ivory

This reminds me of a sewing class I had in high school. I had been sewing for years when I took this class and I knew an easier way to attach an inset sleeve.
Same thing happened to me in Maths. I came up with a way to do some sort of quadratic equation in a fifth of the time. It involved a tiny guess (which was easily got right) as to higher or lower. The teacher didn't understand why it worked and asked me to teach it to the class. They couldn't get their heads round the idea that you had to make a guess to ultimately reach the solution. It was really unfortunate the teacher couldn't explain why it worked, it certainly wasn't in the text book.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:41 AM

Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
***Still ignoring this geeza's posts***


Replying to a post to say that you are 'ignoring' it is also still a contradiction.
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:42 AM

ha ha my son does that too. I can't for the life of me understand what the heck he is doing, but it works for him shocked Did you have the problem of getting it marked wrong when you had to "show your work"? I have emailed a couple teachers about that. I think they worry that you're cheating or something.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:44 AM

Every time we impart knowledge of any kind, there is a subtext attached: "you are too stupid to have figured this out yourself."

However, the effect of this connotation is normally so small that it there is usually no detectable effect.

And indeed, the efficiency gained by getting the correct information the first time usually outweighs the harm, at least to beginners.

When I was in engineering school, they forcefed me the fundamentals of thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer. Could I have derived all those concepts on my own? Well, possibly. The scientists who came up with them originally did so without the benefit of university education, computers, or even calculus class. Trouble is, if you made us do the same, most would fail and none graduate in four years! Yet we become pretty good engineers without it.

As a student advances in any field, there is a gradual weaning from reliance on the teacher's authority and expertise to independence. Perhaps you would have preferred that your weaning start earlier, but the average student does not. So I think you are overreacting.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:46 AM

There's nothing wrong with it, if it works. But how many students stumble across methods that actually work as consistently as some of those that the best teachers can provide them with?

In any case, most people would say that professional golfers have swings that 'work' pretty darn effectively. However, many still seek improvement from coaches. So, who's to say that a student couldn't be doing far better still? Perhaps even those who do reasonably well are taking a rather long way around? The best practise methods are simply a great deal more efficient than the methods that students might come up with unaided- which 95% of the time means simply playing through the piece (generally without even stopping to correct errors- or even then it likely involves merely moving to the correct note and continuing without putting that note into the context of the movements).
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 08:50 AM

Time to trot out my favorite Ted video:

Ken Robinson on Education and Creativity

laugh
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 10:44 AM

I agree with Ny's comments (not about to try typing your whole name, sorry :D). The whole point of lessons is to teach students *ways* of thinking of creative solutions. Sometimes they are not the same, and are tailored to fit the exact problem the student is having on that exact piece. Eventually, the student can come up with ideas on their own, and I will ask them, how do they think they could practice these measures to make them easier to play? Usually the students can arrive at some ideas of their own, sometimes ones that I never would have thought of.

kbk, the fact that you were at the point where your teacher was telling you to do things that you already knew to do yourself speaks of the success of your teacher(s). I still take lessons to help motivate me and so that I can have someone listening to me play and point out nuances that I need to work on. Every once in a while I'll encounter a technical problem that I'm having trouble solving on my own and will ask her for advice. Sometimes she won't say anything that I haven't heard of or done before, but I may have forgotten it's use in this situation, or not though to apply it. It doens't mean I can't think for myself or that I'm wasting my money and time, but there are times when we get so wrapped up in the problem we have a hard time stepping back form it and thinking about it clearly. Sometimes there's this emotional fear of a passage that seeps in when you realize just how hard it is to play, and a word form the "outside" can help you get through this.

Perhaps it was time for you to discontinue lessons at that point, and I don't doubt it was the right thing for you. However, that doesn't mean we should leave students to their own devices when it comes to practicing and assuming they're thinking of creative ways to overcome an issue. Sometimes, they need that reinforcement and encouragement to know that it *can* be done.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 11:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene

Perhaps it was time for you to discontinue lessons at that point, and I don't doubt it was the right thing for you.
That time is when you are about to argue.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 11:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene

Every once in a while I'll encounter a technical problem that I'm having trouble solving on my own and will ask her for advice. Sometimes she won't say anything that I haven't heard of or done before, but I may have forgotten it's use in this situation, or not though to apply it.


I have a particularly vivid memory of an incident in a lesson.

I had carefully worked out a fingering myself. It may have been one of the first times I'd had no help from an editor. It mostly worked, except for one awkward spot.

My teacher watched, then burst out laughing. Then she said, "why don't you try it like this?" She leaned over and played that measure. (she didn't play much for me, she wasn't in good physical health) It was so blindingly obvious I couldn't stop laughing either.

I don't know why that memory has stuck over the years since, but it has. I might not have appreciated the correctness of the solution had I not struggled myself first.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Are you standing in for their imagination? - 08/20/09 12:05 PM

Right, I certainly don't advocate not letting the student have some free reign and trying out things for themselves. Eventually, they will have to do this on their own someday. Many times students will choose to ignore editor's fingerings, and I'm OK with that, as long as it works for them and is efficient enough so that when they get it up to tempo it will continue to work. Letting them find these things out on their own, that something doens't work, is a part of the training process as well, then you step in with a suggestion.