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August 11, 2010

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My son got a ukulele on Monday. It's all he's done all week! He's taken guitar lessons for two years, so he just looked up the chords for the uke and started playing. He's actually considering going to an open mic night. And I'd say he's similar to you in that he does not like to do stuff in front of other people if he feels like he's "not good enough". But, we put him in rock camp this summer and he loved it, even though he knew he wasn't as good as some other people. So keep pushing--have fun!

I think there's real value for teachers in doing stuff that's new and hard for us. It reminds us of what it feels like to struggle with learning something. I, at least, need to be reminded of that sometimes. (/hangs head)

...they offer ukulele lessons?

Shoot. And here I've just been learning from the Internet for the last six months!

This is my new baby I got yesterday who is much more expensive (being solid wood) than my old baby (who is solid wood with a plastic back) but I love them both the same!

WN, I just love you. (Not in a weird internet-stalking way though.) Sometimes it's true that you get what you need. I've been struggling struggling struggling with this article I'm writing. It is NOT going well. It is not even close to well-written. And when I think back to other academic things I've written, well, my track record pretty much sucks. My dissertation and my other article are really sucky. Not just self-effacingly sucky, but really honest-to-God sucky. And so I've been thinking I'm just not very good at writing academic articles and we all know how that turns into a terrible procrastination and self-hating cycle that leads to an even suckier article. But today as I was trying to ease into working (or procrastinating, take your pick), I came upon your post. Yes, I must be sucky. I'll get better. It takes practice. It's my second official article ever. It's not like writing a paper in a class where the audience is easier to assess. (I also had grad school professors who were happy to see me do creative projects instead of articles.) I can be sucky. It does not mean I'm a bad person or a fraud as an academic. It's okay. You can be sucky too. Thanks so much. It's so hard that I'm the kind of person who wants to cover up all my faults, let no one see my suckiness. But I'm human, and there are things I suck at. I feel better.

LOVE the faculty folk band! Fabulous, indeed!

I had a similar unpleasant epiphany about myself learning to cook and bake--I used to get so angry at myself when I would make mistakes and end up with something inedible, like it was a personal failing instead of part of the learning process. I still get panicky and semi-paralyzed when I have to do something I'm not good at--like following directions to go somewhere I've been before--and it's one of the traits of mine that I'm most anxious to avoid passing onto my kids. I've read about the "growth mindset" too and find it very inspiring. It's part of the reason I am determined to keep submitting poems for publication even though I've gotten rejections so far--I'm growing and learning, not remaining stagnant, and that (should) make te rejections worthwhile.

I'd second what Bardiac said - trying to learn something hard, something that doesn't come easily or feel natural, and remembering what it feels like to be the dumb one, the struggling one, in a class makes you a better, more empathetic teacher.

And a brave person! Well done... it's hard to master a new skill, or even tackle the beginners slopes of a new skill, and it takes courage to try.

I am an instrumental music teacher.
And I have about three students a year who, like you, want to be perfect (and want to give up when they are not).

My goal as a teacher is to change their thinking from "Good Musicians Do Not Make Mistakes" to something more along the lines of "The BEST Musicians Make Mistakes!"

And then we practice making Great Big Mistakes.

Of course, this leads to silly moments (playing the violin upside down and backwards!) But after we've worked out the sillies I tell them to play the piece all the way through WITHOUT STOPPING and just count the mistakes. Then I have them play it again and challenge them to make more (but subtle) mistakes. And then we do it a third time, with the challenge of making even more mistakes (once again, as subtly as possible).

Usually a kid's anxiety over perfectionism will decrease - partly because they are focusing on trying to make mistakes, and partly due to the absurdity of a teaching telling them to mess up. And many times, as their anxiety goes down, the original mistakes (which were so frustrating minutes before) are completely fixed. And even if the original mistake stays for a while, at least the kid is getting far more valuable practice in making mistakes without being overwhelmed by frustration (and maybe even feeling joyful about it!)

I heartily encourage you in The Suck More Plan (and can even endorse it as an Official Pedagogical Strategy)


I've decided that the two-paragraph comment that I wanted to leave is actually a blog post - isn't everyone glad about that? However, I do want to say that I so appreciate you and your struggles and the engaging way that you write about them. You make me feel more human.

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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