Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And the Teacher becomes the Student...

As a piano teacher, I've had a handful of adult students and have often been frustrated by my teaching capabilities with adults.  Many times the students last less than 6 months and frustration seems to be the main reason (or it really could be me, they just don't tell me!). 

Well today I got a taste of what it must be like to be an adult piano student. I met with a friend, who is a swim instructor, for a swim lesson.  Right off the bat we started working on drills to improve my freestyle kick.  I struggled.  All of a sudden I was hit by a wall of embarrassment, frustration, and discouragement. It was difficult to keep going.  I'm an intellectual person, have a college degree, not afraid of the water, have "swam" for 30 years now....and couldn't get my kick, stroke and breath coordinated correctly.  It was the great battle of knowledge vs. ability.  I understood what she was explaining, it made sense, I knew what to do but now it was teaching my body to respond in that way, and that was frustrating. There was actually a moment in there when I really wanted to just slink away out of the pool and hope she wouldn't notice.
But I kept going. 45 minutes later I had a better understanding of not only breath sequencing for freestyle, but also the rhythm for breast stroke.  It will take many hours of practice, but I think I might get it.

How can this apply to adults learning piano.  Once again its the struggle of knowledge vs. ability.  Adults are intelligent, logical beings that understand the words written in the book, the words coming out of the teachers' mouths, but now have to teach their fingers, hands, wrists and arms to respond correctly.  Wow. That's an undertaking, and one that will be laced with feelings of inadequacy, frustration, embarrassment and discouragement.  I hope that I can learn how to empathize with future adult students and help them work through those emotions and fears to experience success like my swim instructor did for me today.

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