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Posts tagged "teaching"
My wife saved me this New Yorker piece by pianist Jeremy Denk on his history of studying the piano, and his relationships with his teachers and students. It’s a fascinating (and paywalled) read.
He recalls being in school with a dozen teachers telling him a dozen different things (Padgett Powell: “What is one doing in a classroom finally but peddling his biases?”) and how he “slipped into the dangerous state of craving a guru, someone who would tie it all together.” When he found this guru, his “idea of music merged with the idea of him.”
On the complicated exchange between teacher and student:
When you give ideas to students, they tend to either ignore them or to exaggerate them. The first is distilled futility, but the second is grotesque: there is the student, trying to be you with all his youthful might. You look on with horror at this knockoff, this puppet—yourself to the nth degree as interpreted by someone who doesn’t know all the other parts of you. Then a thought occurs: what if this really is you, and that only through the imitation of this struggling student do you see what you’re really about.
He goes on to explain “how much teaching resembles therapy,” with the teacher simultaneously “destroying complacency without destroying confidence,” and how, in the end, the student must separate from teacher because “the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”
“Practicing…is not just repetition but concentrating and burning every detail into your nervous system.” […] Learning to play the piano is learning to reason with your muscles. […] You don’t teach piano playing at lessons; you teach how to practice—the daily rite of discovery that is how learning really happens.
cf. Robert Irwin, in Seeing Is Forgetting The Name of the Thing One Sees:
All the time my ideal of teaching has been to argue with people on behalf of the idea that they are responsible for their own activities, that they are really, in a sense, the question, that ultimately they _are_what it is they have to contribute. The most critical part of that is for them to begin developing the ability to assign their own tasks and make their own criticism in direct relation to their own needs and not in light of some abstract criteria. Because once you learn how to make your own assignments instead of relying on someone else, then you have learned the only thing you really need to get out of school, that is, you’ve learned how to learn. You’ve become your own teacher.
The writer Elizabeth McCracken sent me this charming video of Alasdair Gray talking about his writing and art (“The writing helped the painting and the painting helped the writing.”). I particularly loved his response to the ever-worn-out question, “Can writing be taught?”
Of course! I couldn’t write before I was was taught! That’s why they give it to you in primary schools. Writing and speaking are things that have to be learned first. Some people at a certain stage think that they don’t have to learn any more. If you’re very interested in words then you try to keep on learning more. And the best way, of course, is by reading other writers. Good ones! Or even bad ones are better than none to begin with.
Filed under: writing