Lessons in Learning: When the Students become the Teachers

by Abby @ Quaver on May 20, 2013

in At Quaver HQ

Welcome back Quaver guest blogger Jeannine Everett – violinist, chamber musician, and all around student of music!

Take it away Jeannine:


Last week I was preparing for a recital, and things weren’t going well.

The music was not beyond my reach. This did not stop me from becoming a hot mess over the whole prospect of performing it in the not-too-distant future. So I practiced, repeating the piece over and over while continuing to beat myself up with each mistake. I grumbled loudly from my room upstairs. If I only had more time, I groused.

When my head was about to explode, I took a break and went downstairs. My son was lounging on the sofa looking frustratingly calm.

“I heard you, you know,” he said.

Great, now I’ve gone from lousy musician to bad role model. I started to justify my bad attitude and whining, but he stopped me:

“Not that,” he countered, geez Mom implied by his tone. “I heard you playing. You shouldn’t worry so much. You’re very good.”

I sighed. He’s surprisingly sweet sometimes for a teenager. “I need more time to prepare, but I don’t have it.”

“You know, when I have more than one test, sometimes I actually do better on the test I study for the least.” I hoped this wasn’t going to become a justification for less study time. “When I have a lot of time, it’s like I’m over thinking, but not thinking at all at the same time . . .

. . . If I don’t have much time I just have to make it work.”

Schooled by my own son.

I could have all the time in the world, but it wouldn’t do me any good if I was rushing through, hoping to prove I could get it right.

I had to slow down, concentrate and make the time work.

Break up the piece. Find the passages that are tripping me up. Play them one note at a time. Slowly. Listen. Feel where my fingers are placed, their relationship to each other. Don’t worry about the meter. Watch. Remember. If I can’t do that, stop. Take a break. Come back when I’m able to focus again.

He stood up. “Like you always tell me, ‘It’s not the time you have, it’s what you do with it.’” So that’s why his advice made so much sense. It was mine. He’d just co-opted it. And I thought he didn’t listen.

He hugged me. His chin rested on my head. He’d grown again. At least another inch. We both let go in surprise. “Okay. That was really weird.”

It was. The role reversal was disorienting. He was the one putting ice on my boo-boo. “That’s not bad advice, you know.”

“Anytime. I’m full of it,” he replied.

“That much, I know.”

He gave me the look and I ruffled his hair. I could still see the boy in his face. Order in the universe was restored. Sort of. His room is still a disaster. We can only handle so much change at once.

Can you think of a lesson your students taught you?
How do you “make it work” with the time and resources you have at your disposal?

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