James: “D is a Troublemaker”, Part 2

Remember the story of James and Jake? They haven’t had a lesson for the past few weeks because of illness and snow days, but today I saw James for the first time since their “D is a Troublemaker” class. Here is the result.

James’ last assignment had been the first four notes of “When the Saints Go Marching In”. Those notes repeat three times with a specific rhythm, and since we had been struggling so much in class with note identification, I had only given him and Jake this small new exercise, and also asked them to review several old pieces. I was a little nervous, very curious, and still hopeful when James entered the studio and sat down for his lesson this morning.

He proceeded to play the entire “Saints” song confidently. It was carefully slow, but I was floored with the change in his playing and the fact that he had completed the song! His mom informed me that she had been out of town all week on a business trip, so his practice had been entirely self-directed. I pulled out the flash-cards again to test his note recognition; he missed two the first time, and only one the second time. He recognized D as “the troublemaker”, but when he puzzled over B, he dubbed it also “a troublemaker”, then identified it properly the next time he saw it.

At the end of the lesson, I had planned on waiting until next week to begin a new song, but James turned to another piece in the book and asked if he could try playing it as his assignment! He began sight-reading the music, made a few mistakes the first time, corrected himself, and played it more accurately the second time. He hesitated once when he realized he didn’t remember a note (a moment of brain freeze) but when I reassured him that he had his finger on the right fret, he continued to the end without any more assistance.

James gave me the confirmation I needed that trusting the child to help him/herself learn in whatever way is best for them is better than the teacher (me) forcing them to conform to the way the teacher wants them to learn. Before the child can use a new concept correctly, they need to play with the concept so it can have a place in the child’s own personal world first.

*Children’s names have been changed.

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One Response to James: “D is a Troublemaker”, Part 2

  1. Kevin Taylor says:

    “Before the child can use a new concept correctly, they need to play with the concept so it can have a place in the child’s own personal world first.”

    That is profound.

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