Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Teaching Styles

My guitar teacher insists that I am doing better than I think. I don’t know if that’s so I don’t have a nervous breakdown over a transition to a D chord (almost got that without buzzing now). I guess I quit classical guitar mostly because I went to them with a sinking feeling and drove home in tears. I was probably more sensitive to criticism then, not having had nearly as much time to fail at things. The classical guitar teacher (whose name I don’t even remember) was like a drill sergeant. The only nice thing I remember him saying about me is that I could sight-read well. Having been in the band, in high school, I guess I could.

When I taught, I didn’t grasp the concept of “good enough.” I should have. I could have taught my students something about writing instead of putting the bar at English major grad student level, which I think I did. I’d do it differently if I had it to do over again. The thing was, it was hard to find something to praise in those papers! I mean, I got reduced to saying things like, “nice use of semicolon” or something. (They didn’t get punctuation or parts of speech, and we were banned from teaching them. I did anyway, surreptitiously.)

Of course, a guitar lesson that you’re paying for because you want to play the guitar well (or well enough) is hardly the same thing as Freshman Composition. That, you’re taking because you have to if you want to graduate. Not everyone there – and I know this will come as a shock – wants to learn anything; they just want a diploma they can barter into a job offer. That makes me sad. The reason I worked was to pay for a lifestyle in which I could continue to learn things for the sake of learning them.

A cynic might suggest that any private teacher does himself a service when he praises mediocre work by making the student like him through false praise. I’m generally not cynical, sometimes to my detriment. In any case, I don’t think that’s the case with my teacher. I’ve heard about her from a friend and an uncle. I think I’m awfully demanding of students, and moreso of myself. Anyhow, that’s what I’m going to tell myself while I keep practicing at home, where I can cuss at myself freely, and sing along. I sing okay, I think, when nobody can hear me. Kaye doesn’t count as an extra person after twenty-three years. I’m pretty much the same person around her as I am by myself. Not necessarily good, just consistent.

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