Last night, I had dinner with a former university student and now a dear friend. I was her teacher 15 years ago and now she is mine. She has taken what she has learned from me, tweaked it to fit her career, and has become very successful in her chosen field.
As I enter my 70th decade, I am wanting to take what I know and strongly believe, out into a wider field. What does it really mean for a teacher to be fully present to her students, to be genuinely curious? My friend was this for me: she asked me great questions, she cared, she challenged me to live into the 21st century, to join the technological world and to confront my own resistance to becoming the teacher I want to become. Our roles were reversed and it was beautiful to watch. What goes around, comes around....how very true. The student becomes the the teacher and the teacher becomes the student. what a glorious circle circle is created through openness, curiosity and love.
Today, I told a 9 year old student that based on his attitude, it was best that we stop lessons. He responded with “What does attitude mean?” Great question and I struggled with my response. What did attitude mean? Of course,
later that evening, a quote arrived through the internet........
“Your talent determines what you can do.
Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do.
Your attitude determines how well you will do it.”
This young man has talent, no doubt. His motivation ~ questionable. Attitude....here was the very description I had trouble expressing, “Your attitude determines how well you will do it.” We ended the lesson with a shift in his attitude,
a shift to “ I will do it.” Now we will explore how well.
After he left, I remembered a quote from William James,
“You can alter your life by altering your attitude”. What attitude do I want to shift?
Why, and When do We Learn?
It is very difficult not to learn. If you are present, truly present you are learning. You cannot help it. Even refusing to learn is learning. One 7 year old boy during a group piano lesson, said he did not want to learn “that” (whatever it was we were going to do). So I told him to stand, look away, and not learn the next activity. Well, you guessed it...he learned!
But when does learning take place? For me, it takes place at that precise moment when “the light dawns” and you just get it, your brain and your body are in sync with something universal, with some knowledge greater than you.
When exactly is that precise moment? Is it as we enter into confusion, that place of not knowing.? Is it when we are so utterly bewildered, we merely let go and say from our very souls, “I have no idea. I do not know.”? Or is it afterwards, as we relive the experience? To quote my young friend and colleague, Jake “.....the juice of this process is in the moments between confusion and understanding. That moment is the magic called learning.” (How can someone so young, be so wise?) That moment of not knowing, and of trusting the not knowing and the chaos which accompanies it, is called learning.
I encourage my students to celebrate not knowing, to rejoice when they are confused because they are learning. Give it a try!