On Learning Something New

I’m a week in to learning to play the guitar.  My index and middle finger hurt and I can safely say that I pretty much suck.  But, I’m a week in.  I know I shouldn’t expect to be playing like Taylor Swift by now.  And that, in itself, is something to recognize, for both students and teachers.

I’ve observed a couple of things so far in my practice.  First, I recognize that it would probably be easier/better if I had a teacher, preferably someone who’s an expert at both playing the guitar and teaching.  I’m not getting the same kind of feedback from the app that I would get from a person.  I get no tips for finger placement or holding the guitar.  I’m getting no, “That was good. Try to keep doing it that way.”  So I’m probably a) learning slower and b) creating some not so great habits.

Second, I’ve noticed how foreign all of this is. Music is not foreign to me.  I can actually read music.  I sang in my church choir.  I played piano a little, and at one point I tried to learn to play the harmonica.  But I’ve never played a stringed instrument.  I’ve never had to tune my own instrument.  I don’t have a feel for how to move from one chord to another or even sometimes how to strum.

Someone posted to the SIGCSE mailing list reminding people of how much students have to learn in order to start learning to program.  So much of the inner workings of the computer are hidden now and we have to expose them and teach them.  Plus they’re learning a new language, new software, a new way of thinking.  It’s like approaching learning an instrument.  You have to learn how it works and its language (musical notes).  Try learning something entirely new sometime, and feel the discomfort and utter foreignness of that.  Then you’ll have a sense of how your students feel.

2 Replies to “On Learning Something New”

  1. Every time I start to learn a new language I know how the kids feel. That is one of the reasons I try something new with them every year. Keeps me humble.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! I try to learn something where I know I will be one of the slower learners every couple of years, to help me remember what it’s like to be a student who struggles – I think the watercolour painting class I took at evening classes was the most humbling of those! Most recent was crochet – feeling the frustration and failure and desire to chuck it all, the embarassment of being stupid, the sense that “the others” somehow got a magic set of instructions I never got… they really help me empathise with students, and I think that’s so valuable in becoming a better teacher…

Comments are closed.