Being a student again
Posted on March 15, 2010
Most of us think of ourselves as reasonably accomplished professionals. We take pride in our work, try to do it well, and over the years have developed a broad array of skills.
So it has been a humbling delight to start guitar lessons three weeks ago. I’ve never played an instrument, do not know how to read music, and I’m convinced that I’m swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool when it comes to any natural talent. My teacher might as well have a six-year-old in front of him in terms of what I bring to the task, but therein lies the joy for me.
It is fun trying to learn something from scratch. It is fun to be a student again. I like that the chord progressions in Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl are so hard for me to master in time (hell, hard for me to master period). It’s also a delight to work with a good teacher, to be on the receiving end of a teaching/learning moment with someone who has a gift for making confusing things clear.
There’s also satisfaction in working part of one’s brain that has perhaps had less exercise than is healthy. Time slips away, at least until my pained fingertips tell me it’s time to stop. All my guitar playing friends reassure me that callouses will eventually form and that gets better too.
I watched Lundy Lewis effortlessly playing guitar at the recent gallery show opening and I’m pretty sure I’ll never get that good, but at least for now the journey is more enjoyable than worrying about the destination.
In contrast, our students are often impatient with the process of learning, even as we urge them to love learning for its own sake.
I wonder if that is an unrealistic wish for them. I love the learning because I have no goals but those set by me. I suffer no time pressure and there is little at stake. I have no illusions about mastery providing anything more than….mastery, or in my case, basic competency. That doesn’t much describe the experience of college students and I wonder what we might do to bring to their study the joy I find in mine.