Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chemistry Problems

Believe it or not, I was good at high school chemistry. I would go so far as to say that I LIKED high school chemistry. The mathematical and physical connectivity of valences and formulas was intriguing to me. Certain molecules produced exciting results when mixed with other molecules. Other chemicals just couldn't talk to each other, thanks to electrical charges or lack of receptivity. Those experiments turned out to be "duds".

When piano teachers talk about chemistry problems, we are talking about something entirely different. We are talking about the inability to connect with a student in a way that sets off positive electrical charges that encourage receptivity.

We all know what this is like. We have our share of stories of "difficult" students. Yet I find that they are the students that we'd rather not admit to when we gather to share experiences. Maybe we would rather think about them as "duds".

When I was a young teacher, I felt like a failure when I couldn't connect with a student, especially if that student showed something I regarded as talent. I would get frustrated in a lesson, impatient with the lack of progress, and yet somehow unwilling to let go of the student.
Maybe next week, he would come around. Maybe next week she would hear my wise advice and follow it.

Now I know that some molecules just don't mesh with other molecules, splendid as they both may be on their own. Looking at the larger picture, I remind myself that I am not the "perfect" molecule either. Maybe I am the "difficult" teacher for some students. Maybe - unthinkable as it may be - the student will do better with someone else!

If I've done what I can to adjust to personalities, learning styles and goals, and the experiment isn't working, it probably will never work. This is why I have piano teacher friends who are not clones of me. This is why we can confidently recommend students to each other when the chemistry problems arise.

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