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Learning is the process by which we expand our understanding
and ability. It is a life-enhancing process - one that is
pleasurable and entirely beneficial.
To learn about something is to increase one's understanding
of that thing. To learn a new skill is to add to one's range
Learning opens doors, widens horizons, adds colour to our
experience, makes life more interesting.
In short - LEARNING IS FUN!
It may seem odd then that in the mind of many individuals,
the idea of learning has quite negative associations. This
springs from two main sources: Parenting and Schooling.
The word 'learn' is often used in anger and frustration
"When will you ever learn / Why can't you learn / You'd
better start learning...
... to behave/ to do as you're told/ to be sensible/ to
sit still/ to be quiet"
...etc. etc. This introduces, from an early age, the idea
that learning has an element of duress attached to it.
When your child comes home from school complaining of boredom
- it is not learning that has bored him - remember: "Learning
opens doors, widens horizons, adds colour to our experience,
makes life more interesting." Rather it is a lack of
learning brought about by the less than ideal conditions that
modern education systems attempt to operate under.
Although improvements are continually being made to education
there remains the basic set of problems that spring from the
financial and logistical restraints placed upon schools where
typically, one teacher is charged with the task of causing
learning to occur in as many as 30 children simultaneously,
often in subjects they have little or no natural interest
Unfortunately it gets worse. The whole subject of teaching
gets mixed in with the subject of control and, where teachers
feel particularly vulnerable, outright subjugation.
Thus what the student experiences as education is often
a far cry from something that is ".. a life-enhancing process
- one that is pleasurable and entirely beneficial."
But no matter how horrific or boring a time you had of it
at school - it is vital to recognize that "learning" was not
the cause of the pain or the boredom. Other things done in
the name of learning caused that.
As adults we generally apply ourselves to learning something
new as a means to an end: Improving our computer skills to
better our chances of promotion, learning the basics of a
new language so that we can better enjoy our holiday abroad or just
revising the laws of compound interest so that we can understand
why our credit card costs us so much!
We send our children off to school however, often without
the faintest notion of why they should study. At best they
are given a broad general admonition along the lines of:
"You had better work hard at school or you will
end up having to do something nasty for a living!"
So many schoolchildren have little or no real motivation
of their own to engage in learning - at least not at school.
Outside school they may show a surprising level of concentration,
perseverance, and application as they spend hours patiently
mastering the latest skateboarding trick or putting up a collage
of magazine clippings about their favourite football team,
pop idol, movie star or whatever.
Why is any of this of importance to the guitar teacher?
Well, it is vital to realize that 'learning' is the word
that best describes the line of work you are in! Your students
will be very happy to continue to financially support you
as long as 'learning' occurs as a result of your efforts.
And the first thing to know about learning is that it is
fun! That it is enjoyable! That it is positive.
So if the student sitting in front of you is shaking with
fear, slipping into a coma, or showing any signs of distress
whatsoever - then you can be certain that learning is not
occurring at that point.
What is happening is that your actions, or maybe just their
finding themselves in a 'school-like' situation, has caused
the student to be reminded of all the abuse suffered in their
past at the hands of those charged with the task of educating
This is why you will see grown men tremble at the knees
when they arrive at their first lesson - it's not you
that's putting the fear of God into them, but a half-forgotten
memory of being humiliated by some half-wit teacher who knew
of no better way to keep control of the class.
Some practical advice based on the above:
- Be prepared to be very gentle with people during their
first lesson especially.
- Never underestimate the level of anxiety that the student
may be experiencing.
- Don't fall into the trap of thinking that this is because
they are poor learners.
- If the student shows signs of distress during the lesson
it is never because of learning.
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