My best learning experience


As a young musician of approximately 16, I recall performing a piano solo at a festival. 8-10 students were performing for a seasoned adjudicator. All of us had worked hard and were dealing with the nervous anxiety that comes with any competitive venue. I had performed, feeling pleased with my piece and sat with my peers in silent anticipation, awaiting the adjudicators’ results. Finally, he came to stand before us, speaking generally about the performances. He came to me and asked, “Did you hear that thumping when you played?” Puzzled, I pondered for a moment before answering, no. He smiled with half-closed eyes and went in for the kill. “I think it was Bach rolling over in his grave at how fast you took his Prelude.” I wished for the ground to open and swallow me whole. While a very challenging experience, it became wholly transformative in my journey as an educator. It guided me to develop a teaching pedagogy of enabling students to take risks, make mistakes and fail…without humility. Music is a class where you put yourself out there. Students must feel safe doing this if they are to progress. So while I didn’t win that festival, I sure pulled ahead in so many other ways for the students I have taught since.

LEARNING SKILLS:  All learning skills are obviously important. It’s tough to decide which is most important. I find it often depends on the way a student interacts with their environment and can be a very personal thing for each student. I do find, however, initiative tends to jump to the top of the list more often than not for my students in the world today. Music learning works as a springboard for students to try new things and take risks with their learning. I strive to make this a living skill in my classroom. We discuss it openly at each level. I remind students that it is natural to feel unsure and unable, but the best learning experiences often come from testing out new opportunities. While not a Montessori teacher myself, working in a Montessori environment has lead to me providing more choices within student activities and assignments. This allows students to move in their own direction with their curiosity. As we have been implementing more inquiry-based learning opportunities, I see this supporting student’s internal drive and desire to learn as well.

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3 Replies to “My best learning experience”

  1. Hi @cmcinnes!

    Great first post! You highlight how powerful and influential teachers can be with young students, and how a negative experience can have such a long-lasting effect. Thankfully you were able to take this experience and turn it into something positive – and something that has helped shape your teaching practice.
    You might want to connect with @wmarnie. She also talked about the importance of students being comfortable with taking risks.

    See you on Saturday!

  2. Hello @cmcinnes,
    Your experience as a musician is much richer than mine, and I do agree that your experience with criticism does not benefit the student. Music is so personal and (in my humble opinion) is meant to have an element from the musician, a personal connection of a sort, and while playing a piece the way it was written is a great and challenging skill, so is making it yours!
    An experience like this can only make you compassionate and understanding of the journey your students are taking. I can’t wait to hear more about this at the first F2F this weekend! #cohort21


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