As a teacher, patience is key. The longest period of time I have ever waited for a student to work something out is 8 minutes and 37 seconds. I say this to my students regularly to explain to them that it does not matter how long it takes to complete a task, but the fact that it was completed means that it will take less time next time.
The learner who took this length of time was a male adult who had a plethora of negative self-defeating thought patterns. I do not believe in tasks being subjectively easy or difficult and try to maintain objectivity by seeing tasks as activities requiring more or less effort; I try to instil this mindset in my students, some more receptive to it than others.
No one can learn for the student; I wish that I could wave a wand and give my students all the knowledge and skill I have gained over my brief existence. Alas, I cannot; but I can give them the tools to work it out on their own. The foremost skill that every person should aim to acquire is patience; the ability to wait.
This particular learner sat in silence, motionless, exchanging glances from the sheet of music in front of them, to the keyboard, then back up again to the piece of sheet music, then again to the keyboard. I sat waiting on baited breath, watching their face contort with all manner of expressions as they gallantly worked out the problem before them.
Learning takes time; simply put, the smartest, most skilful and intelligent of people have an inherent ability to wait because they understand that anything worth doing will take time, effort and energy to complete. It is a reason why children inherently are impatient; a child does not yet understand the scope of time and longevity. To them, now is all that exists, and the idea of waiting longer than a few instances feels like an eternity.
To a newcomer to our plane of reality, there is so much to do that the idea of sticking to one task for any length of time would be unappealing, particularly if that task requires any effort, time or energy. Any person who is willing to sit and ‘work it out’ should immediately be applauded because it goes against our natural instincts; them being to avoid expending energy, increasing a perceived needless effort or wasting time.
All that said, despite our own tendencies towards rushing, no person actually likes to be rushed; in fact, I would say that the pressure generated from external influences would more than likely result in whatever task being pursued completed with less than favourable results. The problem here is that by the tendency to rush being now externalised, the control has been shifted also to external input. The person carrying out the task is now subjugated to another person’s will, and by extension, the task is no longer their own.
The pressures created by rushing, or rushing another person leads them to guess and make assumptions, which more than likely will lead to incorrect results; furthermore, if the result actually was correct from guessing or assuming, rhetorically, how would one replicate the outcome later? They would eventually need to go back and work it out for more precise results.
Thinking is slow; remembering is fast. An analogy I use with my students to explain the process of learning is of that of drilling a tunnel:
“The first person to drill a tunnel through a mountain would have to expend considerable effort to drill through the rock. It might take them a few months, even years, to make a safe passage through to the other side. However, once the path has been made, they, and others, will freely be able to traverse the path through the tunnel in just a few moments.”
Using the subjective terms ‘easy’ and ‘hard’, it's always hard at first, but easier once we tried it. The first time, we must accept that it will take increased effort, time and energy, however the next, and each successive time will use less effort, time and energy as the brain makes the connections needed to facilitate access to the information or skill. Rushing this process does little more than add pressure and diminish confidence.
Every time a person learns something new, this is the process within the brain. Not literally, but analogically regarding connections to and from information. Rushing this process means the student will never thoroughly learn, or worse, develop an inefficient or ill-effective methodology for learning new information or skills; the long-term effect resulting in a diminished skillset with a self-defeating handicap.
In short, we should never rush a student or reward a student who rushes a task; being first in a task that is not inherently a race is a redundant exercise.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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