Lately, my piano students have been running into the inevitable struggles of grasping a new concept. They’ve gotten past the point of learning the early basics of pitch and navigating the keyboard and are getting into things like scales, rhythms beyond half and quarter notes/ rests, and, the fun part of putting left-hand accompaniment together with right-hand melody.
Often one of them will gripe, “this is really hard!” when they try something new to them for the first time.
Usually, I find myself echoing a sentiment that one of my former teachers used to say A LOT.
“It’s only hard while we’re learning it.”
(Of course, the next lesson, these wonderful students will usually have the concept or exercise nearly mastered or on their way to doing so the next week. It’s amazing what practice does!) At that point it’s not so difficult- at least compared to when they were practicing, to accomplish the skill.
At our last lesson, to prove this when one student echoed that statement, I showed her the music at the front of the book she is working out of and asked her to play it.
After a flawless performance of “Ode To Joy”, I asked her, now was that so hard?
Student: No. That was really easy!” she replied.
Me: Well then, why do you think that was?
Student: Well, Miss Sam, I knew all of the notes and worked on this before (Back in March).
Me: that is a good answer.! Remember this the next time you are practicing and can’t seem to get it right away. … It’s only hard while you’re learning it.
Now, I don’t consider myself a master teacher by any means, but this piece of advice is a practical reminder for almost anything new that you learn in life. In fact, I think that teaching is something that can be hard at times, particularly as I am learning through experience and research how best to convey concepts that I know, to my students. Sometimes it doesn’t click after a few tries and mild frustration with myself (that I work to not show during the lesson) occurs. Why Can’t I figure out how to phrase it so that my student understands!?!?
But then I remember- It’s only Hard while you’re learning it. Teaching is a skill, just like playing the piano or composing.
When I was learning to drive, I did not find it terribly easy. Some crazy person let me operate this heavy motorized piece of machinery that, if I made the wrong move, I could easily be responsible for manslaughter. Additionally, my depth perception is not the greatest due to a mild case of strabismus, so learning how to safely operate the thing on the road was not only extremely nerve-racking but a bit more of a challenge than it might be with most people. It’s not only gas means go, break means stop, and keep your hands on the wheel. It’s learning road rules, figuring out how to control the rate of acceleration and stopping speed, how the vehicle responds to turning to avoid flipping over at higher speeds, and navigating this with my visual disability (which by the way, does not make it unsafe to drive, though, on days where I am tired so my eyes don’t work together as well, I try to find a ride just to be extra safe.) Also, I tend to leave a bit more space between me and the cars in front of me than might be necessary- while going the speed limit of course- just to be extra safe. After a while though, I stopped hitting Mailboxes and cones so, it’s all good!
Heck, these days, I find the actual act of driving pretty easy, even with the strabismus, but the act of navigating is still a bit of a challenge. Guess I’m still learning!
That being said, when you face a new challenge, and you haven’t quite figured out how to master it after many tries, remember…It’s only hard while you’re learning it!