Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lightbulb Moments

This tidbit popped up on Facebook this morning, and it has stuck with me throughout the day.  It seems over the past few weeks, I've crashed into this wall several times through a variety of circumstances.  Interestingly, the results haven't been the same, and it never occurred to me before now that the reason why is sitting right in front of me.

I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you.

 As a teacher, you might say that I'm in the business of explaining.  And explaining.  And explaining.  Repetition is absolutely necessary because it would be unfair for me to explain a concept once and then move on, waiting for the student to understand.  If they don't understand something the first time, I do it again, but in a different way.  Eventually, hopefully, there will be recognition and understanding on the part of the student.  Then it's mission accomplished.  This week I had a student get a little teary-eyed, not out of frustration, but because the concept we were working on suddenly made total sense, and with that sense of understanding she was able to take a giant step forward in her technique.  After 17 years in the studio, this was another first for me:  tears of happiness because a student finally "got it." Those firsts don't happen as often anymore, and when they do, they're something special.

A major factor in achieving understanding is being open to ideas and possibilities.  Too often teaching and learning becomes a cacophony of competing viewpoints, and the words build and build and build until each side is well-insulated and protected from any and all thoughts outside your own.  Understanding requires both trust and patience, especially when you feel like you don't understand at all and you're certain everything you've heard by way of explanation is insufficient or just plain wrong.

St. Francis had it oh so right way back when when he prayed not so much to be understood as to understand.  "To be understood" places all responsibility for success (and blame for failure) on the other side.  Although it's highly unproductive, it's an easier and more convenient path to walk.  "To understand" however, recognizes the importance of participation in the process.  It accepts responsibility for listening and being open to ideas. It doesn't fight back with words or attitudes, and it doesn't build up walls. 

I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you.

As a teacher, a confidant or a friend, I will explain things every way I know how.  You are responsible for your own aha!! moment.  Lightbulbs are not included.  Kleenex, however, will be provided upon request.  Maybe for both of us.

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