So here I am. It seems appropriate to write about reinvention on this, my first blog entry in many weeks. In fact, the biggest reinvention is this: I have decided not to reinvent myself. Thanks to the support of my family, I have decided to re-visit the old path and ignore the whispers of doubt.
But in fact, the entry is inspired by an email I wrote this morning to a piano teacher who has given each of my children 8 piano lessons without ever showing them a clef or a note on a clef and who has included in his teachings such terms as “the doghouse” and “the half donut”. I accused his method of being tangential. I don’t teach my daughter to cook by getting her to do stirring exercises with a stick in mud. I let her stir actual food that she can then taste. My husband doesn’t make my son practise turning his wrist with a toothbrush so that he can later apply the same action to a screwdriver. He practises with a screw driver so that he can gain the satisfaction of doing a real job. But, apparently, the new fashion with piano is to get kids to bounce their hands around on random black keys learning about loud and soft and learning to produce even rhythm while they produce no tune (or pleasure) at all.
It is, I learned from another piano teacher today, good to practise juggling because, like piano, it requires not watching your hands. My son was directed to learn piano before he started singing lessons so that he could learn to read music. It will be a funny trail indeed if we must first start with juggling before we can learn piano.
I remember my first piano book. The pieces were very short and, no doubt, fairly boring. But they required real reading of notes and they produced a tune. What can a proud new student of music show his or her friends and family of doghouses and half donuts? Nothing. Surely if anything drives a new student on, it is pride in their accomplishment and pleasure in what they are learning….
And what has this got to do with reinvention? Well, between mathematics and reading and music, I have suffered much disgruntlement this year. It seems that old techniques of learning are being completely discarded on the basis of one or two minor faults. Children shouldn’t learn multiplication tables because they only go to 12 and what happens after that? Children shouldn’t use vertical algorithms because some children weren’t understanding the reasoning behind “carrying the one”. Children shouldn’t have to learn to read music while they learn to play it because some children gave up music using that system, therefore it must be too hard. In short, the current generation of educators is reinventing the wheel because one spoke snapped.
I got home after discussions with piano teachers and friends and went to our microwave to heat up some left-overs for lunch. The microwave. Oh me – another example of reinvention. We have had our microwave for 3.5 years and I still marvel at how inefficient and ridiculous the interface is. We cannot press buttons to select power level or time. We must turn a knob and wait for the machine to count its slow way up or down in integers of its choice. And, unlike the original joy of microwaves (you don’t have to turn them off), ours alarms until we turn it off. It is the single biggest failure in our reinvented kitchen.
And so I will not reinvent myself because I look at all these cases of reinvention around me and I see that they are no more perfect than what came before. I see that nothing will please everybody. I see that I am only as bumbling and clumsy as my fellow humans. And I will accept that the people who are teaching my kids think they are right and I must be okay with that. And so if some people do not like my blog, they need not read it, and I am okay with that too.