25. February 2010 · Comments Off on Huh? · Categories: Ramble

I just received an email via my UCSC address that begins with this:

Don’t Let Your Students Struggle with Early Transcendentals!

Anyone who knows me knows I’ll look at that and say, “Huh?” while scratching my head. I only knew what it was about when I continued on and read the scary word, “calculus”.

Math and I don’t really get along.

“They” (whoever they are) say that musicians are good at math. Well sure, I can add and divide and do my fractions if they’re simple (I can cook, too), but if they think I know anything about more tough stuff they are quite wrong.

At some point while teaching I like to ask my students what subjects they like best in school. The majority do say math or science. The majority tell me they don’t like English (or Language Arts or whatever it’s called in their neck ‘o the SchoolWoods) much at all. I’m always a bit surprised, because I tend to box people up in nice packages and I assume that oboe students will be more like yours truly. I loved English. I hated Math. I didn’t “get” chemistry at all. Of course I also didn’t really study; if it didn’t come easily, I wasn’t about to put too much effort in … I suspect that was about fear of failure. It’s one thing to fail when you don’t try. It’s another to fail when you do.

This is something I can apply to music too, of course. Sometimes I don’t tackle something because I really do fear that failure. What if I never get it? Ack! But of course there’s that old, “You never know unless you try!” thing … I do try to remember that.

Sometimes I can see that “fear of failure” thing on a student’s face. I talk to them about that. And about never saying, “I can’t do this!” before playing something. Watching the Olympics I can see a similar look sometimes on the athletes’ faces. I think that if you go into something with an “I’m gonna blow it” attitude it usually predicts the performance. Of course there are those surprise moments when someone nails it even so, but for the most part what we tell ourselves does tend to influence how we do.

Ahh, skating. We musicians relate, I think, because it’s the “one chance” thing. We get no do-overs. They get no do-overs. Thankfully we have a smaller audience. And we don’t have to sit in the “kiss and cry” area with a camera watching us as we hear our scores. Whew!

Ramble ramble … this is a rather discombobulated post. But it does allow me to use the word dicombobulated and that counts for something. I hope.

Speaking of fear of failure, I really must do English horn reed work today. No choice in the matter. And failure simply isn’t an option.

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