I have learned an important lesson. I have learned to feel dumb. Now, I am trying to continue feeling that way.
It isn’t easy.
About six months ago, I started writing songs accidentally. A friend got stuck with the words for a verse and asked for help. The acoustic guitar played, and after staring for a second at my notebook, I started writing. My words didn’t go perfectly with the music, but with some tweaking, the song sounded pretty good. Thus began my new hobby.
Five or six songs later, I started getting the itch—the itch to perform. It felt strange hearing my words from the perspective of an audience member. I didn’t desire the spotlight or the ego inflation. I just wanted to experience the performance of something that I helped create.
Unfortunately, I am no musician. I suffered through a few years of piano lessons as a kid, but that’s the extent of my training. So, I picked up the tambourine, shakers and bells and learned little parts for each of the songs. Sort of.
After only a few practices, I realized that I am a total moron when it comes to music. I am not a natural. I don’t “hear” where my notes should go. I don’t “feel” the rhythm in an accurate way. I can’t watch the guitar and “follow its lead.” Don’t even think about my inventing my own parts.
Most of the time, I get really frustrated with myself and, within five minutes, I’m crying. I have quit the band about twenty times. I snap at my friend who is attempting to teach me. At the bar after a particularly enjoyable session, I was ordered an “Attitude Adjustment.” Let’s just say I am a royal pain in the arse—just trying to play a couple notes or do a little shake, shake, shake.
Yesterday, I realized why my behavior seemed kind of familiar to me. I’ve seen it from my students a million times. I have been driven crazy by that behavior a million times. They’ve wanted to give up, and I’ve wanted to give up on them a million times. I didn’t understand their strong emotional responses – the tears, pissyness and anger – until now.
I am good at many things, so I’ve stayed away from the things that don’t come easily for me. I hate it when I don’t automatically get something. But what a cop-out is that? I’m never going to work through the tough stuff? How can I expect my students to keep struggling if I can’t do the same?
I have a new respect for those who can stick it out and keep trying. We can’t be brilliant at everything. So, the next time a kid freaks out in my class because he/she doesn’t get an assignment or can’t understand a passage, I’m probably going to feel and react a whole lot differently.
I started out trying to be a rock star, but I’m learning how to be a better teacher. And hopefully a better, more humble person too.