By Claudia Felske
I wish I were my son’s guitar teacher.
Not just because that would mean I would be really good at guitar (musicality being something I’m sorely lacking).
Not just because it would be a major ego stroke, knowing that a year and a half ago, my son couldn’t play a note and now he sounds like this.
Not just because I would be teaching him something I know will deeply enrich his learning, his appreciation of beauty, creation, and (dare I suggest) life itself.
The real reason I wish I were my son’s guitar teacher is that it would mean I have arrived as a master educator; it would mean I have achieved what I’ve been trying to achieve in the classroom for 19 years; it might even mean we as educators may be close to bottling the elixir we have been trying to concoct for the past two centuries, namely effective, creative, authentic, self-directed learning.
|Performance and recording opportunities are part of his instruction|
“So you’re playing the guitar parts?” my husband asked (I was smiling too big to talk). “Well, kind of…there are no guitar parts. I made them up and put them where I thought they’d sound good.’
He wasn’t watching me for my reaction (as ordinarily is the case when I open his presents). He was tapping, concentrating, the gears were moving, “I’m a tad off here,” he’d add…or “wait, wait here it is.”The next day, he called me upstairs as he was practicing, and I was taken behind the scenes. He asked me to pick a song. I chose the most over-played song of 2012: “Gangnam Style” (sorry, that’s how I roll). Then, he listened, listened some more, struck a few notes over and over and then a scale, and then, spent the rest of the song improvising over the melody.
|Benjamin Bloom’s (Revised) Taxonomy of Learning|
He was remembering notes and scales, understanding how they work together to create a melody, but then he was operating at a much higher level: applying a concept his teacher had taught him: analyzing the song, listening for the root note; evaluating which it was and which pentatonic scale should be applied; and then, creating and performing improvisational solo parts. What’s more, there was no teacher in the room; he had internalized the process, all levels of it, becoming his own teacher in a new situation, with a new song. And then evaluating his own performance afterwards. Basically, an educator’s dream come true.
And right now, as I write this, he’s upstairs doing the same to ACDC’s “T.N.T.” – not my favorite song, not my favorite genre, but his process is music to my ears. He’s beginning to read the world as music. When we’re eating dinner and he hears a “cool riff” in a song, he runs upstairs to try to replicate it. Clearly the much larger gift here was the one Eliot received from his phenomenal guitar teacher.