Howdy! Last week I was talking about how absolutely inspiring and amazing it is to watch a human go from not being able to do something to…(bippity boppity boo)… being able to do it! It is pretty much the coolest thing EVER.
Here are 4 key things I have noticed about that “magical” process, with respect to things I most enjoy teaching and learning (math and music):
1. I’ve noticed that learning math is not like learning history facts or science facts. Doing math requires practicable SKILLS, the same way playing guitar does. You can’t be shown skills and expected to know them. You don’t study math facts or guitar facts the way you study a science or a history fact. You can’t just be TOLD them. To have functional use of them, you have to DO them, and you have to do them repeatedly. You have to get them in your BONES, in your muscle memory. This requires practice.
2. I’ve noticed that practice can be boring. It can be inefficient. It can take too much time and yield too little results. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
3. I’ve noticed there’s a TRUST component. If you knew that the time you were investing was definitely, obviously yielding results, then you would be MOTIVATED and it would be easier to show up and do your part. Without that trust piece, it’s hard to stay motivated to do something, especially if it’s overly taxing (outside your ZPD) or underly so (bo-ring).
4. I’ve noticed that I, Lacie Taylor, LOVE LOVE LOVE figuring out ways to maximize and to ease the learning process. I love taking something that was shown to me in a music theory lesson, e.g., and figuring out THE BEST way to chunk it down, space the repetition, get it in my bones. What makes the most sense for me to practice and how? What will get it from my brain into my fingers in the shortest most efficient amount of time? What will help it stick, make sure I’m getting it for keeps? What will make my practice sessions DO-ABLE? And not only do-able but ENJOYable – that sweet spot of learning where you’re so satisfied with your progress that you’re COMPELLED to make more? What will help me TRUST that it’s WORKING? What’s the most optimal way to go from this skill just being something that was shown to me to something that I know so well that it feels intuitive?
Seriously, even if it wasn’t just part of my personality type to be obsessed with efficiency (not always a good thing, btw, but serves me well in my chosen field), we literally don’t have time to waste. Kids are learning math along with 5+ other subjects and probably a whole slew of other things like dance and basketball and lines for a play. Practice takes TIME. It’s a wonder anyone ever learns math with the things it has to compete with (and why I think that when all the people say “I’m no good at math” it just means they haven’t been taught how to practice it. They were shown things and then felt bad when merely being shown wasn’t sufficient for them to be able to do it.) So if you barely have time for the practice piece itself, you surely don’t have to time to figure out HOW to practice.
This is what I do!!! I figure out the absolute best (easiest, most fun, do-able, efficient, effective, trustworthy) way to practice something and then I show you what I figured out. I can’t not do this. I can’t be the kind of teacher that just shows you things and hopes you get it. Or that tells you to do things and then hopes you’ll do it. I craft it very carefully so that you WILL do it. I don’t blame students when they don’t want to practice something that’s either too difficult, or too boring, or where it’s hard to see if it’s doing any good. So I won’t ever give you things like that.
I don’t blame students when they don’t want to practice something that’s either too difficult, or too boring, or where it’s hard to see if it’s doing any good. So I won’t ever give you things like that.
I’ll tell you exactly what to practice and how so that it’s a) do-able and b) making a big and obvious difference. I put the information that you need to know through my practice formula machine and crank it until a nice neat tidy practice-able thing comes out and then COACH you on it. Coach you on it in a way that you can’t not get it. It’s what I do for myself when I’m trying to learn anything new. I “Math-For-Keepsize” the information or the skills I’m trying to learn. I’ve basically gotten the practice piece down to a fine art. I’ve done the background/ set up work for you, so you don’t have to. All you have to do is show up and do it. I’ve taken all the guess-work out of it for you. I’ve made the practices DO-ABLE. I’ve made them short and sweet and efficient and EFFECTIVE. I’ve made them so that you can SEE yourself getting better at each skill. You KNOW it’s working. Anything I ever give you to practice is customized for YOUR brain and is SO WORTH the minutes you will spend on it. I love doing this so much that I can’t not do it. It is why I’m absolutely obsessed with teaching and learning (as long as it’s done w/ this practice approach) and why my moments with my students are some of my happiest, most rewarding, most in-flow moments.