Getting Past the Calluses

Start with the end in mind.

Years ago, I wanted to learn to play guitar.

Now I felt that I didn’t have the time, but that was just an excuse that I told myself as I was nervous about going through the struggle of the “beginning” and didn’t necessarily want to put myself through the calluses I would develop on my hands or my ears 🙂 

My brother had asked me to be the best man at his wedding, and I knew that I would have to make a speech and was nervous about what I would do or say.

About two weeks before the wedding, I picked up a guitar, locked myself in the house, and learned to play an Adam Sandler song I would swap the words for at his wedding. Two weeks later, I played the song in front of the guests, which was an exhilarating experience.

I was driven by playing something I wanted to play, and that first song turned into other songs I loved. Although I am no pro, I can always pick up a guitar and strum songs that I truly enjoy playing.

Rewind my life back to when I was 14 years old and in my first year of “band.” At that time in our school, students had to take band, so I chose the instrument I felt that I would hate the least. I chose the bass guitar. 

One of the benefits of playing the bass guitar in a band is that I had something no one else did in that room—an amplifier.

No matter how often our teacher would ask me to turn the amp down, I would only listen temporarily and ensure that the guitar’s sound would dominate what was heard. The bass was meant to be in the background, but I had a switch that would allow me to be the lead at a moment’s notice. I was a bit of a terror in that class. I struggled with learning to play because none of the songs we learned were of any interest. We often played classical music when I was more into The Police and Depeche Mode at the time. I wanted to learn to play songs I loved, which didn’t seem possible in the future.

Now, I know that before we walk, we must learn to crawl, but it was never communicated that we would have the opportunity to eventually play Bon Jovi or Def Leppard, only songs from people I had never heard of at the time. Playing an instrument was part of something that I had to do but not something I wanted to do.

This is true for a lot of learning in education.

But when I was older, I proved that I not only had the ability to learn an instrument, but I also could see the value of going through the “suck” of the beginning stages if I saw something compelling in the future.

That is one of the most critical aspects of the artistry of teaching.

Can we figure out what would drive a student for them to see value in learning long-term? That we can help them see past the “suck” of the beginning phases of learning?

Years ago, I argued about the name of a new position in our school district. The thought was that it would be “Teaching Lead,” and I argued that it should be “Learning Lead” because we need to start with the end in mind and understand the drive behind why we teach. To help people learn to find their own path, not solely decide for them what their path should be.

To help learners get past the struggle of the beginning of a new endeavor, it is essential to illuminate the future possibilities they are interested in, not only what serves teaching at the moment.

Easier said than done, but to ignore that reality, serves neither the student nor the teacher.

Showing what’s possible in the future helps us better deal with what’s hard in the present.


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