TITLE: Teaching the Perfect Class, Again AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 07, 2012 7:08 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Some days, I walk out of the classroom thinking, "Well, that didn't go the way I wanted." I'm aware of everything I did wrong, and my mind begins swirling with ideas for next time -- both the next class session and the next time I teach the course. I won't make the same mistakes again, or so I think. Other days are just the opposite. The stars aligned, and the session seemed to have gone perfectly. My questions provoked discussion. My examples caused every head to nod in appreciation. My jokes brought laughs, not eye rolls. Ironically, those days are harder to follow. There is a temptation to try to repeat perfection, but that rarely works. Whenever I try, my timing seems off. When my questions, examples, and jokes don't elicit the same responses as the first time, I am confused. I end up trying too hard. Teachers aren't the only people who face this problem. In this article about the science of music meeting the mind, Yo-Yo Ma describes why there are no immutable laws for expressive performance:
"Every day I'm a slightly different person," Mr. Ma said. "The instrument, which is sensitive to weather and humidity changes, will act differently. There's nothing worse than playing a really a great concert and the next day saying, 'I'm going to do exactly the same thing.' It always falls flat."
Most of the time, it is easier to fix broken things than it is to improve on good ones. Brokenness gives us cues about what to do next. Wholeness doesn't. Trying to repeat perfection in a world that always changes usually leaves us dissatisfied. So: Treat each performance, each class session, as a chance to create, not maintain. Use ideas that have worked in the past, of course, but use them to create something new, not to try to re-create something that no longer exists. Fortunately for me, I have far more imperfect days than perfect ones. -----