On Teaching, Part 1 (A Book Doesn’t Tell You When A Student Doesn’t ‘Get It’)


As a teacher, you need to have 10 ways to explain the same concept. You might find that there’s a way that works best for you or the way that you see it, and that someone else from a different environment or different set of circumstances may not grasp it that way. You may even have to explain it a way that YOU don’t really grasp, or in a way that doesn’t work for you, just to get the point across. So its not really about having a different curriculum for each student, but having a variety of different ways to teach the same information to a variety of students.

One example of this is when I teach how to read music and when I teach rhythmic note value, sometimes I use the analogy of money (a different subject for a different blog) Now I didn’t need to use that analogy for me to understand the same concept when I was learning, but someone else may benefit greatly from me explaining it to them in that way. I may have 4 or 5 different ways to explain this one concept, even though I personally didn’t need any of them to learn it myself.

So even though my curriculum is based on how I see things, it also is based on how others may have to see things when they are trying to learn something. You always have to be flexible. I never give books at Bassology, I reference books, and when a student first comes to see me one of the first questions I get is “what book should I buy?” I say to them “you don’t need a book, I’m going to give you the best explanation I have found in a one-on-one teaching environment.,” I LOVE books, and I understand them, but the problem with books and the very reason I have waited to do a book for so long (Ed. Note: Ants first book is due for release in fall 2011) is because a book doesn’t tell you when a student doesn’t get it. Usually there’s no second , third, fourth, or fifth explanation.

A book is written from the authors perspective and how it makes sense to you, but when someone reads it, it may make sense to them or it may cloud their judgment and the book doesn’t know that. We label that book a bad book, but it may or may not be, but the book didn’t know that you didn’t get it. And if you wrote a book that had a second, third, fourth, or fifth explanation, it would be so big that the size of it may turn some people off. If you handed it to an editor, you will be cut to one explanation, and the people who read it or either gonna get it, or not gonna get it.

So as a teacher who teaches privately, when I teach a concept like modes or rhythms, I can be flexible to the point that the student needs me to be flexible. If I try to teach a concept and the student doesn’t get it, and then I explain it in a way that the student then understands, I can THEN refer the student to a book that has a similar explanation. Depending on the student we may work from a SECTION of a lot of different books. That is opposed to referring a student to one book that may not be flexible. Lastly rather than give him a book I actually prefer, that works for me, its almost always better for student to not have a book but rather have a compilation of notes that reflect his understanding of the curriculum.

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About anthonywellington

Musician, Clinician, bass Player for the Victor Wooten Band.
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