Thursday, April 07, 2016

Winding Up the Week

I have a full day of conferencing scheduled.  Or did.  Several students have politely and considerately emailed to cancel their meetings, usually these are students who've already met with me this week but had signed up (because there were slots) for a second meeting.  Mostly they said they hadn't had much time to work on their project since we talked, so that's fine.  I hope they find time to do the work soon.

One student who'd signed up for yesterday and then rescheduled came in today.  I'm dismayed, to say the least.

What is it about students who want to research [supposed mystery/conspiracy]?  They pretty much believe [supposed mystery/conspiracy] and can't tell the difference between an article in a national tabloid from Scientific American, and somehow believe that the science folks are really hiding the truth.  For example, I had a student last semester who wanted to research why scientists are keeping the cure for cancer secret so they can make money selling drugs.  And I finally asked them, how much fame and money would the scientist who revealed the secret get?  Lots, they agreed.  Then I asked, isn't there a whole lot of incentive for any scientist who had a cure for cancer to take credit, get the Nobel Prize, get the well-paid position at some high-falutin' school or think tank?  What would a scientist who knew the cure and had a loved one get cancer do?  Not cure it?  Really?

I don't know what's up with the student today, but they don't seem to have much in the way of critical thinking or reading skills.

By way of contrast, I had a student yesterday who's excited about a project on what we should teach high school students about [important issue].  They've looked at people who think we should teach nothing about the [important issue] because high school students should be learning it at home, and people who think it should be taught.  And now they're on to learning about what the people who think it should be taught want taught about [important issue] and when and how.


I have a violin lesson today.  I'm hoping I get a new piece of tape.

If you'd done beginning violin relatively recently, you'll probably know what that means.  For those who haven't, my teacher (and lots of other teachers of beginning violin students) put tapes across my fingerboard for the first three fingers of the first position.  It looks weird, but it really helps me know where my fingers should be to get started.  With these notes, I can basically play three scales, arpeggios in the three keys, and broken thirds in those keys.  So it's super helpful for learning.

But, I don't have the pinky tape.  I think the pinky would play the fifth (like the next string up), and so then I'd need to learn when to use the pinky and when to use the open string next up.  The song I started learning for this week shows two possible fingerings, open on the E string, or 4 (pinky) on the A string.  So we'll see!  Maybe I'll get a new tape!  (I'm thinking of this sort of like a new merit badge or something on fitbit.)

I started teaching myself another song, the one the plays on the Ken Burns Civil War documentary, because it's in a key I can play (though it has an accidental I haven't learned yet) and it's beautiful, but not when I play it.  Yet.  Some day!

I went out to dinner with a friend, who pointed out that violin strings are in fifths (which I'd been playing when I practice arpeggios, but hadn't thought to put a name on it), and suddenly, that makes so much sense!  It's like mathematically beautiful in a way.  (Except not when I play.  Yet.  I have hope for some day!)

My friend and I have both started learning new musical instruments recently, and my friend said something that really struck me.  She talked about how when we reach middle age, most of us (at least the college-educated middle class folks) have figured out what we're pretty good at and are doing those things, and not doing things we're bad at.  And that's unlike most kids and young adults who are often required to do stuff they're not good at, or to try totally new stuff.   The more I think about that, the more I think she's right.  So learning a new instrument reminds me of how hard it is to learn new stuff.  And it is.


  1. When I conference with my students, I send them a link to a google doc with all of the appointment times listed and let them sign up themselves. That way, if they need to change an appointment, they can just go and change it themselves (as long as there are open slots) and they don't have to email me. It has saved me from answering a whole bunch of emails.

    1. That's an idea. I tend to resist the on-line appointment thingies, because I like being able to glance over at the door when I'm in the office and see what's coming, if that makes sense.

      Isn't there a doodle meeting thing or something people use?

  2. I am not a kinaesthetic learner. So it was really important when I studied pottery -- I thought a lot about how I developed a skill that did not align with my natural gifts. And that's helped teaching.