413. Success

I like to think that my articles give people new perspectives. Whether or not every article I write really does that, it makes me feel good if I think I’ve written something original, perceptive, and/or inspirational. If I write something that doesn’t seem to qualify, I delete it, or maybe file it, to be revised later. I want my
articles to be good, and to get people to tell me how good they are, learn from what I write, and show the articles to other people.
With this in mind, I’m taking a risk when I write about the importance of success. Most people know all about the way success breeds success – about the way we tend to put extra effort into what we do, summon up extra skills, and generally care more about the outcome if we have smelled the sweet smell of success. So this article may not live up to my standards. I imagine my readers saying, “Duh!” or “Tell me something I don’t know.”
But we forget. When we teach, we can sometimes focus so hard on our standards of excellence that we forget to let our pupils succeed. It’s a delicate balancing act. We don’t want children to think there are no standards – that absolutely anything they do is perfect, and can’t be improved. But we want them to feel good about what they do, even if we know they can do better.
A lesson that is planned perfectly allows each child to succeed while somehow maintaining appropriate standards. If there’s a wide range of abilities in a class (and there usually is), one child’s success may look very different from another’s. But the discrepancy is not stressed – maybe not even noticed. Each child puts forth effort, and is rewarded by feeling successful.
Yesterday, I listened to a child who had just started learning to play the flute. She worked to produce the few notes she knew, and she produced them pretty clearly. I sat, looked, and listened. I was smiling. I wore an expression on my face that told her that I was impressed and pleased. I kept reminding myself to wear that expression. It wasn’t fake; as I thought about the work required to make those sounds come out of the flute, I really was impressed that she could do it. And it sounded pretty good – no squeaks or sour notes.
This child told me, afterwards, that she really liked practicing flute for me. She said she liked to see me enjoying the sounds she made. She knew about standards, and had practiced in front of adults who stressed standards, but she preferred feeling as if her music was resulting in pleasure. The standards could come later.
Well, I’ve looked this article over a few times, and though it doesn’t necessarily provide insight that will change the world, it does remind you to think about children’s need to succeed. And maybe some of you sometimes forget that. So I guess I’ll call this article a success, and I guess I’ll write another one tomorrow.

Comments are closed.