“Not all who wander are lost.”
Andy - Windows of Readiness (age 8)
Andy comes bounding up the stairs waving his stuffed giraffe at me yelling, "What's this? What's this?" My blank stare is exasperating, so he tries again, louder. "What's this?" He shoves the giraffe into my face.
A tiny tinkling lullaby comes from within the incongruously menacing giraffe.
"What instrument is it?" he bellows. I listen.
"Oh, that's a celesta. It's the same instrument Tchaikovsky used in 'Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies'."
"Oh yeah..." he replies in a normal tone. His face relaxes into a smile. He listens for a minute, then flings his giraffe onto the couch. He takes off his bulky jacket and gigantic backpack and throws them on top of the giraffe who seems relieved to be out of the limelight.
With this important bit of business out of the way, Andy is ready to get back to work on the piece he’s been playing, "The Star Spangled Banner." This piece was his choice. Had I been concerned with teaching skills in a particular order, it is certainly not what I would have chosen for him when, at the age of seven, he suddenly said he wanted to learn it. At first he learned it slowly, mostly by rote, using one finger. At that point he hadn't as yet become interested in the logic of up and down and therefore couldn't learn it by ear. When Andy turned eight, he decided on his own that it would sound smoother if he used all of his fingers in an organized way. He figured out how to do that without help from me. At that point he was still declining my offer to show him the harmony, though he'd sometimes let me play along. Other times he would shake his head no or push my hand away. A few months ago he began asking to learn the harmony in bits and pieces.
He put it all together with two hands two months ago, but the piece still has him in its grip, and he continues to derive endless pleasure from playing it over and over. He sometimes plays it ten or eleven times in a row, as though he were in a room by himself. I love the feeling that Andy is so comfortable with my presence that he will do this. It took me awhile to feel equally comfortable - to realize that I didn't need to suggest something or pay compliments. I've come a long way.
Andy is a child who is in touch with his own windows of readiness not only instinctively, but consciously. When he says, "No, not today," it’s not laziness or fear of a challenge - he simply knows he’s not ready. As a teacher I find it fascinating to watch his readiness unfold, and feel privileged to be allowed this glimpse into his private realm. Andy is also very methodical in his approach. Sometimes there will be a silent pause that lasts up to a minute while he positions his hands and plans ahead. During this time there is no need to break the silence or offer to help, and I would encourage any teacher to learn to respect and enjoy this.
© Meryl Danziger 2004