Lessons from Piano Class

When I was a kid, I had a teacher who would come by my house every Tuesday to teach piano for 40 minutes to an hour.

She would sit on the side and I would play the notes on the books, ending off every session with a sticker as a reward.

The very beginning was okay. I tried my best to learn the notes, the scales, the finger exercises, and to keep up song practice every day. But as time passed, I began to lose momentum and interest. Bit by bit, week after week, year after year.

I was a student. She was my teacher. Yet by the 5th year I felt like as if there was nothing left to learn. All I was doing was following the numbers, following the notes, following what the books told me to do. It wasn’t because I was really good or talented (far from it), but it was because as a student I stopped feeling invested in the process. Soon enough, my teacher also stopped feeling invested in my process.

And you’d think that if neither of us cared that much to be there, then the classes would end.

We dragged on for several more years, with each one becoming more and more unbearable.

Mom’s money kept coming in to feed the lessons, and the piano teacher kept coming back every week to show up.

And what I came to realize is that I was in a broken culture of learning.

It’s a culture of learning where we believe just putting the money through the system will make things better. Where it’s okay if the teacher and student aren’t really invested in each other, but because a transaction is made it’s okay to stir up emotional friction and distance for both parties.

So where do we move on from here? How do we move towards a better culture of learning as students?

We can either choose to keep feeding the same system—the one that is lazy, unpersonalized, and doesn’t care about you. Or, we can try to seek more emotional understanding, more human connection, and more intent to listen.

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