Take 5: How Long Should I “X” For? X til you’re Happy!

Take 5 – taking a break. From time to time you just need to sit back, relax and reflect. Around here we’re going to try and do this on Fridays. Of course, if it’s no longer Friday, you’re still allowed to come here, and comment about your week.

Every so often, a theme pops up in my teaching. I mean like I end up talking about the same things with multiple students. Sometimes I just get on a kick about one topic of another. Sometimes it’s purely coincidental, and sometimes it’s absolutely Anna-made (once, a boyfriend’s niece thought I was a cartoonist because when he was saying “animated,” she was hearing “Anna-made-it.”).

This week, Anna-made-it. We’re all still working on getting back into the school habits – waking up early, doing homework, going to after school activities. Getting back in the practicing saddle is just another back to school routine to get into again, and I always work very closely with my students on their practice habits, all year long.

I’m a big fan of meeting kids where they’re at, and then traveling forward together. Sometimes I think this comes across as me being too easy, but I am not in the habit of forcing kids to do anything. No life-long learning ever happens that way. That’s not to say I don’t push my kids to be AWESOME, but I like it better when they feel they are in the passenger seat with the map as opposed to just sitting in the back looking out the window. So our first week back, the goal was just to practice. Just do it! Just get there! Sometimes that is the hardest step. And I’m happy to report that many of my students seem to have plenty of time to practice so far this year, getting to play 4-6 times a week. (We’ll see how that’s going in a month or two.)

The following week they had to actually time themselves when they practiced. A few years ago, this was a harder task. Now, between my students being older and either inheriting an old iPhone or getting a new one, almost every single one of my students has an iPhone or iPod with which I know they can time themselves. I have to say, some of my students are already in good practicing habits, but some are just not sitting down for long enough, so this week their assignment was to practice for a minimum amount of time that I prescribed and then they had to keep working UNTIL THEY WERE SATISFIED WITH THAT DAY’S PROGRESS.

This is probably one of the biggest things I am trying to instill in my students this year. It isn’t about the minutes practiced, or the note speller pages completed, it’s about whether or not you are happy with the progress you’ve made, whether it is a small accomplishment like finally practicing for ten uninterrupted minutes or for something big like finally getting through the toughest section of the piece. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, and I’m trying to get them to realize that it is their decisions that affect their progress.

Yes, I absolutely believe that these life lessons can be taught to ten year olds. You’d be surprised. Or maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe I’m wrong. But we’ll see. Kids are pretty awesome people, and I’d like them to realize that they’ve got the ability to choose their own happiness.

So what did you accomplish this week, big or small?

I was a busy little bee

(fun – and short – story: the title of this entry was almost “i was a busy little beet.”  you’re wondering why i didn’t keep it, and honestly, so am i. the end.)

A new feature that I wanted to add to my blog this school year was sharing more links.  I read a TON of blogs (though I already know I will probably only be sharing links to articles from only a handful) and want to share some of what I read.  My blogs are from all over the place, but I am going to try and pull them all back somehow to being creative, or being musical, or being with kids.  I hope you’ll indulge me, and I hope you’ll find these articles as interesting as I do.

There are a few articles, however, that I want to kick September off with.  One I had actually already read a few months ago, and then I stumbled onto it again.  How to Escape the Cult of Busy.  (see how I used the word “busy” in my title?  i’m ironic.)

This article, when I first read it, instantly struck a chord.  I so often just say that I am busy and leave it at that.  I don’t try and out-busy other people, and I am not just saying, ‘oh, I’m busy,’ to blow people off, though I am, more often than not, legitimately busy.  Sometimes I just try not to get into it because I don’t want to explain my job and random hours, and feel a little awkward telling my friends about children they’ll never meet, unless something truly exceptional and awesome has happened.  So it’s just easy to say that I’m busy.

But am I?  My work hours really are very random, so I probably have the same amount of free time as everyone else does, just in variously sized chunks spread out over my week.  It just seems like I’m busy because, oh, I technically have four jobs (if you don’t count being awesome, then i have five).  But my four jobs only bring me to about 50 hours worth of work each week, so I’m not really that much more busy than anyone else.  So this year I’ve decided to stop saying I’m busy.  I’m not busy.  At least, I’m no more busy than anyone else is.

Which brings me to these next two article.

Please Stop Complaining about how Busy You Are and also Busy is the new Lazy.

Please.  Everyone is busy.  It’s not just you.  If you’re lucky enough to have a job, then you’re just as busy as the rest of us (and I have a few friends who are unemployed at the moment, and they seem to be legitimately busy as well).  Maybe you are really busy.  But try to put it into perspective.  You know who’s really busy?  The president.  Are you as busy as he is right now?  Oh, you’re not?  That’s what I thought.  I don’t mean to be snarky about it, but I think a little perspective is in order.

Maybe you only seem really busy because you’re giving yourself reason to be busy.  Remember “busy work” from grade school?  Maybe you are giving it to yourself.  Maybe you should follow the tips in this article to figure out what you need to stop doing so you can be less stressed out at your job and in your life.  And if you think you’re really stressed out, then you should stop what you’re doing and read this article over at Lifehacker because while I am sure you know that stress is not a good thing, I’m not sure if you knew exactly how stress affected your body, and of course it’s not in a good way.

So hopefully this year you can be less “busy” and focus on getting better work done.  This is my wish for *myself* as well as for all of you out there.  And one last link for you all, what to do in some of the time you’ll be freeing up from your schedule: Nap.  The world could use some more naps.

Mwish No. 2

What’s a mwish?? It’s like, you know, a wish, but better, because there’s usually music in it! In addition to practicing, I need to think about what I need from my practicing (or my music in general) before I get to the bench. So that when I get there (or wherever else I need to be) I will be better prepared to totally rock it out.

This week I am embarking on week two of what I would consider my re-entry into the school year.  For some teachers, the school year just starts.  There may be a week or two of meetings and room preparation, but then, all of a sudden, the students are there and BAM school has started.

But for myself, it’s a little different.  Last week I started teaching at the studio.  This week I will begin with my private students.  Next week it’s back to my elementary school.  I am easing my way into the deep end by wading myself in through the shallow instead of just going for that cannon ball jump.  I don’t mind.

Over on my other blog, you can read up on the shiva nata challenge I’ve been doing.  Basically, I am challenging myself to do shiva nata every single day, and I am focusing (thinking, brainstorming and journaling) on my enthusiasm for the school year, and maintaining a certain level of focus, organization and enthusiasm through the whole school year.

So my mwish for this week is for continued focus.  I feel like the frame of mind I am in with my students for the rest of the month can really set the tone for how the entire rest of the year goes – no pressure or anything, right – so staying on top of my game especially this week and next week is uber important!

Specifically, though, I am mwishing I finish my list this week.  I don’t really know what to call it.  It’s sort of a lesson plan, but mostly a checklist I have been working on since last week where I am writing down all the things to review with my students.  All of my students so far are returning students, or transfers, so essentially, they already know quite a bit about music.  This check list that I am making is a way for me to make sure that I review everything possible in the most logical order possible… which is sometimes a little harder to figure out than one might think!

So this week I am mwishing for order and organization, continued enthusiasm, focus, and, as always, boatloads of patience.

Audience Participation Time
What are you mwishing for this week?  What are you getting back into?  What new and fun things might you be starting?

It’s Mwish Time!

What’s a mwish?? It’s like, you know, a wish, but better, because there’s music in it! In addition to practicing, I need to think about what I need from my practicing (or my music in general) before I get to the bench. So that when I get there (or wherever else I need to be) I will be better prepared to totally rock it out.

This week my mwish is simple.  I mwish to actually practice.  You know how you don’t realize how much you love something until it’s gone?  I am at this point right now.  And it’s not that I forgot how much I love piano, or guitar, or music in general, but music is one of those things that has become such a part of my routine (a very sparkly, wonderful, magical part), that I just grew accustomed to the sense of peace, accomplishment and joy that practicing injected into my everyday life.  Practicing has become both an important part of my life for my work and for my health.  And I miss it.

It’s not that I am having an awful time up here in the mountains, sweating like a waterfall and destroying my feet, discovering new and interesting ways to make my body sore, but I am just not practicing any of my instruments the way I do when I am home, and I miss it.  So this week, I mwish for more practice time.  I’m not even sure how this is going to work out, as I have been trying – mostly unsuccessfully – for two weeks to practice, and if I haven’t figured out how to do it by now I’m not sure if I’m going to get it done ever.

But a girl can mwish, yes?

Audience Participation Time
What are you mwishing for this week?  How is your summer schedule (if it is different from your school year schedule) affecting your practice schedule?

Mwish No. 2: Staying Focused

What’s a mwish?? It’s like, you know, a wish, but better, because there’s music in it! In addition to practicing, I need to think about what I need from my practicing (or my music in general) before I get to the bench. So that when I get there (or wherever else I need to be) I will be better prepared to totally rock it out.

This week, Miss Anna needs some focus!  I am even having a hard time focusing on writing this mwish out!

Why do I need focus this week?  We have one more recital coming up on Sunday.  Not only do my students have to perform, but I’ll be performing, too!  I’m really excited, for both them and myself.  But since this is our last week before the recital, and for my students to be focused and ready as we enter the home stretch,  I have to be focused and ready.  Super focused and ready, actually.

Although right now, the focus is not coming.  Perhaps will do some shiva nata, or just EAT SOMETHING (hmm, yes, I’m definitely hungry now that I’m thinking about it, isn’t i funny to not realize how hungry you are?), and hopefully the focus will come.

Audience Participation Time
What are you mwishing for this week?  Or at the very least, what are you regular, everyday shade of wishes for the week?  It’s a nice thing to think about on a Sunday night – the promise of all the things you can get done in the following six days!

Mwish No. 1: Just some time, please!

What’s a mwish??  It’s like, you know, a wish, but better, because there’s music in it!  In addition to practicing, I need to think about what I need from my practicing (or my music in general) before I get to the bench.  So that when I get there (or wherever else I need to be) I will be better prepared to totally rock it out.

This week I am mwishing for more time to practice!  While I do have a crazy schedule, I know that the time exists in it somewhere for me to get more practicing in!  I have to practice for the weekly open mic (so that’s guitar), a fun jam on Saturday (that’s guitar), and a gig on Father’s Day (that’s guitar, too!).

So that is a lot of guitar.  My poor little left hand fingers.

Here I am making a mental note of needing to get ink cartridges for my printer. Just in case I need to print out any new lead sheets.

Additionally, I have been slacking on the piano practicing lately.  I’ve been focusing too much on my students.  A good thing, yes?  But I can’t forget my own playing.  So there’s that to get back into.

That’s a lot of practicing I’m mwishing for this week.  Think I’ll get it done this week?

Audience Participation Time
What are you mwishing for this week?  Or at the very least, what are you regular, everyday shade of wishes for the week?  It’s a nice thing to think about on a Sunday night – the promise of all the things you can get done in the following six days!

The Good and the Interesting No. 1: Chords

It’s Friday, and Friday is as good a day as any to stop and evaluate all the Good, the Interesting, and sometimes, even the Bad.  If you notice something particularly funky while you are thinking about it today, why not spend tomorrow focusing just on that?

Good Things
I blogged!  You might be thinking this is old hat for me by now, but really, I sometimes find it really hard to get motivated to blog.  I have tried many different techniques to get myself to blog, and most of them failed.  This week, I didn’t.  What worked?  No clue.  Maybe that’s part of the fun.

Something else that’s actually pretty awesome this week is I got a new album by one of my fave bands, World/Inferno Friendship Society.  PARENTS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.  It is a pretty amazing album, as far as their albums go, and I sat down and figured out not one, but TWO of their songs.  “Thirteen Years Without Peter King” and also “The Politics of Passing Out.”  They weren’t actually too difficult for me to figure out, but a search on ultimate-guitar.com (both my favorite place to find chords and the bane of my very existence sometimes) returns nothing on either of these songs.  So I guess what I consider “challenging” has shifted since the last time I actually tried to figure out a song on my own.  Which is actually kind of cool.  I got better. I have spent so much time teaching and making other people better, I didn’t realize my ears were getting better at stuff pretty much all on their own.

Other neat thing this week – I spent two days babysitting the kids.  And by that I mean, I was working at Pianos Plus in Raritan.  It’s one of the cooler jobs I’ve ever had.  Where else do I get to hang out with 20 assorted pianos and keyboards??  Seriously!  One of the neat things is practicing the same thing on each piano.  You stop paying attention to what you’re putting into the piano and you really start paying attention to the subtle differences of what is coming out of each piano.  It’s fascinating, and an opportunity few rarely get.

Interesting Things
What does Miss Anna find interesting anyway?  What constitutes “interesting?”  What is this “interesting” of which you speak?  One of my students YEARS ago came to the conclusion.  I never say something sounds bad.  It’s always, “That was iiinnnteresting.”  Which is pretty true.

Much to my surprise, nothing really interesting happened this week.  Hooray!

Bad Things
None of that happened this week.. musically.  Personally, not so much.  But we’re trying to remain positive here, in general, yes?  So we are going to be thankful that at least nothing bad happened musically, and we are going to move on.

 

Audience Participation Time
What did you do this week?   Discover anything interesting about yourself?  Did any bit of your playing take a leap or bound forward this week?  And don’t worry, if it didn’t happen this week or hasn’t happened lately, it will happen at some point.  It happens to everyone!  you wake up one morning and BING, you’re so much better at this one thing than you were before you went to bad last night.  It’s actually kind of neat.