Practice Challenge Update Week #3 of 20
7:45 AM: Soggy underwear.
8:17 AM: Despite the sprint to the toilet...no success.
8:36 AM: A tiny tinkle in the potty-YES!!!! Chocolate!! Stickers!!
9:05 AM: Discover toddler hiding behind a chair making grunting sounds and smelling foul.
Repeat the process for the next 12 hours.
My inner dialogue has been absorbed with the daily training efforts of awakening a tiny human to the signals of her body and then acting upon them in a culturally appropriate way. Violet does not enjoy this process. She hates being interrupted from whatever destructive toddler fun she's having in the moment. She runs away or yells "No, thanks!" from across the living room when I suggest that it's time once again to try a boring activity that she doesn't understand.
While the two of us disagree on the process as a whole, we both relish her success. Even the smallest of condensation receives an ecstatic happy dance, celebratory hugs, a little handful of M&M's and the unique opportunity to place a colorful sticker on a piece of scratch paper. In those moments, past and future are irrelevant. Violet and I share a mutual understanding of our roles: I coach and she literally gets the job done. It's a beautiful partnership.
This ongoing enterprise of effort and success carries into my teaching day. We're in Week 3 of a 20-week practice challenge and it's getting real. Even if you possess an intrinsic love of music like most of my students do, setting aside 100 minutes a week to practice isn't for the faint of heart. We're in full training mode. They know that what they are doing is hard. I can appreciate that their failed attempts don't have quite the same consequences that I experience as a Toilet Trainer, but pushing oneself can still be a messy process. I can't give them chocolate or stickers, but my musicians are finding their own rewards:
"I could hardly play that measure last week, now it's so easy!"
"My voice is more comfortable singing the high notes today!"
"I figured out a brand new way to play Fur Elise!"
"It makes me nervous, but I'm pretty sure I could perform in that music event I've never done before".
As it turns out, when we're pushed, we're all pretty good at getting down to business.
Practice Challenge Update Week #2 of 20
When my parents went to visit my sister who was living in China, she took them climbing up to the Great Wall of China. A landmark that can been seen from outer space is very high. Not only is the altitude a challenge, but the rugged stairs leading to the top are uneven and craggy. My mom's quiet mantra "Step. Step. Step" gave her power as they slowly and painfully ascended the mountain in the blazing summer heat. When I visited a few years later, I borrowed her phrase as I climbed, knowing she and my dad had successfully taken this journey before me. When we finally reached the top, it felt earned. With my energy returned, I sprinted from tower to tower on the Great Wall of China. Having a picnic with my sister while we gazed in awe at the countryside is one of my fondest memories.
Our studio is at the very beginning of a great climb! We are on Week 2 of our 20 week Treasure Hunt Practice Challenge. I am happy to report that after Week 1, 100% of our studio is still climbing! Musicians must practice at least 100 minutes a week in order to receive a letter clue that unlocks a phrase for the treasure at the end of the Challenge. As a Challenge participant, I am feeling the pain along with my students! Sometimes, practicing is like gliding over water-smooth and easy, like when I'm playing or singing a piece I love. Some practice days are like the steps leading up to the Great Wall-uneven, rocky and challenging. And sometimes the landscape is just plain boring and I stare down that 20 minute timer willing it to speed up.
What is waiting for us at the end of these 20 weeks? Yes, there will be a sweet studio award! But richer than that, every time we say no to something mindless and pour our energy into our craft, we fee the part of ourselves that is hungry for change, for growth and power over our wills. We'll have grown to know that we are the kind of people who can do hard things and reap the benefits of that strength. We'll be mountain climbers.
"What will you unlock in yourself this year?"
This was the question I asked each of my students as we began the school year in September.
Normally each year, I create some kind of motivating practice challenge to engage the musicians with their long-term goals, but I didn't do one this year. Kids were starting hybrid classes in school, parents were completely
re-arranging their schedules-their lives-for each family member's needs. I decided to not add to the chaos by adding one more thing to keep track of. Color me naïve. At our parent/teacher conferences, parents told me that not only had their kids adapted to these new learning cycles, but they needed and wanted more! I should have known better. Not only are my student musicians bright and committed, but they are bold-hungry to be pushed and to grow. They inspire me everyday.
So off we go...continuing to discover and unlock treasures. For the next 20 weeks (now until the end of May), my musicians are challenged to practice for 20 minutes a day for 5 days. Every week that they are successful, they earn a letter which spells a phrase to win the prize. (Why yes...I do happen to love Survivor and The Amazing Race...why do you ask? ) :)
Would you like to join us? What skill or project are you trying to accomplish in the next 5 months? If you'd like some fun accountability, I will happily include you in our treasure hunt and send you a letter clue every week of your success! Let's go!
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