Teaching in the Age of Impatience
The rapid pace of our lives has a big impact on a lot of aspects. The “work culture”, relationships, all the things we consume, the way we exploit the Earth’s resources, the movies and series we watch, etc. In fact, we often find ourselves consuming content in short snippets on our phones, barely remembering when we watched a full-length movie. And that’s not all, as there are even people - I got to know this a couple of days ago - who watch movies and series at double the normal speed. How far have we come? It seems like we have convinced ourselves that we don’t even have time to listen to a two-minute voice message from a friend because it’s too long.
And our impatience doesn’t stop here. When we purchase something online, waiting three days for the package to arrive feels like an eternity. If a website takes more than three seconds to load, we quickly give up and leave the site. These behaviours reflect our obvious impatience, our inability to tolerate frustration and our increasing levels of anxiety. And of course, this anxiety is a natural response to the overwhelming amount of stimuli that surround us. Some days ago, I read about a company that could deliver books to your home in just 30 minutes. And honestly, we don’t actually need a book in our home in 30 minutes, but we have convinced ourselves otherwise. We are starting to believe that we have needs that we actually don't have at all.
Lately, this topic has been crossing my mind more than ever. I even notice many of these behaviours in myself, but it comes even more evident when I observe my piano students. It is amazing to witness how the younger generations are growing up in a society where speed and immediacy are the most precious goods. As I mentioned in my post Generation Z piano students: characteristics and educational approach, students nowadays lose the belief in success quickly, they are goal-oriented, don’t tolerate waiting and quickly get bored of anything that requires concentration.
Some days ago, I gave a trial lesson to a new student. She is an adult but was really looking forward to finally learning piano, as it had been something she always wanted to do but never found the time for. In the lesson, she told me that her dream was to be able to play Chopin’s Nocturnes or Beethoven’s Sonatas. The surprise came when she told me something like: “How much time do you think that it will take for me to learn to play one of those pieces? Half a year?”. Of course, I had to hide my great surprise at this question (since this student has no knowledge of piano or music). After that, she told me that she was a very nervous person and has problems focusing. Finally, everything started to make sense! Of course, the fact that a student has problems with focusing can have multiple reasons, but in this case it was very obvious that this was a consequence of impatience.
So, what could be the solution for students who quickly become frustrated when they don't see immediate results? In such situations, I often recall a quote by the American pianist and pedagogue Frances Clark: “A student is almost always motivated to study if he leaves the lesson feeling capable”. This states that boosting students' confidence and sense of achievement can greatly reduce their impatience and turn their learning experience much more positive.
Some years ago, whenever I found a student with any problem, I used to ask myself “How can we solve it?”. However, in the last few years, my mindset has changed or developed, and I now ask myself “What does this student already know that can help them in finding a solution, or at least, asking the right question?”. Surprisingly, the key to solving certain problems often lies not in the solution itself, but in the question we ask ourselves. What is even more intriguing is that I have discovered that when I involve my students in the learning process in a more active way (unlike the passive way in which they are fed with information), they have a much higher level of engagement and they are finally able to slow down the “rapid pace” of their lives that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. For a moment, they pause, reflect, tap into their existing knowledge, explore how to apply it, and discover their own capabilities. Once the students realise that they are more “capable” than they think, they connect much more with the activity they are doing: learning piano.
In conclusion, the traditional method of students only receiving content and knowledge from teachers definitely fosters students’ passivity in the learning process, increasing the probability for them to get tired very easily. In today’s era, where cases of attention-deficit, hyperactivity-disorder, technology addiction and similar cases are on the rise, it seems that passive teaching methods may not be the most rewarding approach.
What do you think about this topic? Do you see yourself or your students reflected in this text? Let me know in the comments!