Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Making a lasting difference...

Massive apologies for being so useless with the blog in recent weeks.

I think there have been concerns that our teaching here will only have a limited benefit, as it will be so easy for pupils (and in some cases, teachers) to slip back into bad habits once we leave. Teaching is an ongoing process and the relationship between teacher and pupil is one which develops over a long period of time, over countless hours being shut in a room together. Sadly this time frame is not available to us, particularly with the group classes. However, the difficulty this poses is bringing out the best in us as we're especially keen to be as productive as possible and get our messages accross to pupils and teachers alike.

This morning Ruairi and I gave a "Teachers' Workshop" to a small gathering of teachers from both branches of the Theme Institute where we are teaching. Our fears of it becoming a patronising lecture were thankfully unfounded, as the teachers were extremely willing to bounce ideas and questions off us and between eachother, and even took notes as we spoke, which was very gratifying. We talked for two and a quarter hours on everything from aural games (Ruairi) to finger technique (me), and covered a broad selection of approaches to teaching, aimed mostly at how to get the most out of group classes. Personally I found it among most rewarding and productive contributions I've made here, as I now feel that our ideas and techniques will not leave India with us in less than two weeks time. The cake was pretty good too...

The teachers here really do have a hard time if they try to explore the musical repertoire, or teach outside an exam syllabus; parents are on their back all the time pressing for the next exam result. One of my classes was recently halved in size when the parents removed their children because the regular teacher didn't want to enter them for their grade 2. She tried telling them that their fundamental musical understanding wasn't good enough for grade 2, but the parents just weren't interested. This just goes to show how important our job is for these kids...

I've learned masses from all the other WAM teachers (by the way guys, I think you're all bloomin marvellous), and was particularly impressed with Ruairi's aural games. I've not given my students too many aural exercises as attempts in the first week just resulted in sheepish glances and hopelessly wrong answers, so I thought it was simply beyond them. But, encouraged by Ruairi's success with aural games, I had another go with a class today and received a far more positive response. Maybe in the first week they were just too unused to the weird white guy (no male piano teachers here) and my style. I wish I'd persevered and pursued this earlier.

Finger technique at first appears like an extremely complex business. There are so many joints and so many muscles which you have to move, and more importantly, so many which you *shouldn't* move. Teaching technique can be a nightmare and it's nearly impossible to get results immediately, as it doesn't come naturally. By chance I've stumbled accross a miraculous cure for the vast majority of technique problems: I tell the student to keep their thumb always resting on the keys. Immediately their fingers are curved naturally, the wrist moves into a sensible position and the other fingers stop waggling awkwardly around. Not a cure for everything mind - see Hannah's blog for the complete course!

Hope I haven't been repeating too much what's already been said by the others. There's been some pretty impressive blogging going on!

The monsoon seems to have finally hit Delhi. The weekend was refreshingly mild and wet. Al and I spent a great couple of days sightseeing, rounded off with a small shopping spree, and are listening with just a little jealousy to tales of the others' naked escapades in Kerala.

Theo FS

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