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I got something to say.

Every day is a journey in learning and life and this past year has been no exception. I remember starting a conversation in January with ‘what if…?’ – having no idea how things would take shape. Everything was a question, from funding to how the collaborations would spin out. At one point I found myself in California last May in a breakout group of a dozen people – age 9-45, students, professionals, -a real mix of life, in the middle of Yosemite National Park and one of those people was Nik Koyama (who is someone also fuelled by the same passions and cravings for life, growth, and connection). As we walked, Nik asked me about the collaboration that was happening and unfolding and Nik asked: ‘what do you want to do with this? where is it going? what are your goals? … for a couple of months or next year?’ and I without hesitation I said that it wasn’t about then, about where we haven’t yet arrived, about where we’re going – what I really wanted was to be here right now and to let that happen.

All we have is now. Each now, one after another, and there is magic in that. It goes back to so many things- belief (self-efficacy of course!), permission to learn, to experience, to explore, awareness, attention, reflection, connection, and all of these create value. Educationally as a teacher I continue to learn to trust my students and I give them more and more freedoms. Freedom to design their assessments, choose their focus, make collaborations, reach out and go beyond what I can conceive. Read more

Live music + cupcakes + David Preston = my book launch!

It’s all about that #YesICan. Self-efficacy. The book. This Tuesday 5:30-6:30 GMT is the time to share and celebrate, and yes, the event will be live-streamed.

I’m not so good at celebrating or accepting compliments of any sort, and somehow I have managed to make this event into something that I am really looking forward to and am so excited to share – and, no, I am not going to stand on a soap box and talk at people. I am going to do the book –  show you what it says on the tin. The event is to celebrate and launch my book  Fostering self-efficacy in higher education students and it has also been billed as a Learning & Teaching event by the University of Chichester, where I work. I love that – it is absolutely lovely, and makes me feel valued and supported ‘at home’. I am very grateful. There is a very special guest coming to say a few words – My good friend and colleague David Preston (He founded the Open Source Learning Foundation and I am pleased to be able to say I am also one of the co-founding members of the OSLF, which is in it’s infancy yet, but international links and projects are springing up already) is on the plane at this very moment winging his way from LA to England (the land of tea and cakes that I call home). Read more

Zesty botanicals and children’s laughter

(30 sec read) This is one of those stories that is lovely just because it is, and with so many stories that involve children, it has direct relevance to adult life. Zesty botanicals have less to do with it – but the freshness that they conjure is relevant to the residue left on me by this story.

A good friend of mine came to visit (over a decade ago) and my children were very small, 2 and nearly 4 at the time. This friend was magic – he had no children of his own, but mine adored him and he had a simple, but amazing game he played with them.

They would do what little children did and stretch their arms upwards and ask, ‘Can you pick me up? Pleeeeeease?’ (or in the case of the 2 year old ‘pick up peez!’) Read more

Did you hear me?

This post is about learning, and what happens when learning is visible – to the learner and to others. (2 min read)

This morning I was practising and I had one of those moments that really made me stop in my tracks and think. In a week I have a big event, it’s my book launch. The book is all about self-efficacy and fostering that positive self-belief in students. -and I have my good friend, and co-founder of the Open Source Learning Foundation, David Preston coming over from LA to speak, and then I’m going to be playing a fun duet with a recent graduate and then I sing a song (accompanied by a second year student) before a tea and cake reception. More on the singing a song later – for this story the important part is the cello/violin duet.

As I played I noticed something out of my peripheral vision. It was my husband – I could see him in the garden through the window.

IMMEDIATELY I became aware that I was very self-conscious of how I was playing and what I sounded like. I had been really going for it in my practising – playing with abandon and making a big sound, really doing all the things I should be doing, and suddenly I questioned everything and shrank. It was as if someone had seen me naked.

That made me think about the idea of body image and I thought about the attention that acceptance of different bodies and individuality is taught. Overwhelmingly there has been a move away from some perfect body image to the idea that people are individual and that’s ok, and then I thought back to musical practice and wondered about my musical identity. Am I comfortable with who I am musically? What about processes? Why would I doubt myself so much if someone saw me learning? -especially if it was my husband! Of all people, he is the most supportive and would not be passing critical judgement – certainly not as he was on his way to mow the lawn. He wasn’t focused on the few notes he heard as he passed by.

I recorded a little passage when I felt self-conscious and noticed what was happening:

I felt physically small, felt tight, was listening in a nervously critical way, my coordination was getting sloppy and it started to go out of tune… Oh my goodness! Not at all what you would want and certainly not a conducive environment for learning.

So my mind moved to the garden (stay with me, it’s a good analogy – promise). There is nothing wrong with watching someone garden. I have never known someone to get sheepish and embarrassed about planting a flower or raking leaves and having dirty hands or leaves still on the ground. We are ok with process in that pursuit. That was a revelation for me. We are ok with process in gardening. We are ok with process in cooking. We watch people do these things from start to finish. There are popular tv shows about it.

Why is it different in musical learning?

8278228668_7c12d295b0_zI don’t think it should be. Yes it is very important to know the difference between something in progress and something finished, and if a learner does not have the perceptive capabilities to know that there are still areas to improve, then that is not so good… but surely the process of learning should not be something that people are ashamed of. If someone walks in just after I’ve cracked an egg into a bowl, I don’t get worried that they have seen the breakfast crepes before I have cooked them; that would be silly. (photo CC BY-NC-ND by Rakka http://bit.ly/1lEb6tl)

So what am I going to do about it? I’m not completely sure, and would love suggestions. I had the idea to do a practising hangout. In my open music class #MUS654 we talk about all sorts of aspects of music learning from the point of view of teachers, and I think that next year I will add at least one ‘in progress’ hangout to put that process out there. I’ll be the guinea pig – as it’s not fair to ask that sort of thing of the students, certainly not if I am not willing to do it myself! – and I’ll be the fly on the wall and talk through the process. Learning to learn is so important, and I don’t think it’s something anyone should hide from.

More on the book launch soon – as for putting the cards on the table, I’m singing a song and that is a big deal for me. I’m definitely still a student there, and it’s a pop song… like with a microphone. and we’re live streaming it… It’s all about learning and living it, every day.

Featured image CC BY-SA by Hernán Piñera http://bit.ly/1Q6K8HM