Monday, June 1, 2009

Haven't you heard it: "That kid is so gifted: he doesn't need a teacher!"

Gifted kids are easily exploited in situations where their gift is held up as an example to others. But even the most gifted child is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. What the gifted kid needs is a teacher who is not afraid to spot what the kid needs and to make it possible for him or her to work on it in an environment where everyone is learning on a comparable level but entirely at their own pace.

Such learning inevitably involves some pain: Gifted kids are used to bluffing so that no one will notice their weakness. In the case of one child I taught, his strength was a photographic memory; his weakness the inability to connect his vision to his ear. Working on this was not pleasant for a kid who had never been required to make that kind of essential brain reorganization.

In my 20's I had a teacher who made me correct a similar disconnect. It was some of the hardest work I ever had to do.
Today a musician who follows this blog told me she likes the metaphysical entries the best. Hmmm.

I had already been thinking about how essential it is to have dissonance in one's musical life. A steady diet of consonance just won't do, just as it won't do to retain the taste of a four-year-old in any other respect.

One person I teach was not granted the possibility of a fully developed brain as most of us experience it, nor does he have sight. I have insisted, gently but persistently, that he learn Bartok from the volumes "For Children." Though he still resists at times, most of the dissonances are there in all their melancholy, even grief. Surely he experiences these emotions somewhere in his being--he is, after all, human--though music is the only means he has to express them.

Everyone who hears him play is moved.

Every time I hear him play I am moved. And challenged.