Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Education Tightrope

Sssssh.

Didn’t work.

O-KAY!!! (clap hands).

Didn’t work.

(Silent stare)

Didn’t work.

(Whistle)

Didn’t work.

I wouldn’t care less when teaching adults who are paying for their classes and understand why they’re learning English, but in a High School, the less I care the harder MY job is. Being forced to care makes the classroom strained, and what comes across to the lively students is “my job is to teach you English.”

As pragmatic as it seems, this is a bad approach towards imparting the knowledge because it positions you as an authority, and the classroom atmosphere comes from the top down. This is, more often than not, a complete failure. The classroom atmosphere can be controlled to a threshold, but it’s always more successful to ascertain the mood of the students before attempting to enforce an atmosphere.

The best approach towards the actual education is to encourage self-motivation, but this takes a personal knowledge of your students. Personal relationships must be harvested, but there can never be an emotional equality with the students, otherwise you’re in competition with them for their attention rather than earning it through respect. So you’re on a tightrope, carefully balanced between being an engaging, energetic source of knowledge and an authoritative voice to be respectfully obeyed. Walking this tightrope, often at the expense of my own thoughts, feelings and general mood, is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do on a daily basis.

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Project South America

I wish I could conjure up one new artwork a day. I’m kinda already doing that, but it never seems enough to pump out simple endeavours, as prolific as it may be. There should be one major focus, one big project that takes months. A Muto. There is a big project, something that will take years to materialize.

The project, as you know, is the trip around South America. It’s kinda backpacking, yes. But it’s also kinda work – the spreading of the gospel of open-source music by Pravda23. A travel case containing a laptop, small, quality speakers, a dynamic microphone, a soundcard, a small midi controller, perhaps some percussion instruments and a violin.

In the meantime, I must familiarize myself with my equipment and the show-on-the-road lifestyle. I must optimize the amount of weight I’m carrying and consider all the possibilities. I have to keep this on the burner. In the long run, it’s what I’m doing now.

Next week I’ll be teaching the future tense “I am going” to my classes. It’s a beautiful marriage of meanings when you use the present participle “ing”. It means both “This is presently happening” and “I plan to make this happen”. When I say I am going to South America to tour backpacker spots and guest houses, connecting and recording people along the way, there’s no causal hiatus between the intention to go and the path I’m daily walking to get there. It’s not an idea. It’s not a dream. It’s a cash projection. It’s an advance flight booking.

Mornings before school are violin. Squeezing a few listens to the work of my international DJ-composer-performer peers on the Ableton forum during the day. Evenings are playtime, usually behind the violin again, often creating the backing tracks and clips. Or drawing something, or making a short stop-motion animation on my camera phone. Every day, alone, focusing, sharpening my blade, preparing for the trip, for the unknown, for the risky endeavour. For the frowns of the concerned family members – when are you going to settle down. For the life worth living. There’s no guarantee that I won’t come home broke with nothing to show for it but good times a bunch of MP3s. This is my battle. This is my victory.

You wrote this on the 25th October 2010 in your apartment in Seoul.

Time to shine.

I am plotting an assault on the streets of Seoul. My arsenal includes an electric violin, a laptop and about 60 minutes of Pravda23 backing tracks. I have to acquire a pair of speakers and the permission of the owners of empty coffee shops. I will also play subway stations with electrical outlets. Enough talk. Speakers today, trial gig soon after.

There’s a temptation to say “when I’m ready, I’ll start.” It’s an excuse, meant to sabotage you. Why do we sabotage ourselves? A few reasons: to avoid failure; to be able to always cherish the ideal, which is shinier than the reality. It works the other way around in reality. If you smile, you start to feel happier. With your face, you can trick your mind into brightening up. If you get the cheap speakers ‘in the meantime,’ and just ‘get something going’ so long, you set in motion the wheels of progress. If you wait for the ‘big one’ you risk over-preparation and sometimes you fail to leave the ground.

I always say that when I’m better at violin, I’ll get this thing going. I’m better at violin now. I was playing these tracks 200 ‘practice hours’ ago. Let’s go.

Worry.

I think I just left the “shiny new teacher” phase and entered the “what am I doing here” phase. It’s baaaaaaad.

Stressing over classes in my prep time. If I have enough time, I worry about my ability to conduct the class. If there’s not enough, I worry about my level of preparation.

I am not communicating with any of my fellow teachers. I still don’t even know some of their names > after 7 weeks of co-teaching. Coffee only solves so much.

I don’t know what I should be teaching. I can’t stretch a game into a 50-minute class. What am I supposed to do with the rest of the time? Eating me up.