Monday, November 15, 2010

Critical

Guess who is becoming amazing at sitting up???
Warning: This post is going to reveal so not so great colors about my personality, so if you're feeling at all judgmental today, feel free to stop reading now. (-:

As I have mentioned before, I am a part time instrumental music teacher. I teach band, orchestra and piano theory. All day long (on the days that I teach) I listen critically. Which notes were incorrect? Which notes were out of tune? I spend hours telling high school students how they can play their instruments better- this being achieved by picking out the bad elements of their playing and helping them fix the problem.

In addition to being a music teacher, I also hold a masters degree in clarinet performance. I hold a very high standard for my own playing that I carry over into my classroom.

Why am I feeling the need to share all of this? Well, I was struck by a very unsettling thought over the weekend.

14 hours of practice (in addition to a full work week), and six performances later, I managed to make it through this week. I spent a lot of time in the orchestra pit with other professional musicians.

Most of these musicians were really amazing and I enjoyed getting to meet and play with them.

However, there were a couple of musicians that I heard starting out to play with poor tone and extremely questionable intonation. I felt myself kick into music teacher mode as I listened and critiqued.

I was frustrated and appalled. I won't give you my whole line of thinking at that point, but it was not at all gracious and was extremely critical. I was in the middle of a quiet, personal rant about being professional and playing well being a requirement of that title, when I felt a fist squeeze around my heart.

What if that is Chubbs someday? I would love to think that someday she could play in a pit orchestra someday. It is a very fun, amazing experience. I am always going on and on how I want everyone to treat her normally. Does being treated normally mean being subject to harsh criticisms like I was dishing out to these other professionals?

What if she is playing an instrument someday to the very best of her ability but it doesn't measure up to the high standards that I/or other musicians feel are appropriate for the gig? What if she is the one who gets the judgmental stares and lack of friendliness from the other musicians?

What if other people are sitting and listening and thinking horrible things about her?

I felt immediately guilty that I had thought those uncharitable, highly critical thoughts. My next thought was immediately- but this is my job to be critical like this. Do I have to give up on the high standard that I hold for my students and myself to make room for my daughter?

I claim that Chubbs has changed my perspective on life, but is it supposed to change the way I do my job? Am I supposed to go around all day praising the students for the mistakes because it is showing effort? Am I supposed to never be critical of my student's playing so as to hope that some teacher someday isn't in my daughter's face someday about a missed note that she did her best to get, but just wasn't able to?

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this over the weekend. To be honest, it has made me feel incredibly guilty about who I am at times. My critical spirit tends to touch all areas of my life. I tend to be a very, very critical person.

I argue with myself that I am just trying to make things better...but honestly, a lot of the things that I am critical about are things that I can't change- it just comes across like I am complaining about these other people or things.

For example- these other musicians that I met this weekend- I can't change how they play. It is none of my business if they make mistakes or not- my job was to play my part as well as I could, not to instruct others how to do theirs. Just because they don't have a "diagnosis" doesn't give me the license to be critical of them.

The thought that some people someday might be highly critical of Chubbs- not just of her musical ability but of the way she looks, walks, talks- this scares and frightens me. Because before Chubbs, maybe I was the person being critical?

Realization is the first step to becoming more gracious. I can't change how critical the world is around me. I am upset and angry when I sense or hear that others are critical of me, but instead of looking around me to point out all of those other people who need to change, I think the solution starts here with me.

Yes, I should continue holding my students to a high standard. Yes, I should continue to hold myself to a high standard. I will teach Chubbs to play to the best of her ability and help critique things that she can change and praise her for her effort when it is honestly to the best of her ability. That is where knowing your student's limitations come in- how else can you justifiably push them to play their personal best?

But I should not sit idly by and criticize things that I have no control to change or no authority to change.

This is me striving to be a more gracious, accepting, loving person. Why? Well, that is the correct approach to life, but also because that is how I want the world to approach my beautiful daughter.



Haven't gotten any results about the sleep study yet. Will share them as soon as I do!

6 comments:

  1. Such an excellent post, Deanna!

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  2. Thanks Deanna for such a revealing and honest post.

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  3. great post, I love your honesty and how you shared your way of thinking...I too struggle with critical thinking and you brought it into a whole different light for me, and hopefully when I feel like criticizing someone I will think about this post.

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  4. Great post! Made me stop and think of a lot of different things. Cant wait to hear the results on the sleep study!!

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  5. I struggle with being critical too. As was actually just thinking about this today at work. There is one co-worker that I don't particularly get along with, and I tend to be critical, of everything. Of how she does her job, her clothes, the annoying expressions she uses constantly...and all I could think of was peole making fun of Claire for the way she was. And I didn't like it, and I didn't like myself for being critical either!

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  6. Deanna...too funny, but I was talking to a friend this week who happened to have seen Peter Pan 2-3x's and absolutely LOVED the music!!!! I told her I would tell you. :)

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