Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No pressure: teaching English and making music

I now have two excellent things on Monday. I teach a small group of Korean women who belong to a church that is "nesting" at mine until they can have their own place. A little over a year ago, when their pastor was introduced to our church, he mentioned that he'd like someone to help the housewives with English. I introduced myself to him, and sent a follow-up e-mail saying I'd like to do it, but never heard anything back. Then, a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from him saying he had been going through some old e-mails and found my message. Now I go there two mornings a week, and the housewives are very cultured, very educated ladies and I sometimes feel bad that all I have to offer them are some pronunciation exercises and conversation topics. I really enjoy talking to them.

Meanwhile, I had started taking piano lessons in an adult class at a local music store on Monday afternoons. I felt bad that I had no piano to practice on at home, but it hit me the day before I started doing the English class: I go to a giant old church that must have about a zillion pianos in it. I asked the man in charge of facility use if I could use one, explaining that I was a total beginner. He said that I could use the one in the chapel, which is a lovely, relatively quiet and uplifting place to practice. There is one intimidating factor, though: The chapel is right next to the Korean pastor's office, where his wife assists him. She was a piano major in college and teaches piano, their daughter is a graduate student in piano at MSU, and their son sings for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and they have to listen to some idiot pound out "The Star-Spangled Banner" every Monday and Wednesday at noon. (I just started using the C, F, and G chords this week, and I know they wait with bated breath while I wait for an eternity between each note trying to find the chords.)

Actually, they came in once to talk to me (the wife is in my class) and they were actually very sweet to me. (However, I suspect the lunch at the Korean restaurant my group treated me to last week was to get me away from the piano.;))

The best thing about the English class and the piano class is NO PRESSURE. I have to plan, but I don't have to give tests or grades. If we get a really good conversation going on one topic, I don't have to shift gears so I can complete a curriculum. It's just ladies talking...in English. (...except when there is animated conversation in Korean explaining what I am talking about.) Then I get to go practice the piano and go to my lesson.

The cool thing about my lesson is also NO PRESSURE. The teacher's two favorite phrases are "Whatever you want" and "Just have fun." There is a philosophy about teaching adults being promoted that they are generally not preparing to be concert pianists; they're just looking to have fun and make music. There is actually a magazine discussing this philosophy, and I really like it. A long time ago, a lot of people sang and danced and played music, but somehow we now think that we're supposed to entrust those very human activities to professionals who will do it for us. I don't know if it applies, but there was this great line from the film
Hustle and Flow: "Every man's got the right to contribute a verse." I feel that way about singing and dancing. I mean, I love to hear and see excellent singing and dancing, but everyone's got to participate in some way at some point.

As I said to my husband, I wouldn't say, "I'm not an athlete, so I'm not going to the gym."

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