Read a great Review of It's About Time at The Muse's Muse

Read a new interview with journalist Michael Manning:
part 1 - part 2 - part 3

Read a fantastic CD REVIEW and INTERVIEW
Read this Bud Buckley interview with Kid Mercury's ActoGuitar Blog. HERE
Read this Bud Buckley interview with Journalist Michael Manning. HERE
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Best Part of Teaching is Learning

I spent a LOT of years teaching. The act of teaching is just the best thing there is for me to do. Nothing compares to it. Well nothing in the sense of working. There are, obviously other physical activities that are better than work of any kind. The preparation of teaching is hard. The hours are WAY WAY more than most people realize. Just don't give ME any of that "summers off" and "holidays" crap. That wasn't my experience at all. And weekends? What weekends? You mean those days where I prepared lessons and marked papers while trying to have a family and social life? And PuLEEEEZ don't run any of that "off at 3 o'clock" jive on me. If you know a teacher who has those benefits, they're not doing their job. Or they're not a classroom teacher.

So it's only natural that I've gotten so consumed in teaching guitar these days that I've neglected any and all blogging for weeks. I have some undefinable attention deficit disorder. I'm either very focused on what I'm doing or I'm hooked by passing events that changes my focus . The result of the latter being that I leave things forgotten or unfinished and lock onto new things. So when a guitar student requests a song to learn that I'm not familiar with, I tend to spend a lot of time researching it and all the ways to play it. I transpose it to easier keys when necessary and think about how I'll teach it in stages from a straight out four strum to a finger picked arrangement and every combination there is. Often in the process I end up putting the song on my own playlist. My students represent a wide range of skills, ages, styles and tastes. So there's typically more hours in preparation than there is in teaching.

I don't mind because I never fail to learn something in the process. The real gift I get from teaching is what I learn. I'm beginning to think that a very valuable part of student teaching for certification ought to be to try to teach the same thing to about 10 different students, one at a time. To learn what kind of adjustments you have to make to first of all, discover their personal learning style and then figuring out how to teach to that. The transition to a whole class should then come in stages of two or three different learning styles at a time.

I wish I had learned that way. But in reality, it's impossible to meet every learning style in the average class of 25 to 30 kids. You teach down the middle and do the best you can to give individual help during the short amount of time yo have them. Expanding the school day or year would not help as the fatigue levels and attention spans present a point of diminishing returns. If you're gonna argue that point, I hope you're a teacher with as much experience as I've had (34 years plus summer school).

Now that I'm no longer a classroom teacher, I'm learning how I would have liked to learn to teach. My first classes were typically over 40 kids. I had no training as a teacher. It was Catholic school and they will hire anybody willing to put up with the miserable salary.

So I learned to teach by trial and mostly error. And they survived because they were mostly kids of relative privilege whose mothers were able to stay home and read to them from an early age and supervise their homework. So they came with a lot of skills to begin with. I did that for three years until I got my masters degree and certification. It's a whole different thing teaching in a public school. But I preferred public school. It was more real. More like the actual world we live in. Still, I wish I had been trained the way I proposed a couple of paragraphs ago.

I took enormous joy over the years out of classroom teaching. I made some lasting friendships with kids and their parents. I know I'll live in some of their memories long after I'm gone. I wouldn't trade that for anything. But this individual guitar teaching is even better. I feel like I'm improving my skill with every lesson. More importantly is that my students are learning something they'll use forever and remember how they learned it. As opposed to, say, at least half the stuff I had to teach fourth and fifth graders. I've also never had to slave over report cards or deal with problem parents and administrators as a guitar teacher.

Riston and Travis One of my students, who has been with me the longest, I think, is a fine songwriter who I can share ideas with. Another is close to my age and has written five books yet feels he has to really struggle to write a song. But he's doing it. He's gonna be a songwriter. A third is new and young and has a lot to learn but she'll do it for sure and the bonus is that she got me to think about writing lyrics that don't rhyme. I had to stop and think about a bunch of them that are quite good and don't rhyme at all. She's gonna be writing songs for sure and playing them too. The first guitar student I ever taught is one I'm very proud of. She learned as fast as I could show her something and it didn't matter how complex. She is now a singer/songwriter who opened for me when I did two benefit concerts in New York state last year.

I have many promising students who can achieve anything they put their minds to. It's a thrill to work with them. My wife, Cathy, asked me recently which part of my business I like best, writing and recording, performing or teaching. It's impossible to single one out as the favorite. They all support each other for one thing. But more importantly, I don't want to live without any of them.

I've been in touch with a few fellow bloggers who asked for some help understanding their guitar playing. I wrote a long lesson on barre chords for them and how to use them to play 12 bar blues. I've been able to help them and would gladly pass some of that information along to you. You'd have to tell me what it is you want to know and what you already know. And the feedback you give me on the lessons helps me to make them better.

Have a splendid weekend. I hope to catch up with you soon.

posted by Bud @ 8:09 PM

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