From a bass guitar to discarding a curriculum!
17 years ago I took my bass guitar in for a repair and it came back not quite right. It took me a while to realise, but the wiring had been finished incorrectly and the battery (making my active bass work) continually drained, rather than only draining when a cable was plugged in. The work-around has been, for the last seventeen years, to unscrew the back of the guitar, pull out the battery, connect it up, put it back in and rescrew the plate on – EVERY TIME I PLAYED THE GUITAR!
I fixed it. Myself*
*with a lot of help from YouTube and a Bass Guitar forum. But I did the fixing.
What a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT the other night when I pulled the guitar from its case, plugged in and began playing for the first gig of my newly formed band, the “Iqama Chameleons”. I felt like announcing it to the rest of the band. “Did you SEE that??? I just plugged in and played!!! Fantastic isn’t it!?!” It would simply have confirmed their already growing suspicions that I am a little bit crazy!
And then I got to thinking… why did I put up with that for 17 years!
Well, for a start, 17 years ago YouTube didn’t exist. The internet (as I know it today) didn’t exist. I didn’t know any electricians who worked on the electronics of guitars, and the guy who made the mess of it in the first place had packed up his business pretty soon after I had been to him and disappeared. I didn’t know any other bass players who might have been able to show me a thing or two about the inner workings. I had me and a local library.
The screwdriver and the constant open-up-and-connect-it-all scenario seemed to be the easiest solution at the time!
Now things are different. I searched for a website that had listed a similar problem to mine. I found a handfull and read through them all. I discarded four and stayed with one forum where the description of what I was faced with most closely matched. I did a YouTube search for someone who might have taken the time to explain the issue in a video, and sure enough, there was another handful of gents talking me through what might amount to a fix.
So not wanting to dive in and fry my very nice Fender P-Bass Lyte, I thought I would clarify things and on the forum I had found by briefly describing my issue, the resources I had discovered in my research and what I believed to be my solution. My question for the forum, was, “Am I on the right track?”
BOOM! MrBassMan replied within 20 minutes to confirm I had done my research well, and with a couple of slight tweaks, would have my funky bass lines ringing out in no time.
That was the “What to do”. Next was the “How to do”.
Again, YouTube was the answer. Search, review, refine, review, refine, watch, rewind, rewatch, rewind, re-rewatch, pause, deep breath. Do! Plug in and test. BINGO! Funky bass lines coming at me out of the amplifier!
What. A. Sense. Of. Accomplishment!
And then I thought about the students at my school…
How often is their learning at my school packaged like this? How often do students get to the end of something and have to restrain themselves from jumping on their desk and shouting to the world, “DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID!!!!!!” My daughter is 6 and is learning to read right now. I see it in her eyes when she decodes a new word, sounds it out, mutters to herself the sounds, thinks and then realises what the word is. She has that look in her eyes. That look of “WOW! I JUST READ A NEW WORD!” She runs to me or her Mother and leaps about with excitement. “DADDY, I JUST READ “happy”! DADDY, THIS SAYS “happy”!!!”
If you are a teacher, how often are you working with your students with this as a goal? How often do you plan to begin your next unit of instruction with a challenge that is immediately daunting, challenging and seemingly impossible? How often is the summative assessment so naturally satisfying that there is no option but to succeed? Is it actually possible to do this with a school curriculum? If it is not, are we really teaching the right thing?
I’m not sure I have the answers, but like my bass guitar experience, I know there is a bunch of people out there thinking the same thing, facing the same challenges and making efforts to address them.
I can’t wait to find them!