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Re: Let's listen.

Teaching young kids to listen more

Listening is our fundament

Steven Den Toom

Guitar builder
9th February 2021

Hi Cristina,

Such an interesting subject. I find myself thinking about these matters too.You made me think more about it and deeper so thank you for writing in such a engaging way. The example of teaching childeren and noticing that they don't listen to eachother is the fundamental problem I have seen as a teacher myself (I working with kids between 3 and 12 to teach them how to Ski) Even through I was not teaching them in music I do see a lot of simularities and I would like to adress those becouse it might be interesting.

So my findings where that the younger the kids are the less they are able to listen and concentrate on whatever they are doing. My solution to this problem was that I promised myself to not overtalk. Don't try and tell a 3 year old how they should stand and hold there knees for balance or why it is relevent. Frankly, they don't care. If they are interested than they just want to know how to do it as quickly as possible. So I found that if I first showed it physically to them and let them try and copy my stance and position that it worked better. It resonanted more with them. Listening can be acted out too. It was so shocking to me when I first found that out by having to teach 20 kids at the same time. I believe it gave them hope to. Becouse if I actually show them that it's possible to do then they will be more motivated to try themselfs. Kids love to imitate and they are incredibly good at it too. Ofcourse they make mistake that way. But atleast they get started and do something to try and learn/improve there technique. I believe this could work for kids who are learning an instrument too. I remember when I was 10 years old, having classical guitar lesson that I found it difficult to concentrate and remain interested. My teacher was just explaining and talking to much (in my humble opinion) And I just wanted to play!! I was an impatient student so I know what it's like from that perspective. However I like to believe that I have found my patience in my own art as a Classical guitar builder now.

Anyway, I believe when we start teaching young kids by acting things out they will stay concentrate more and longer. If they concentrate more they will grow the patience to listen, feel and think more. I have one example of this with my Skiing lessons. I had one small girl who was first acting it out. She did very well at first try. I believe she was 6 or 7. After she did it she started asking direct questions, Why is this happening? Why do I lose my balance? Why am I falling? It was so good becouse by first acting it out and seeing the potential that she could do it she wanted to become an expert at it. And she did not even realise that she wanted that! She had tunnel vision and was very driven. She was listening very carefully to each word I said. She even fought back by saying. Hey! I tried to do what you told me and it failed. And it was true! So I had to up my game too and think hard about what she might improve with her short legs and powerful motivation haha. Anyway this was ofcourse a perfect example, there will always be the difficult kids who are hard to work with regardless of your strategy and good intentions. But in general I think by acting thing out with them (Show them a G chord, let them play it and then explain why it sounds so nice and which notes are in it) is a good way in general. For many kids and people in general big texts and large explanations are intimidating and hard to grasp.
So in order to grow there interested it is important to start small and start at the roots of listening. The early teachers also tend to be the ones we remember most of all and who help us grow for that small seed of potential. Which we all have in us.

I like your emphasize on the importance to teach people how to listen and let them appriciate more complex art forms such as opera, classical concerts and recordings. It gives a more hopefull view for the future. By talking about it in this manner it shows that there is something we can atleast try to do about it. We have to start small. Also showing by example. I believe it would a great idea to visite small groups of kids in there early years and create some curiousity with our arts. By showing them we might get them a little bit curious and that way they could possibly start to listen more. And if they start to listen more they will talk about it to there friends and family. And that could help grow there interested too.

I believe that it always start with the individual. I think most of us remember the teacher or person that influenced us the most in our artistic journey. And by doing so that one person and there influence helped us connect with hundreds of new people, see new parts of the world, learn about different cultures and see the rich colours of beauty and sound around us. All becouse they helped us to listen more. There are many distraction in the world around us. Everything runs so fast. But if there are a few individual who take the time to show others how to listen then the impact of that one person is unmeasurable. Listening is a fundamental need for our existance. We need it to learn how to act in this complicating, all changing, fast running world. Like you said: Listening is also feeling. And by learning how to listen more carefully we start to understand eachother better. And hopefully start to appriciate more the beauty in this life.

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