How Can We Bridge The Gap?

A blog by Seth Godin got me thinking a lot about how voice teachers interact with each other online.

Whenever the human ego is involved, there will be lively discussions. But what I see a lot of is cognitive bias and logical fallacies. Teachers make sweeping generalizations and assert information on personal experience, erect strawmen, and believe that correlation equals causation. (I’m guilty too, I’m only human.)

No truly great voice teacher thinks they know everything, nor are they unwilling to consider viewpoints that might run contrary to their own.

Here are a couple of quick thoughts when we try to convince others of our pedagogical assertions:

Goals:

An uncomfortable truth of our profession (rarely discussed) is that not all teachers share the same goals. We might never agree in our discussions of pedagogy if we don’t share the same goals in teaching, or learn how to ‘translate’ the other’s goals. (i.e., Direct vs Indirect Control? What should breath do and how should we do – or not do it? Registers? Resonance?) What is the end result? We may not agree. Important to know. We can get hung up on the smallest of pedagogical ideas, but what is the LARGER goal? Forest for the trees.

This touches the abstract: personal ethics, values, aesthetics. Why do we teach? Can the teacher outline this in a crystal clear fashion? The profession would improve if we could clarify important goals to ourselves.

Reality:

When I argue with reality I lose. But only 100% of the time  – Byron Katie

Can voice teachers agree on factual realities? Do we live in the same reality as each other? HUGE when it comes to discussion with another teacher. We need to get CRYSTAL CLEAR on terms, ideas, and define what we are talking about before we can have a successful conversation. Let’s define the realities as we see it. Yes, realities include science: acoustics, physics, anatomy, physiology of function, etc. The BEST arguments and debates I’ve ever seen are those where the debaters agree on terms FIRST.

This course of interlocution also may not work. You may be in a TOTALLY different reality from me. Why? We should work to figure that out. The earth can’t be flat AND round at the same time. Someone’s thinking needs re-evaluation. If you think that there’s an anatomical part in the head that spins to create vibrato – well, Houston, we have a problem.

Measurement: 

How are we going to measure that the pedagogy is working? How do we measure success? There are several pedagogies out there that lay this information out in a clear manner. Several authors have also described how to measure improvement in a singing voice. Do we know what our measurements are?

How are we measuring? Is it by STAR students? Is it how successful our studios are? (Careful!) Is it by the singing itself? What do we measure? Range? Successful negotiation of the passaggio? Dynamic control? Languages learned? Songs sung? Rep learned? Styles able to be embraced? Not everyone has the same measurements of success!

If you’re measuring against an aesthetic, that may inform how you measure a student’s progress. Do they “sound” like the aesthetic? Can you outline how a student can measure their own success? Can we discuss those measurements amongst each other? (Goals and measurements are interrelated).

For an online discussion to be fruitful, we must understand that not everyone shares the same worldview. But we can do better by working to understand ourselves, and what we think of as our goals, realities, and measurements. When another teacher begins to grandstand, we can interact (or not) in a way that will help us grow a bit.

But we have to decide if we’re speaking the same language.

 

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