This is one of Frances Clark’s more “catchy” quotes. It shows off her feisty personality and sense of humor. What did she exactly mean? I believe one scenario might be illuminating: A teacher to the student: “But I told you that last week!” (The student has made that error over several weeks). The teacher might have told the student, but did not teach the student. There is a big difference between what we say in a student’s presence and what we communicate. There is a big difference between what we say in a lesson and what the student experiences in the lesson. If we find ourselves on the threshold of saying, “I told you this last week,” it is a good idea to re-examine our teaching.
Our New School faculty discussed the many different facets of this quote. Here are some ideas from our discussion:
– This quote highlights the difference between teaching and learning.
– When a student demonstrates ownership of ideas, we know that they have been taught.
– Preparation of new concepts in advance of their appearance in repertoire will help students to “own” the concepts.
– The efficient use of language: eliminate any unnecessary words. Record the lessons to know what we say and how we say it.
– Endeavor to constantly monitor the ratio of teacher talking and the student talking, or student doing.
– Discovery learning is the opposite of the teaching “telling.”
– Our job is to help students ask the right questions of themselves.
Is there ever a time for “telling?”
Certainly. Conveying knowledge about music history and “rules” for shaping the phrase come to mind. The idea behind the quote, however, is that one role as a teacher is to endeavor to provide an experience-based mode of instruction, and to constantly assess our effectiveness by testing what the student has “learned.”
A question for our readers: What does this quote mean to you?