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Marissa Lingen

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A different song [Sep. 17th, 2011|01:21 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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So one of the things that's been going on here recently is that I was trying to figure out how to be able to make my good singing and my audible singing more...um...the same. Because I was not having a lot of success with timprov being able to hear me over the guitar, for one thing. I have talked before about how I do participatory music but not performance music, but that's a thing that affects participatory music. It doesn't have to be a big performance.

When I mentioned to timprov that this was something I was trying to figure out, he took me through a few things that were incredibly simple and worked. So yay for success! We have done a few things lately like having me sing a song for him while he tried to figure out the chords for it, since he can both play the chords and hear the notes now.

But it was sad to me because I realized that I had been actively taught wrong. Not just not actively taught right, but some of the things that my old church choir director, who was a very dear person, had explicitly taught us with teaching songs I can reproduce to this very day...were wrong. Were directly, exactly, the opposite of what you want to do when you're singing to get a good pure tone with volume control. What I was taught to do with my head and neck while singing was just exactly opposite. And now that I know it, I can look at footage of singers and go, "Uh, yah. They are all doing the opposite of what she taught us to."

Several of my experiences with this sort of thing were things I was aware of at the time and resented. I was, for example, taught that the Germans sunk the Lithuania, and that the Pentagon was on the Acropolis. I was taught that all electron shells after the first one contain eight electrons. And I fussed and fumed and fulminated against the teachers who taught me these things. But with this choir director...I'm just sad. I have fond memories of her. I can't dislike her. And yet she taught me a thing that has made an activity I enjoy more difficult than it had to be, with worse results, for literally thirty years, and I am only 33. I don't really know what to do about that except to be sad and baffled.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: athenais
2011-09-17 07:21 pm (UTC)
I am genuinely saddened to read this! What a shame when you love singing so much. I'm glad you have learned other, more comfortable ways to get the sound you want (or are working on that).

I can't think of too many things I was actively taught wrong. I've been told wrong things by people who couldn't stand to say, "I don't know," but they weren't usually authority figures.
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[User Picture]From: callunav
2011-09-17 07:26 pm (UTC)
That would make me feel sad too, and maybe sort of achey. I'm glad, though, that you are getting some of it sorted out, and things will start getting better.

Is it okay to ask what kinds of things your choir director taught you that turn out now to be wrong?
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2011-09-17 07:59 pm (UTC)
I'd certainly like to know. I have excellent pitch, but no technique with which to make use of it; I'd like to be a much better singer than I am.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-17 08:43 pm (UTC)
I will show you some of the rest that can't go as easily into my comment above at WFC if we get the chance.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-17 08:43 pm (UTC)
Er, below. Comment wound up below, in response to other comment above. Right then.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2011-09-17 08:48 pm (UTC)
That would be awesome!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-17 08:42 pm (UTC)
She had us singing with our heads way down, chins down. Look at someone singing sometime. Whether it's a musical theater singer or a pop star or a classical soloist, when they're reaching for more, the head goes back so the airway is further open.

There were a couple of other things, but that was the big one.
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[User Picture]From: callunav
2011-09-18 12:54 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah. That's so easy to do, and so wrong.

What a frustrating-in-retrospect experience.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2011-09-17 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oh dear.

Also: The Pentagon on the Acropolis? I can see how a person would say that, but not how they wouldn't catch and correct themselves.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-17 09:09 pm (UTC)
When some nerdy classmates and I corrected him, he did not know what we were talking about.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2011-09-17 09:51 pm (UTC)
Oh dear. It wouldn't, I think, even take a nerd; plenty of people would say "No, the Pentagon is in Washington" whether or not they knew about the acropolis and Parthenon.
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2011-09-17 09:55 pm (UTC)
The one I always have to stop and check myself on is Pantheon vs. Parthenon. I know which one is where; it's just that I can't trust my brain to grab the right word if I don't supervise the process.
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[User Picture]From: ckd
2011-09-17 11:23 pm (UTC)
I get those two crossed up also.
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[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2011-09-17 10:19 pm (UTC)
That sort of reminds me of the European history teacher who tried to teach us that it was mandatory for Catholics to do all seven sacraments. When I pointed out to him that Marriage and Holy Orders were generally incompatible, and that Holy Orders were not open to women, he just gave me the most pained, "Oh, there you go, bringing reality into it again" look.
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From: thoughtdancer
2011-09-18 08:46 am (UTC)
My husband and I have spent the last ten years actively unteaching me high school. And some college. And a lot of the lower grades too.

At least I'm finally learning lambda calculus, but don't get me started on my knowledge of chemistry or physics.
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[User Picture]From: seabream
2011-09-20 06:27 am (UTC)
Well I'm glad for the success though I'm sorry for the letdown. I'm a bit surprised that you've only had one person teach you technique for that.

I'm also somewhat surprised at the electron shells thing. What grade was this? I mean, straight word substitution is one thing. I get that level of being wrong, but absolutism in science? In physics? (if it was after streaming and not in general science courses) Generally speaking almost all of the stuff of that nature in the sciences side of things came with the codicil that these are beginner stories, when you learn more, you will learn more accurate models, but this is one of the ones that we start with. With atomic models in particular, this was a step on learning the history and development of various models, the experimental data that their development explained, and the limitations of their explanatory power. Yes it was a bit harder on the people who came at the subject matter from above down, whether from their own reading, or family dinner conversation, since they would have to use what they knew to be false in order to fulfil test requirements, but the basic principle was to teach with respect of the process and progress of knowledge development, including that of the students, not just the field. I mean, how can you teach with the assumption of students not learning more? It would seem kind of pointless wouldn't it? (Yes, yes, I know, sheltered.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-20 12:24 pm (UTC)
Sheltered? Oh yes. The thing is, in some circumstances you have to teach with the assumption of students never formally learning more. Half a high school chemistry class at least will never take another chemistry class, but of course they'll continue to encounter chemistry in their daily lives, as we all do. Most high school chemistry classes have to teach to an uncertain mix of that and future chemists (engineers, etc.). This sucks, but it's the way of the world: public high school teachers, in particular, are the last bastion between many of their students and total ignorance of their subject (or difficulties in further study, and isn't that a balance).

The electron shell thing was my sophomore year of high school, but at least a third of the class was juniors. It was the highest chemistry class offered in my public school system, and I know for a fact that it was not taught as "this was past theory" because I had friends who went on to take chemistry classes in college and get completely blindsided, and because when I challenged the teacher on it, he considered it "nitpicking," because it was "easier this way," rather than responding that this was an early approximation and we'd get more accurate later or etc--no codicils were offered. I did not like or respect that teacher at all. He felt that asking the chemist's daughter to pronounce "molybdenum" was in some way a challenge and was disappointed when I just said molybdenum like a person does.
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[User Picture]From: seabream
2011-09-20 02:04 pm (UTC)
Sheltered? Oh yes. The thing is, in some circumstances you have to teach with the assumption of students never formally learning more.

True. And I knew that to be the case. The dropoff between S5 and OAC in physics, chemistry, and biology wasn't half, but it existed. And having had our decade reunion recently (something interesting to talk about in Montreal if you have time, yes, I'd like to converse with you, Tim, singly and several, etc… Things haven't been going that well for me in the last while so I've been having difficulty with even pressing non-at-a-distance things like keeping up with laundry, or unintentionally passing my record of longest period between going to sleep and getting up (~49 hours) and perforce eating and drinking (~53). Not excuses, but characterizing my situation.) we ended up with fewer science and engineering professionals and more doctors and lawyers than I expected from where people's interests were in high school and undergrad, so further drop-off has also been vividly illustrated. Moreover, I have an imagination and I read a lot. I'm also aware that our school is unusual. In the roughly 2/3rd sample of the class that was either present or mentioned we end up with, at the time of the reunion, about 10% of the entirety of the grade having either started, or about to start post-doc work, not including MDs, whose categorization varies, with an unknown number of people still doing thesis work. But nonetheless part of what I was aiming at was that public high school or not, my understanding of how one teaches the subject itself, as one of the research oriented fields where fundamentals of theory change in response to said research is the explicit foreground principle that in many ways anything that anyone can teach you is only going to be partly right because the field is always changing (granted, not at a fixed rate), with the history as illustration, regardless of whether said progress is going to personally involve any individual student, because that's one of the core attributes of the subject. The students may not formally study the subject again, but as a teacher you have to believe that at least a portion of the class will learn what you are teaching them, that it will advance their knowledge, and shape their further learning, whatever form that takes, and that therefore that the limits to the usefulness (i.e.: correspondence with actual data, a.k.a.: accuracy) of what you are teaching them should at least be pointed out, if not sketched. The point of teaching is not to close off the students to further education, or make them more resistant to it anyway. Which is one outcome when one presents something as being true without limit.

Or to put it another way, one should teach the subject (and students) in accordance with its nature.

I believe you with respect to your experience and those of others that you relate, I just don't understand why one would responsibly design a curriculum that would teach that particular subject that way. It just feels so fundamentally wrong.

So yes, I share your lack of respect for teachers who use that method. And that to a greater degree than those who made naming errors.

Re: molybdenum. *blink blink* I don't even.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-20 03:34 pm (UTC)
In Montreal there will be the hanging out, and there can certainly be the reunion-discussing. Yes.

But the short version here is that I think you may be giving these curricula too much credit for being planned.
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[User Picture]From: seabream
2011-09-21 04:51 am (UTC)
I look forward to it.

Very possibly, but... okay, this gets complicated very quickly and I'm seeing you soon, so perhaps later. (...teachers' college, industry associations, civil servants, state and national standards, subject teacher associations, competence)
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