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Teachers Should Ask This Music Teaching Question

Grace Lam Vancouver
A coworker sits in my office to show me mysql database queries and jquery.

When I ask a weird question, he says, “What makes you think that way?”

That’s such a clever way to make someone realize they’re being stupid. It forces them to walk through their thought process, so you can understand how they think.

It’s a good strategy for teaching music: Instead of giving the answer to the student, help them realize what’s wrong with their thinking. I’m going to start asking this question.

At the end of the week, I send my javascript and php code to him so he can point out what I’m doing wrong and I expect to rewrite 80% of it.

Then he says, it’s well-written. Beautiful and compact.

It makes me so happy that he doesn’t think I’m stupid–or maybe he does, and stupid people can still write beautiful code.


I keep track of my own work: each week, completed tasks are labelled and dragged onto a Completed board.

Of the pages I build from scratch each week, one of them is probably fall-asleep-with-my-eyes-open easy, straight html/css, maybe a pinch of php or javascript.

One of them, I put in a lot of effort to make work nicely but you’d never know how much effort.

Like, putting in a livestream of an event into a web page, but it takes 15 secs to test whether the server is down and I still want something interesting to happen in the meantime.

And, there’s probably one that I have to play with code to get it to work at all. Like, product pages that are pulling and sorting information from databases.


When someone tells me to spend 3 hours undoing something I worked on, I hold my tongue.

I’d decided to solve this problem using xyz, so someone coming in to tell me that’s wrong, becomes a judgement on the quality of my intelligence.

I’m trying to figure out how to make it not personal. But if it’s not personal, will I stop caring and become a mindless minion coder?

In music, I did whatever my music teachers told me because I was paying for their opinion and they’d just give me the same feedback over and over again if I didn’t follow it. I wanted to play my own interpretation of the music, but Classical music doesn’t care what YOU think Liszt was like, if you don’t follow the rules.

I hold my tongue because each request a new problem to solve, and I’m here to solve problems, not make big-picture decisions.

I’m getting good at holding my tongue.


Everyone works hard but they also leave at 3pm to pick their kids up and spend 30 mins doing smalltalk by my office door.

If I take Friday off, I might Netflix or go dancing, not make dinner for brats who don’t want to eat my labour-of-love brussel sprouts.

Maybe I will enjoy this relaxation when I have kids, but it makes me nervous that I’m not working hard enough because my work depends on someone who takes 3 day weekends and I can’t catch them; maybe I don’t fit into this work culture.


I grind my teeth at night and I can’t sleep past 9:30am on Saturdays.

I think I’m broken. My team goes to great lengths to make sure I don’t feel pressured and still I’m stressed out that I’m not stressed at work. I feel like I should be doing more.

Yet, people are noticing my work, and all I wanted was to learn how to write good code and feel smart.

There are other problems for other days, but today–today is okay.

For now.

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6 years ago

I liked reading this. I’m also a piano teacher who may get into html, css, and a little JavaScript. My husband is a software developer by day and an adjunct professor of web design at Boise state at night, for fun. He’s a great resource for me. Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing more about this new career turn of yours :) good luck!