I noticed a funny thing about myself the other day. I hadn’t been keeping up with my tai chi practice (long story) and I thought maybe I should go back to class. I tried to do the form on my own, and I found that I had forgotten a lot. So I got out the book* and tried to figure out the missing steps from the pictures. I decided I had to do this because I couldn’t go to class without re-learning the form. The teacher or other students might see me making mistakes!
You may be laughing at this point. I am laughing at myself too. I can’t go back to class until I perfect my form– which is what class is for.
I find this is a problem for other people too, especially when it comes to learning a new skill. We think we can’t go to art class until we already know how to draw. Or take a writing class because we aren’t already proficient writers. I think it’s because we want to avoid embarrassment. There’s a little voice in our heads that says But what if I’m the worst writer in the whole class? Well, then you have the most opportunity to improve. If you’re really worried about it, you may be able to contact the instructor before you sign up and ask whether the class is appropriate for a beginner.
Some of us have had negative experiences with teachers who belittle or embarrass students for poor performance or for not understanding the class material.** It is a possibility that you’ll have an instructor like this. However, most teachers I’ve had for writing and art classes have been helpful and pretty tactful when it comes to offering suggestions for improvement. Being able to hear and effectively use criticism of one’s own work is part of our development as artists. There’s a lot more that I could say about it, but I’ll leave that for a future post. In the meantime, consider signing up for a class!
*The book in question is Tai Chi Handbook by Herman Kautz.
**You want an example? When I was taking beginning German in college, I learned that clauses modifying an action (e.g., I am going) should appear in the order of time, manner, place. So, a German speaker would say “I am going at 5 pm with Hans to the party.” (Also, she would say it in German.) I asked, “What if you start out saying, ‘I am going to the party’ and then remember the time and add it at the end? You would say something like ‘I am going to the party…at 5 pm.'” My instructor said, “If you were German, you would know what you wanted to say before you opened your mouth.”