Perfunctory Praise…


Attending any parochial school, fifth grade was a rite of passage… you were finally allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, which included sports and band.
Already playing soccer at the club level the sports was a no-brainer to sign up for soccer and basketball… but what about a musical instrument?
My sisters both, played (or attempted to play, LOL) the guitar in school. So, I dragged my parents to the meeting where we were able to try different instruments, ask questions and ultimately choose the instrument you wanted to play.
I do not recall the process of the meeting… but I remember the instrument I chose. The DRUMS, well actually it was just the snare drum… but eventually, it would be the DRUMS!
I do remember that just because I wanted it, it was not automatic. There was a discussion and I think we got to ‘try’ it for a week and then we could purchase it. It was expensive, and my parents wanted to make sure I would have time to practice at home even with a sports schedule.
I talked my mom and dad into it. ALLright, next stop sitting on a throne in a hair band.
So, I had to drag this big ass drum to school one day a week, for my lesson after school. I remember it being heavy and awkward to carry, but setting it up was pretty simple.
One drum, two sticks and sheet music that I really didn’t have to “read” because there are no notes in percussion, you either hit it or don’t.
Since it was only one day a week lesson, it was mandatory that each student practiced a minimum of one hour each day outside of school.
So with excitement, when I get home from school after my first lesson, I headed down to where my drum would be set up and to begin practicing the assigned work.
Day 2, practice with excitementDay 3, maybe tomorrowDay 4, practice with excitementDay 5,6,7 busy with soccer and AVOIDING the practice
Lesson 2 on day 8… Teacher: wow Mark. You really must have been practicing a lot over the past week. Keep it up and you will be a rock star in no time!
Day 9 – 14 maybe I practiced 1 day outside of school
Lesson 3 on day 15… Teacher: Mark, I’m so proud of you, you are making tremendous progressDay 16 – 21. I don’t think I even opened my drum case at home that week.
Lesson 4 on day 22. Teacher: would you like to participate in the St Patrick day parade in March
From that point forward for the rest if the year, I hardly touched my drum outside of school. But I kept receiving praise for my hard work.
In my head, I was telling myself when I’m sitting behind a 9 piece kit, I will practice 3 hours a night to the point my parents tell me to shut up…
After a full year of school band playing the snare drum, the music teaching suggested I get a real drum teacher because she thought I had potential.
I can’t even remember his name, but he was the real deal. He taught kids on the side, but he was a session drummer with credits with some very large rock bands, orchestras, and jazz musicians. He played the drums, the marimba, and piano.
Along with a fancy instructor, I needed a full set of drums as well. My parents had looked around for a used set… but I kept saying I didn’t like it for this or that… looking back man was I a brat!
My mom ended up springing for a new Ludwig Kit, maple shells with a clear coat finish, with a couple Zildjin Cymbals … it was a really nice setup.
So off to a great start of my music career… My hero was Rick Allen with Deaf Leopard, and a picture hung above my thrown.
My excitement for my lessons started similar to the snare drum. I was practicing a bit and the teacher was moving me along in my workbook.
…Then soccer season went into full swing, and drum practice moved to the wayside.
The charade went on for a few months, I would have a lesson, not practice, have another lesson…
After awhile my instructor sat me down with my mom and said he was tired of me not making progress and obviously I wasn’t practicing at home… he gave me a month to straighten out…
I don’t have a clue what was transpiring in my head during that time.
Did I not like the Drums?Did I not like the struggle of the practice?
I’m not sure… but as an 11-year-old I experienced my first firing. YES, he Fired me as a student.
The worst part is that I failed to even put in the effort…
I had all kinds of excuses, sports, sports. Other things.
Looking back I have a feeling that first teacher probably wasn’t lying to me, I probably caught on quick and I knew how to keep time, but when I had the struggle of figuring out how to use four limbs simultaneously all doing different things… I failed.
I don’t mind that I failed at something, but letter being hard is no excuse!
And I’ll never know what my potential could have been, because I let myself down
(Just on a side note, my late brother-in-law Greg who was a real drummer used those same drums for years, and now my nephew has the drums… so they were put to good use for many years after I hung up my sticks… attached pictures from the archives)
So can using Perfunctory Praise harm the long term development in our youth?
We need to learn how to reward the effort and not the result!
How do we help develop the muscle between our kid’s ears?

Perfunctory Praise…Attending any parochial school, fifth grade was a rite of passage… you were finally allowed to…

Posted by Mark Borst on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

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