All my fellow voice teachers, and teachers of pretty much anything: What happens when your student makes a mistake of some kind?
Often, what I notice is that they start to make a cascade of “mistakes” or screw-ups after the initial screw-up because they are judging the hell out of themselves. They get frustrated, tension creeps in, they begin to second guess every decision after that, and the situation often just devolves (not to be dramatic lol).
So, what is preemptive forgiveness?
It’s teaching our students (and ourselves!) to forgive mistakes we might make before we make them.
It’s not an “if” we’ll screw-up, but a “when.” I’ve been teaching this concept to my students for years and years, and since my dad’s strokes I’ve been studying a bit about neuroplasticity that really solidified my belief in preemptive forgiveness.
I've been listening to a podcast about "turning on" neuroplasticity in our brains, Huberman Lab: How to Learn Faster Using Failures, Movement, & Balance, and it was just eye opening and perception changing!
If we don’t screw up, we literally don’t learn as well as when we do. Crazy, huh? The errors we make begin to release plasticity neurotransmitters (acetylcholine) in the brain that set us up for learning.
(SCIENCE IS AWESOME.)
What struck me are a few different things: first, it's our failures that actually turn on the chemicals in our brain that encourage plasticity. While this is true for children, it’s even more true for adults.
Second, our attitude towards the errors can help or hinder plasticity (isn't that crazy??). For example, if we can subjectively feel good about an error because we know it's helping us in the long run, then it releases dopamine (feel good chemicals!) which also encourages plasticity. Huberman referred to this as “pleasantly frustrated.” I love it! Dopamine is also released when we start to feel like we’re making progress--no matter how small the progress.
Don’t get frustrated and quit--get frustrated and laugh because you know that you’ve begun the first step to actually learning the thing!!
Lastly, we can only do this successfully for 7-30 minutes (make sure you’re still focusing for this time!). This means that smaller bouts of focused learning for smaller bits of time is more effective for motor learning than trying to cram all the info at once.
And, our brains can access this plasticity for an hour after this process so whatever we’re doing after benefits. A.MAZ.ING.
The moral of the story is that you're gonna make some squawkers, do things "wrong," and get frustrated. AND, enjoy it. If you can stay in your body, be compassionate towards yourself, and stick it out for 7-30 minutes longer, then you're setting yourself up for goodness. Isn’t the human body miraculous??
LOVE. THIS. STUFF. Let’s keep learning!