Play it Again!

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

The scientific studies into what makes for happiness both in childhood and in adulthood always emphasize that it is crucial to feel that you have control over yourself and your environment. The best way to develop that sense of control is through practice. Soon you learn that practice leads to mastery, which shows you that you can control your life, at least somewhat.

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell in The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

Hollowell continues on to say, “Structure and discipline unlock the door to talent.”

I was very frustrated by my son’s fifth grade teacher. In creative writing the children were encouraged just to put words on the paper and “be creative.” I argued that they needed to discipline themselves to write within the rules of grammar (structure) in order to effectively communicate their ideas – because writing is about communicating.

The Montessori classroom is highly structured. There are rules…walk in the classroom, walk around other’s work…when you have completed a work, return it to the shelf…as long as you are using the material nobody else may use it, they must wait until it is available. This structure and discipline frees the child to focus on the work. It is an environment that is respectful of the material and respectful of each other. A child can return to a work over and over and over. This practice leads to mastery. The structure and discipline help give them a sense of control.  When I child struggles with the rules and structure other children help and the environment becomes self-correcting just like the materials.

My thought process in my son’s classroom came from my many years of studying music. Practice within the rules leads to mastery. Arnold Schoenberg intentionally broke all the rules of music and created a music called “twelve-tone row.” It is wildly dis-harmonic! It does take a special talent to create music of such dissonance but I don’t know anyone who listens to it. Our ears are trained to expect certain chord progressions and chord resolutions and when we don’t get that it makes us uncomfortable. Likewise, when we try to read something that breaks all of the grammatical and linguistic rules we understand, then the writer has failed to create a word picture in our minds.

Practice leads to mastery. “Structure and discipline unlock the door to talent.” Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.


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