For the Love of Gaining Competency

I am excited. I love learning new things. At the time of this writing, I am a teacher of prospective teachers.

Today I learn how to measure, cut, and nail four-foot long, four by four-inch pieces of wood at 20 degree angles so my deck railings slant outward, away from the deck edges for rainwater runoff. In reality they are really only 3.5 X 3.5 inches or somewhere in that range.

Later, if I am willing, I can add benches all the way around the perimeter of the deck. I burn up on second-hand circular saw, buy another with directions, drill, sand and stand back to admire my work.

I also throw down my tools and walk away at least seven times in one afternoon. Finally, God and the Universe smile and I agonizingly put my tools away.

Later, a dear neighbor comes over to help heal my wounds of frustration and teach me more about the world of carpentry. It turns out, the original structure may or may not be level. It might have been built “square”. It also may or may not have “settled”. So, you cannot go by existing structures at all. One must use a level. I have my Papa’s very battered and used level. It calms my heart to hold it and to look at it.

I love being unconsciously incompetent. This is known as being blissfully unaware that I am not excellent or even mediocre. Children are really good at modeling this.

Later, with practice, I will reach conscious incompetence, or, deeply conscious and aware of not being very good. Observe your teenagers.

I also know that with even more practice, I will soon become consciously competent. I may exhibit this by being aware of being very good — many times combined with being a little arrogant. Again, watch any teenager.

This is many times followed by being unconsciously competent, or, so totally unaware of excelling that it appears effortless. This can be observed in Baryshnikov’s ballet performances. My neighbor did this without realizing it as he tutored me in building my deck.

These four levels of learning can be scrutinized in any skill or art, at any age, and at any level of intelligence quotient (IQ).

All this keeps me sharp personally as a member of the human race and a teacher. I am perpetually in a learning mode. I know what it’s like to be stumbling in the darkness of “less than mediocre”.

As a teacher of performing arts I find it is too easy to become hardened to the trials of the neophyte acting/voice/movement student. It can be the reason a student continues or halts mid-stream in their thirst for knowledge.

There are many other reasons to cease training in the arts. After all, we are many stories. These happen to be only a few of them, albeit important ones indeed.

January 25, 1995 Crystal Lake Florida USA wordcount500 humaninterest