I like the definition of learning given by the philosopher Mark Wunsch. Before a talk he gave, he suggested that for him:
Learning is like painting a fence, not like building a brick wall.
When we paint raw wood, we don’t just paint it once and have a glass of lemonade. Although I am not a professional painter, I understand that a primer is first applied. After the primer is applied, many layers of paint are applied to ensure the best effect of the color. And lots more layers need to be applied if the original color is different from the one we want.
In building a brick wall, bricks are stacked on top of each other. The first brick we lay is considered finished work. It is never revisited.
This is dangerous in learning for it leads to the idea that we have learned something for good the first time we apply it. For example, if at the first lesson, I help form a student’s bow hand and think that forever onward it is learned, I am doing the student a disservice. Rather, at the next lesson I form the bow hold again, and make sure the parent knows how to help do this at home.
We are constantly reviewing the very basic elements of playing, constantly reapplying coats of paint on what we painted yesterday. For example, we are always checking to see that our bow is balanced in our hand in an efficient, functional way. We are always checking that the violin is balanced well and that the left hand is free to effectively operate.
This is good news. If we realize that the fence is not quite the right color, we simply start applying the correct color and keep applying it. If the violin is sloped down too much, we just gently start to encourage the correct, higher angle.
If you have a brick wall mindset, change is traumatic. In this fixed mindset, you have to knock down a wall and start over. If you understand that learning is like painting a fence, no big deal. Just start adding the new color and eventually you can’t see the old color.