03 Dec Is It Talent or Hard Work?
As Thanksgiving dinner ended my 18-year old cousin, Ellen, sat down at the piano and began playing Christmas carols. A few younger cousins squeezed in next to her on the piano bench singing along as she played. When one song ended one relative or another called out a new song title, “Can you play Silent Night? What about Winter Wonderland? Do you know Oh Christmas Tree?
At each request, Ellen flipped through her book of music to find the song. This music book was well worn and well loved. The front cover was missing and it had 20 different colored tabs poking out of the top marking different songs. Again and again Ellen found the page, played the song and the room filled with music, singing, and laughter.
As the sing-a-long ended the talk in the room focused on Ellen.
“Amazing! – She is so talented.”
“I can’t believe she can do that.”
“She is a natural.”
“Such an incredible gift.”
As I listened to these comments I couldn’t help but think about all of the work that was “underneath” Ellen’s musical talent: The countless hours of thinking, practicing, redoing, revising – trying again. Ellen is far more than talented – she is dedicated and committed to her craft. This dedication and hard work made playing the piano appear easy. Yet there was nothing easy or natural about it.
This made me think about when teaching goes well. Teaching looks easy when we see students voraciously reading or overhear profound comments during book club conversations. During these moments it appears as if the kids just “know what to do,” that this is an “easy class,” or that this professional is just a “natural born teacher.” But we all know that beneath this “flawless” exterior are hard work, dedication and passion.
How did this teacher, teach her students to love books? How did she teach them to talk to each other? What does she do when students aren’t focused? What did the hours and hours of work underneath this flawless lesson look like? We can learn so much from each other by talking about the hard work behind what we are seeing. It is these conversations that can help us really understand the true meaning of the word, “talented.” The talent doesn’t just come – it is gained through hard work.
On this Thanksgiving, I am so thankful to my cousin for bringing so much joy and festivity to our family holiday. I am inspired by her dedication and hard work. When something looks easy or flawless – the hours beneath are probably the real reason to celebrate.