There is a lot to be said for being detail oriented. Big things are made up of little things, and little mistakes can bloom in to full blown disasters if you aren’t careful. Details matter. Sometimes though, focus on details can eclipse the creative flow of a process and make it joyless.
Have you ever played an instrument, and just thought exclusively of the notes you were playing? My guess is that it didn’t sound very good.
Or have you run, and tried to focus on your form and gait? Awkward, awkward, awkward!
Let alone talking to people. Say you’re at a party and you see someone intriguing… and you go up and are focused so much on what you are going to say, that you end up feeling like a total fool?
How does this relate to teaching? As teachers, we often teach certain skills. Whether it is constructing a sentence, multiplying numbers, or deconstructing literature, the details of the process are often foremost in our minds. There does come a point where we need to switch gears from the detail oriented to the overarching process. Teaching confidence in newfound skills and just… going with the flow.
A couple of things need to happen before this transition from focus on details to overall process. The first step is building trust in their abilities, followed by trust in the process. Once a student sees that they are working from a solid foundation along workable lines, then it becomes much easier for them to relax into a greater process. From the specifics to the general, students will learn to do big things made up of the little skills they have learned. And it is so rewarding as you see those details click into place, transforming from mere knowledge and information into genuine understanding.
This is one of the things that I think we should keep in mind as teaching migrates toward recorded lectures and computerized drills. Various media can demonstrate individual skills fairly well, but people will always need an overview for how those skills fit together. Teachers are need to show how to see beyond the details and make the process flow into something that feels natural. Or how to go from playing notes, to playing a song.
Only then do people find genuine joy. When it moves away from laboring over details, and more about play.
As I write this, I’m also reminded to “let the details go” in my teaching from time to time, and just go with the flow.