Continuum: What, why, and how?




Practise (verb)
to do something regularly or repeatedly in order to become skilled at it
“Practise makes perfect”, is a saying that formed the benchmark of my childhood.

Phase One: The Blessed One
All things considered, I was a fairly blessed child. Despite losing a parent early on, I mainly saw a lot of love, happiness and a close knit family atmosphere.
I was pretty intelligent in schoolwork, enjoyed physical activity, play and discovered an athletic ability early on. I could brush off unpleasant incidents easily (or so I thought), had great friends and enjoyed much of my childhood, despite some bumps in the road.
My earliest memory of wanting to be good at something, is from a performance at school, for which I wasn’t selected. The disappointment was crushing. I was in second grade.
I begged the teacher to let me be a part of the dance and she said to me,
“Maybe next time Aparna, just remember to practice your steps many times so you don’t forget them”.
You see, the audition for this performance had been another smaller performance, done previously and I had messed up in that. They all thought I forgot the steps, but in reality, my scalp was itchy and so I stopped to scratch it.

So I decided I would show them, and made sure I practiced my steps really hard, for the next performance and sure enough, I got selected and was able to perform. The challenge of practising was truly enjoyable and I revelled in the sweat and exhaustion of doing something I loved, over and over again.
Of course, I made sure to not scratch anything on stage and I’ve maintained that record till today.

Phase Two:The Problem Child
Let’s just say my pre-teens and teens were a wildly swaying seesaw of good vs bad patches. My sister calls them my dark ages.
So, despite being intelligent, and fairly capable in “academics”, I decided one fine day, that the teachers bored me, my life was unexciting, I didn’t like my school or peers and hence decided to act out, by not applying myself. (Basically, being a typical teen).
Of course, I ended up flunking papers and performing really badly. I was angry and sad constantly, I had too much energy sometimes and not nearly enough at other times. It was a confusing period for all of us. Of course, we grew up in a decade when the world around us was changing rapidly, but all of thiswas not decipherable as being the result of being bullied and dealing with childhood trauma.
(That happened much later).
In come the grandparents, whose solution to anything academic related was, study more, study all the time, mug up every single word and of course, how can I forget, the “IMPOSITION” method.
(I think it was a generational thing). 
Chemistry equations, math problems, geography answers, I wrote everything over and over and over and over again. And of course, I passed with great marks and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but I remember how there was no joy or satisfaction in me as I was writing the answers down, or even as I received my papers with those all-important“High Grades”.
I had literally vomited the answers out, but my innate sense of curiosity, that hunger to learn and the feeling of eureka when I understood something
were all missing. (Surprise surprise).

Phase Three:The Discovery
When I began performing professionally, I applied the same principle of doing what I learned over and over again. Initially it was a conditioned feeling, of practicing every move and technique and being able to do it fairly well from memory. But as I progressed in my dance career and also began teaching, I discovered something amazing. What am I practising? Why am I practising it? How am I going to practise this?
The What, Why and How of practise are far more important than the practise itself.
These 3 questions helped me understand that the blind rote learning system rarely ever works to retain information beyond the examination or test point.
True learning happens when we examine the practise from every angle, introspect and ask questions with every single repetition, and clarify our own understanding of the material to ourselves. Teaching it to someone else is also a form of practise. In fact, teaching it to others is probably the best form of testing ourselves to see if we know what we practised.
So know this, you may not have to do something 20 times to get it right. You just have to do it 10 times,the right way.
And what is the right way? That’s for you to find out for yourself.

Written by Aparna Nagesh