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The Space Between Notes.

March 12, 2012
Zhenyi Li

In one recent meeting with RRU faculty and staff, a senior faculty member told us a story on how his music teacher taught him about playing music. He is over 65 now and he did not tell us when that music lesson took place. But he remembers it well and shared it with us when we were busy discussing how RRU’s teaching and learning would differentiate RRU from other universities: each table sat 5 to 8 people with over 100 pages files spread on it. The music student, now a professor at RRU, was nervous about his performance and focused on accuracy of each note he played. His music teacher, however, asked him to concentrate on “the space between notes”. That phrase has been remembered and recited for many times in his personal and professional life.

Obviously, his reminder, or indeed his music teacher’s, benefited our discussion on each table in the next 10 minutes. We were so “task-oriented” and so focusing on the “notes”, not the space between notes. The space between notes, as I understand, does not just refer to a pause, a healthy break, or a period of silence. In addition, it asks us to do a 360 degree check before we move on. Have we neglected something? Have we forgotten something? Are we still on the right track? Should we take a break? I like the phrase of “healthy break” and I am not sure if I am the first person creates such a notion. Anyway, a healthy break is to balance life and work, task and relationship, intra- and inter-personal communication, learning and unlearning, and the list can continue as long as the balancing results well-being.

Many of our learners might have been worked too hard. You focused on the notes, but did you notice the space between notes? Or do you agree there needs to be space between notes so that the melody can be made? And do you think spaces make the melody sounds beautiful and better? If so, why not keep a balanced look at both space and notes, between task and relationship, between study and life? You are studying in a unique program at a unique university with a unique cohort. At RRU, a learner is the core of the learning program, not the programs. A learner is to achieve life changing goals in the program. The discovery of the goal is a journey facilitated in the programs. The journey is designed to be safe, interesting, and inspiring for today, for tomorrow, and for life. All of our learners are supposed to realize their potentials through the programs. We have strong relationship builders in our cohort. We have experts on public relations in our cohort. We have international education specialists in our cohort. We have global citizens in our cohort. The list can go much longer. Each of us comes to this program to exchange knowledge, to contribute their strengths, and to accomplish their goals with mutual respect and support. These are the spaces between the notes, if you view assignments as notes. These are elements that, though invisible and inaudible for most of time, create beautiful melody for today, for tomorrow, and for life. Many graduates have forgotten what they wrote in their assignments, but remember each other and support each other after graduation from our program. Does an assignment matter? Yes, but not so much. An assignment is a checking point for each of us to know what we have learned. It is a necessary note in the melody. But a simple collection of assignments (or notes) cannot make any musical sound. We need space between the notes. We need to take care of each other. We need to watch for each other. We need to say hello to each other. We need to check with each other if their life, work, family, and / or pets are well before we jump into assignment discussion. Currently we have learners in our cohort that need support. Some of them may not have enough time to study because their family members are sick, or their kids need care, or both. Some of them come across with stressful matters. Shall we ask them if they need our help? I think we should, particularly because we are IICians. We accomplish nothing if we even cannot care for our co-learners. At RRU, colleagues from Student Life, Library, Writing Centre, and our Program Head, Program Associate, and Instructors have all been busy supporting our co-learners with advice, suggestions, prayers, and whatever necessary. This is not a university where each learner only focuses on his or her own study, own assignment, and own career. This is a university that offers a life changing experience.

You know how much I like Kungfu Panda. Kungfu Panda is a learner of Kungfu. Kungfu, according to the Master, is not simply a skill of kicking and fighting. Kungfu is to know when to do what, to observe context with content, to balance the space and notes, to care and love. Kungfu Panda finally finds his goal by reflecting on all elements beyond kicking and fighting (and eating). So as I wish each of us can accomplish in this way in our program.

I will say that assignments are meaningless without collaborative learning. Notes are not musical without spaces between them.

Music please!