1. My students. For those unaware, all my students (as of this writing) are webcammers. I live in Iowa; they are scattered literally coast to coast. For most of them, their lessons with me started out of necessity. There was no other good option. One student faced a 45-minute drive each way to a local teacher. Others couldn’t afford local rates. Another is 200-plus miles from the nearest city. This core group has made my studio an unqualified success.
2. My students. They keep me on my teacherly toes. Because Suzuki taught that every student has the same ability, teachers must have a thousand ways to solve a difficulty. My students force me to constantly hone my skills, boil it down to simplest terms, tweak and polish my use of English, and be ever more present and engaged in helping them be successful. They are living examples that teach me to always be mindful.
3. My students. They are better teachers than I am, in some respects. Every mistake I make comes back to me magnified a hundred fold. They are a reflection of what I teach them, a reflection of ME. Yikes! How’s that for a scary thought? The fear of leading them down the wrong path constantly pushes me to learn more, be a better player, stay on the edge of new research, stay motivated to help them be the best people they can be.
4. My students. Individually, they all bring really cool parts of themselves to the table: unique geographic, racial and cultural perspectives that many teachers do not get the opportunity to experience. This is part of what music is all about. It crosses — no, ignores — all human-engineered divides and barriers, and pulls in the best things about the student to help share the message.
5. My teachers. (Ha. Betcha thought I was going to say students again.) I’ll save the Ode to my Formal, Real-Person-Type Teachers for another post. I love teaching because my teachers impressed on me the necessity of sharing. Granted, I was paying them. But for a pittance (when ciphered out over the years) they packed me with as much information as could be stuffed into my sometimes unwilling fingers and unreceptive brain. By their example, I learned how to teach; sometimes I learned what not to do, but far more often what works, from many different teaching perspectives. I learned much later that I’m actually responsible for teaching more than music; I teach nearly all academic subjects plus assorted life skills while I’m showing a student a musical concept. I’m responsible for educating the whole student, not just the musical part. I’m in between formal lessons now, but I stay current by watching videos, reading and commenting on blogs, following message boards to pick up new tips or rephrasings of old concepts, and going to workshops when they’re nearby. My formal teachers laid the foundation that I am compelled, by gratitude and honor, as well as genetics/personality style, to pass on to my students.
If I had no students, I could not teach. If I had had no teachers, I probably could not teach. Every child and every adult deserves a teacher who hearts them, who cares enough to expect great things from them. I heart my students much, much more than I heart violins.
Teachers: why do you love teaching? If you’re a teacher-lurker, please come out and play! It’ll be fun!