On Teaching

This blog could be a bit of a rambling one…

I never thought I’d be a teacher of music or anything else, for that matter.  Before teaching, all my jobs had been along the blue-collar line.  I assumed that’s where life was taking me.  Now, I often look around myself, surprised that this is what I do.

I think much about the teaching and learning of music. My 15+ years of teaching have brought a diverse range of students.  I see so many different learning styles, different struggles and different goals in music.  Currently, among my students I have combat veterans (one a survivor of the Beirut bombing in ’83) exploring the healing power of music therapy. I also have a lady who just had both knees surgically replaced is mostly blind and also lost her husband to cancer, and she’s determined to better her life with guitar playing.  I see school-age students from military families each week who are still unpacking from moving to NC.  Athletes, retirees, working adults, home-schoolers, church folk and experienced musicians, all come through the studio door to make sense of the kaleidoscope of music-making.

And here’s something I know from experience: they all could have thought up dozens of excuses to stay home today.   I know because I’ve made the excuses too.  I frequently challenge myself to learn some skill that takes me out of my comfort zone.  I do this because I don’t want to forget how it feels to be a student; to find myself sometimes excited about going to a lesson, but often dreading it as well. Dreading the growing pains I suppose.  Dreading the humbling awkwardness that comes with breaking new ground.
And then there’s the teachers.  Can’t help worrying about their opinion of my intellect. Hoping I haven’t given the teacher the idea that I’m a complete numb-skull in every aspect of my life; that this narrow glimpse of my lack of skills is not an accurate representation of my daily life.  This could be even more hard for us adults as we are the ones who are supposed to know stuff, right?  I wonder if my own music students feel this way sometimes; working up motivation to go to the next lesson while half hoping some circumstance will force us to cancel.

The temptation to stay home, binge watch a show, spend a couple of hours gaming, or whatever distraction we choose, is a strong temptation.

So yeah, I have made the excuses and retreated to my cozy little comfort zones.   And when it comes obstacles, real or imagined, I get it.

I get it, and I truly admire my students who put the excuses to the side, who keep showing up.  I’m convinced that’s skill #1 we need to persevere; showing up.  And hopefully they experience what I have when I have forced myself to scrap the excuses and stay committed to bettering my life; that feeling of overcoming.  It gives me a zeal for living a life of learning.  It’s never a bad choice to get up, get out, and try things.

So even though I am in the teacher’s seat when music lessons are going on, I learn from my students how to keep showing up.  This begs the question: which is more admirable; the great teacher or the great student?

So, with that thought I will taper off this rambling blog.  See ya outside the comfort zone, good people!

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