How my teachers shaped who I am today

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Like some of you know, I’m a Piano teacher. I’m also a piano student. One of my students was baffled by the fact that “a teacher could actually have a teacher”. She immediately began to ask if her teacher’s teacher also had a teacher! Little does she know my own student is actually one of my best teachers…

You might believe that once you start to teach, you’re finished studying and learning when in fact, I believe quite the contrary, that we learn so so much more on our own skills and on who we are from our students.

A never ending cycle

As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, I’ve also been a swim instructor for about 7 years now and I’ve recently been involved in helping train new swim instructors for our club, thus now becoming a “teacher’s teacher” as my student says. It’s intimidating yet honouring to be in this position because it forces me to look at how I teach, question and work on my own abilities to provide the future instructors with the right skills and tools and train them to become the best instructors they can be for the children they will be teaching.

These experiences really got me thinking that in fact, we are always someone’s teacher and student in life. It is an unending cycle. You are taught lessons, skills, behaviours by your own teachers in life (parents, teachers, mentors, friends, bosses) and one day, you are given the opportunity to give back, to pass on the lessons, skills you were taught to others whether it be to your children, partners, students, friends, clients…

The heavy responsibility of a teacher

From student to teacher, teacher to student and often both student and teacher in life… Whether we do this consciously or not, we perpetuate the cycle. But the true and dangerous question to ask is, what do we really pass on to our students in this unending cycle?

About a year ago, I did a small concert performance which a few of my students attended. One of my faults when I perform is I tend to have certain uncontrolled and amplified body movements when I play (I tend to feel the music almost in a circular “motion sickness” kind of way :p ). After performing, one of my students who had attended the concert, sat at the piano, started playing one of the pieces she learned and just like magic, she had begun to play while doing the same motions I did. She had automatically picked up and learned my own faults… I was astonished at how much children can learn by example. For better or for worse. Of course, this is just a small example but the same goes for so many other aspects. For example, in Rich Kid, Smart Kid, Robert Kiyosaki talks abundantly about the fact that kids learn from what you do not what you say when he talks about how to give financial education to children…

As a teacher, you have an immense responsibility because you have the ability to shape a person into anything. As a piano and swim teacher, I realize it’s my duty to inspire students that are entrusted to me, provide them with the right tools to learn, grow and share my passion with them. But the danger is I could just as easily unconsciously break a child’s creative potential through inadvertence and lack of competence instead of nurturing their skills and talents. It is a terrifying idea. But to be honest, I’ve found it also to be a powerful motivation for me to become the best pianist and role model I can be for my students. I believe they’ve got the whole “those who can’t do teach” proverb wrong to be honest…

“Those who teach, must first learn to do”.

That’s the key word to me: LEARN to do. As I started teaching, I began to realize that I often didn’t follow my own advice I gave to my students. Most of us often know what’s best for others but how often do we actually follow our own advice for our own lives?

I’m looking to graduate this year and find a way to find efficiency and quality in my piano work. I’ve decided in my time practicing and studying, instead of acting as my self-critique as I often do (I chosen to try and boycott the self-destructive voices in my mind), I would consider myself as my own student… If I were my student watching myself practice, what advice would I give? How would I try to improve what she/me is doing. The hardest I think will be to practice the same patience and compassion with myself that I do with my own students. I don’t get upset or angry if my students don’t get something right away, I look to find the best solution to get them to understand. Yet in my own work, I set myself to incredibly high standards and expect nothing more than perfection in my work. Freeing myself from the “Good little miss perfect” student role will be difficult for me but I’ll let you know how it goes.

How have your teachers shaped who you are?

How about you, dear reader? Who or what is your greatest teacher at the current moment? How have your teachers shaped who you are? I’m not talking here simply about “teachers” in the conventional sense of the word. Most of the times, life is the greatest teacher of all, that is if you are willing to accept the lessons it offers.

For better and for worse, you became the person that you are because of the lessons you were given in life. For example, the loss of a loved one taught you to be strong, independent or vulnerable. A soul sucking job could shape you into a grumpy unsatisfied person or inspire you to change and action, a hectic and overloaded schedule can shape you to be a buzzing empowered multitasking bee or on the contrary it can lead to a burn out that would teach you to learn to stop, let go, relax and simply be. A fall can simply a chance to learn how to get back up. A failed relationship teaches you what truly matters to you….

The lessons are endless although more often than not they’re unclear. We often get to repeat those lessons we missed in our lives. Whenever I see suffering or disappointments in my own life, I try to look for the lesson I’m missing out on…

You are who you are thanks to or because of the teachers you had in life. For my part, I’ve had the luck of having studied under wonderful teachers in my academic, cultural and artistic life who inspired me to learn and grow and have always encouraged me to develop my curiosity and talents. I’ve had incredible nurturing and loving parents who inspired me and supported me fully from the beginning and I’m truly grateful for all the experiences and lessons life has thrown at me. I continue to learn and grow from all the experiences I have and I try to teach as best I can the few skills and lessons I’ve learned along the way!

Oh boy, oh boy, It’s New Years Resolution Time!!!!!

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I’ve always had this fantasy… That on January 1st of every year, we’d be able to look into the Future to the 31st of December of that year and see ourselves keeping all our  our New Years Resolutions! Wouldn’t it be amazing? We’d all be 20kg lighter with a killer bodybuilder silhouette. We’d all be incredibly efficient and productive. I’d be super me! I’d be the person I believe I should always be. Wouldn’t it be really inspiring to see what we could be if we held those good resolutions?

Sadly, the reality is most often, very veeeery different… We’re usually lucky if we’ve actually held even just ONE of our resolutions. It may be because sometimes our resolutions are a bit unrealistic (for example, if we’re not able to actually visualize what we and what our daily life would look like after a year of holding our resolutions), or more likely, we envision our resolutions as the results but don’t plan the actions to get there or on the contrary we do plan them out and quickly get discouraged by the process and figure we’ll just save this for next years New Years Resolution. Sound familiar to anyone? Oh good… I’m not alone then 🙂

However, recently I’ve found a few tricks and tools to try and beat the odds and get out of this habit of making resolutions that don’t stick…

One of my favorite blogs I love to follow and read articles from is called Live your legend. It’s purpose and motto is “Changing the world by doing work you love”. And probably the thing I love most about LYL (apart from the cool articles and fun Facebook Group they have called  the Writer’s Guild to inspire you to write your blog) is their annual Goal Setting and Action Workbook.  I highly recommend doing this if you wish to take your New Years Resolutions to a new level and really commit to and accomplish what you’d like this year.

I just completed my workbook for 2017 while waiting for my next flight to Laos… It was really fun and exciting to do but I won’t deny, it took quite a bit of reflecting beforehand if you really want your resolutions to work for you this year. It took me about an hour or so to complete but I had been thinking about these resolutions on and off for about 2 weeks now.

More than completing and planning this years resolutions however, the most fun I had was actually rereading the Goal Setting and Action Workbook of 2016  and looking back on what I actually accomplished and didn’t. I must say, although I did fail completely to accomplish almost half of my resolutions, it’s still the first time I was EVER able to push through on more than one or two of them…

A look back on January 1st 2016

In Live your Legends Book, they propose to determine first the Areas of interest you want to focus on and set a few goals for each area, then they propose to set your resolutions. Now I find it sometimes confusing to differentiate a Goal from a Resolution so most of mine kind of cross…

My areas of Interest :

  1. Knowledge, Learning and Getting cultured
  2. Peace and Wellbeing
  3. Health and Fitness
  4. Relationship : Creating a loving and working long distance relationship with my “beau”
  5. Music : Being passionate about music and constant in my piano practice
  6. Travel
  7. Inspiration : inspire thousands as well as get inspired by life and people

My resolutions :

  1. read one book a month (related to area 1.) PASS I actually read 19 books this year but it probably didn’t come near to the amount of books I actually bought to read this year so I might have to work on that…
  2. Meditate Daily FAIL I always love the benefits I get from meditating regularly and it did work for about a month but the habit didn’t last since it didn’t really fit into my daily routine sadly.
  3. Write Daily Partially Failed… Although, I did write fairly consistently for sometime, I struggled to actually keep at it when things started getting busy and I also felt I was actually always writing the same things over and over again…
  4. Become a full vegetarian FAIL. while I liked the “idea” of being a vegetarian and being healthier… I didn’t really have an empowering enough motivation to keep at it
  5. Do a Triathlon PASS This had been my dream for quite some time and the training was absolutely amazing and fun. The triathlon race itself was crazy and fun and I was able to finish it but unfortunately, I fell off my bike which resulted in a bad wrist sprain… As I mentioned I’m a pianist, and injuring yourself 3 weeks before my piano exam was not ideal. I had to stop playing for about 3 months and it took about 6 months to heal fully. So all in all… It was one of the big highlights of my year but also one of my biggest setbacks for my studies and work. 
  6. Create an Efficient piano work Tracking system Big time FAIL. To be honest it’s not been a good year for piano for me… I had very few to no opportunities to perform this year and was really inconsistent and unmotivated in my practicing. Then the FALL happened in May of this year and it really made me question all my choices, my relationship with the instrument, my career choices and priorities. Now, I’ve started just to trust the process, I’m focused on graduating now and I’ll work out the fine details as I go.
  7. Go out daily to get fresh air Partially failed. However, I have been going out and walking a lot more. All in all, it has not been such a bad year for getting back into shape.

Other than those, other goals included related to my areas of interest included :

  • Yoga Twice a Week Partially Passed… In the beginning of the year, I was fairly motivated and dedicated going to yoga classes with my sister once a week but after my fall, I didn’t get back into it. I just started again around the end of November when I saw that my wrist had really healed but I needed to strengthen it again… I ended the year with a 30 day yoga challenge on YouTube which left me inspired and motivated to continue the habit at home at the moment. I liked the freedom it gave me to decide when and how to do the class and it felt really great starting my day like this.
  • Start a blog PASS It’s been a fun process… Although I had to fight a lot of negative self talk to get myself to publish it and I’ve been so scared to actually share it with people, I’m happy with the outcome and I’m definitely looking to continue writing, grow and explore new possibilities in 2017 .
  • Plan at least 3 trips to see my boyfriend PASS. This come to show that when you’re truly inspired and committed to something, habits get easy… I’m writing from Beautiful Laos at the moment where I spent the New Years with Ze Boyfriend! It’s the fourth time this year I’ve come. It was a motivation for me to find ways to work more to pay for tickets to come. In the end we were able to see each other 5 times this year and things have never been better and simpler between us.
  • Travel to 10 countries PASS (if you count countries where I was in transit…) It’s been a crazy year for travels to be honest taking 31 planes and visiting 8 countries (11 if you count the ones). It’s been a proficient travel year using all different types of transport : High speed trains, buses, planes (I took my first Airbus A380 yesterday heading to Bangkok 😀 ), Ferries, even a boat bus in Sweden, name the transport, I took it this year. It was amazing but it did end up having a certain toll on my general level of fatigue.
  • Go to at least one Cultural event a week Partial Pass. It was probably very ambitious of me to go to as many events but I did probably go to at least one  or two a month in the end which is pretty good. I went to a few plays with my family which was great!!!
  • Declutter the house Partial Fail. A summer project with my mom was to declutter the whole house but unfortunately we only got 2 rooms in the whole house but it was already a big accomplishment given how cluttered these rooms were to begin with and it was really a big time consuming process. I did get a big part of my own room and music stuff sorted out and did go through a lot of my clothes. I put myself to the challenge of wearing all my clothes or tossing them if I didn’t and I realised  that I had enough clean clothes to wear to last me at least a month and a half without washing any of them!!!!!

So all in all, it has been an excellent year for resolutions and I was happy with what I did accomplish even partially!

My vision for 2017

And now for the fun bit… Let’s get to those resolutions! A good thing of writing them down and posting them online this year is that I know that 365 days from now, I will definitely have to look back at this post and I’ll feel more accountable because I know I’ll have to get back to you guys.

What I learned from last years resolutions was that if the resolution was too complicated or ambitious, it didn’t so I’d say my key word of the year is SIMPLIFY!

Areas of interest :

Initially I had 6 areas but in the spirit of simplifying I realized I can group them all by two and just have them in 3 big categories which can serve as guidelines for my resolutions and decision making process this year.

  1. Creation and inspiration generator : This area includes projects like : composing music, teaching, leading the choir of my church, teaching piano and swimming, writing and sharing this blog as well as reading/watching inspiring material to write and compose about.
  2. Physical and Emotional/Spiritual Wellbeing : including healthy eating, sports, meditating, journaling and creating a balanced life.
  3. Growth, Learning and Paving the Path to “GrownUp-hood” : financial independance, driving, reading and following seminars if I can.

My Resolutions for this year :

  1. Get up consistently every morning at 7am : I feel this is probably the first and foremost habit I have to create if I want to be able to keep any of my other resolutions and make them stick all year… I like the idea but I think I will have to really work on self discipline to keep it. I’ve read a few articles of Steve Pavlina on this, let’s see how I keep at it…
  2. Read at least One (if possible two) books a month but for every book I buy, I have to ead one that I already have in my library.
  3. Daily Writing/Journaling/Blog posting : Doesn’t matter what, just write. It will probably only work if I hold habit one cause I usually lose all motivation to write any other time than the morning
  4. Yoga practice at least 5 times a week and replace any day I can’t do a short practice by a short meditation video. I figure yoga is a form of mindfulness and I have better chances of sticking to this if I group 2 habits in one.
  5. Develop financial literacy and save up as much money this year by tracking expenses and what I earn.
  6. Learn to drive and get my licence
  7. Find a personal, motivating and optimal system for studying piano… I figure after 4 years of studying at the conservatory, It’s time I figure this out before starting a professional musical “career” (whatever it may look like…)
  8. Simplify my environment :  more than the resolution of decluttering which was time consuming and discouraging given all the stuff we’ve accumulated, I wanted to make this easier and just focus on giving away or getting rid of one thing that’s not serving me (1 thing a week seems doable if I keep a “give away” box) and probably organise one intense decluttering week over the summer break (one week is really all we can do without becoming completely drained and unmotivated by the task…)

So my idea is to really implement one of these resolutions every month (no specific order apart from number one…) so I don’t get overwhelmed by all the new habits.

Voilà!!!!! Don’t hesitate to complete your own goal setting workbook if you like or simply share in the comment below what your plans and aspirations are for this year!