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!

Finding your passion is easy!

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Really the question is easy… I swear… totally easy! You can solve it in 5 minutes or less!

I love this Ted X talk for its genius simplicity and most of all because it’s allowed me to find the best answer to that cursed question which everyone gets asked all too often : “So what do you do?”

So I dare you now, dear reader (yes I figured, it was time I connected with you a little instead of leaving you sitting quite comfortably in front of your screen…), answer these simple questions for yourself and let me know your answers!

Enjoy!

PS : here are my answers! 🙂

  1. Who you are? Issa
  2. What you do? Inspire Love and Beauty through writing, speaking,       teaching piano and performing
  3. Who do you do it for? For myself, humanity, youth and our future generations
  4. What do they want or need? Wisdom, confidence to learn a skill and believe in themselves, a listening ear, experience simple beauty
  5. How do they change or transform as a result of what you give them? I see my students develop self confidence, creativity, I see it bring joy and sometimes frustration which inspires them to grow. Most of all I see profound beauty in what they do and who they are

The gift of making mistakes

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Have you ever screwed up? Have you ever done something that can never be undone and let down the people you cared most about?

We all make mistakes. It’s part of human nature. But the more important question is how do we deal with those mistakes ? Do we justify them? Do we forgive ourselves and learn from them or do we let them run our lives?

The Vasa ship was magnificent. It was supposed to be the fastest, most powerful warship of its time. It was supposed to be a symbol of power for the Swedish Kingdom and was made to be feared by all nations. And it was so… that is, for the 15 minutes it actually sailed before sinking just off the shores of Stockholm in 1628.

Misconception and bad planning were the cause of this tragedy that cost the lives of about 30 people. The ship was too narrow and unstable to keep itself afloat. «Luckily», the dutch ship maker who designed the Vasa had already died when the ship sunk and no one had been blamed for the incident. All in all, the consequences of this one «mistake» were not at all as devastating as one would expect. Quite the contrary, this misconception was in fact, in a way, a gift to humanity. It gifted us with the best preserved shipwreck of the day. Studying the well preserved bodies of the dead seamen also gave us insight on various aspects of people’s daily lives such as food, disease, hight and even clothing from that time.

But What would have happened if the Vasa’s ship maker had lived to see his grand work sink ? Would he have seen a blessing or gift in this event? Probably not… He would most likely have felt the shame, disappointment and disgrace. He would’ve considered this as a failure of a lifetime perhaps and blamed himself. Or on the contrary, he might have chosen to learn from his errors to make an even better ship in the future. I believe the latter would have likely been the case. Because in fact, in those days, ship making was not a precise scientific process but more based on experimentations and learning through trial and error.

Different perceptions of failure 

We always choose different ways to deal with our mistakes and failures. We sometimes accept the lessons we’re offered and move on. Or we often continue to blame ourselves for years on end. Or we don’t truly recognize our shortcomings and are condemned to repeat our mistakes indefinitely until we learn one day.

But very rarely do we actually see any good coming from our failures. When in fact, there always is a blessing in disguise somewhere behind every failure… Only, it’s often years later, when we look back at our lives that we realize that one perceived “mistake” turned us into the person that we are today and set us back on a right track.

A failed relationship can allow us to discover the kind of relationship we want and the values important us. Cheating in a relationship can bring the gift of introspection, humility and consideration for others. A setback in our studies or professional life can lead us to a completely new and unexpected path in life.

Every ‘wrong decision’ and failure eventually will be seen as a simple milestone in our lives, as a sign pointing us (sometimes painfully) in a new direction.

There’s really no such thing as a «wrong turn» in life because all paths eventually lead to death regardless of the detours we take.

I say this not in a morose kind of way but as a very factual and objective statement. However, I know that it is far from how we truly experience things in reality. It’s easy to say we are simply taking a detour in life when we’re really experiencing feelings of failure, regret and disappointment in the present moment. We often experience failures and mistakes when we feel we’ve drifted away from the path we expect or “want” to be on.

When I talk about the gift of making mistakes, I’m not talking about needing to see a silver ligning in every setback we experience presently. But I’m talking about trusting that beyond our current perception of life circumstances, all our wrong turns do hold a purpose in the future. Our mistakes serve as a compass, pointing us away from the wrong direction we were pursuing. Mistakes are wake up calls that set us back on the right path (should we choose to listen to them…).  And like any alarm you set, they are never pleasant.  But even if we never perceive mistakes as a blessing at the time we experience them, even if we still don’t know where we’re heading and which path to follow next, we can simply trust and move forward, knowing that eventually we will be able to look back at our failures and shortcomings and eventually connect the dots.

The time is NOW…

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It’s amazing how much one election can impact people. Not just americans but at a global scale. We live in a time of interconnectedness… whether it be economically, socially or politically, we can’t ignore what happens on the other side of the world anymore.

But to be honest, I’m not here to discuss politics at all… I’m here to call you to love, unity, peace and compassion. We (as global community) have been through a lot in the past years : economic crisis, high rate of unemployement, political toirmoil, extremist attacks, divisions amongst nations… And a natural reaction to all this is fear, anger and force. Unsatisfaction leads to blame, leads to anger and hatred, even violence and war.It’s always been like this since the age of dawn. Fear leads to more fear. And the cycle goes on… But is this the way things have to be?

After the Brussels attacks earlier this year, I wrote about fear. But mostly I spoke about love and choice.  A time of crisis can be a time of awakening… In my case, it reminded me of how little time we truly have to speak out our inner truth and to stop putting things off and begin to act.
We can react out of fear, pain, anger, we can choose to passively and hopelessly watch and despair over the situation in the world. Or we can choose love, tolerance, openess and compassion us as individuals in our daily lives. Now more than ever, I urge you to speak your truth, shine your light on the world. Every single one of you! Find what makes you tick, find whatever you’re passionate about and do it. Ignore the negative self talk,the excuses… It will always be there anyways. It can’t stop you from doing it. Actively work and choose to make your life as extraordinary as it can be. Strive for happiness, love, joy, beauty. Be a light in these times full of darkness.

Regardless of what happens to the world, you always have a choice. React in fear or act consciously. Now I’m not as naive as to ask you to change the world all on your own, little creature that you are. The idea is to change YOUR world by changing your reaction to it… It’s easy to follow he vicious cycle  we’re conditioned to follow. I woke up this morning, feeling scared, hopeless and defeated. For some time, I wondered if it were not best to stay in bed, shield myself from this world and its sickness and violence. But in fact, I realized how now more than ever, we need to act, inspire and create a better world TODAY for our future generations. And only by changing our perspective, our narrative NOW can we aspire to this better world. And this happens one small act of conscious love at a time. Breaking the cycle of fear is difficult… It takes a willingness to get out of our comfort zones. It takes humility, introspection, patience and perseverance. It has nothing to do with positivism but all to do with Love. Instead of fear, let the love and beauty you see fuel your actions and let that inspire more love and beauty. The fear and ugliness of the world will still remain but it only affects what you do and how you act if you let it.

A crisis can bring out the worst but also the best in people. Now is the time to bring out your best and strive to create the best possible world.

“It’s okay to be scared”

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So I’m a teacher… I love to teach. I’ve been teaching since I was fifteen approximatively : piano, maths, science, ancient Greek, English… To be honest, I even have a distinct memory of me tutoring one of my best friends with math by creating exercises for her when I was only about 8 years old. Teaching, explaining things to others is something that I always enjoyed doing and naturally did because I quickly realized that when I was able to explain something to someone I learned and mastered the subject a lot better myself.

Today, I teach piano lessons and swim lessons and I still learn tremendously from all the youngsters I cross paths with…

For example, here is the story of *Little A* a young girl who is afraid of *Jumping from the block*.

As a teacher, I feel my job is to bring my students to their full potential, give them the tools and knowledge to help them grow and inspire them to go beyond their “limitations”. Naturally, this is what I want to do with *Little A*. and her fear of *jumping*. Every class, I get her on the block and find ways to get her to *jump*. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But every class I get her on the block and every class she tells me : “I’m scared”. I patiently respond, “It’s ok to be scared. But fear can’t stop you from trying“. I promised I would never force her so I just constantly remind her that fear is part of the process and she is still able to act. We take baby steps each lesson, however small, we’re moving forward even if during one class, she’s not up to it, it’s still a step forward. It’s a work in progress at the moment of course but I’m confident she’ll rise to the challenge and find the courage to *jump* on her own…

Okay… Now I’d like you to reread this little story but this time replace the name and fear… “Here is the story of (replace Name with) *Little Issa* who is afraid of (replace fear with) *writing, sharing her ideas and music with the world*…”

I  think it is time to learn to practice what I preach…

Find your way to speak your truth

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I tend to complicate things… I overthink, overanalyse everything. I tend to believe it’s my rational-math nerdy way of thinking (I’ve always loved maths in High school…). But at the same time, I’ve always felt much more clearly then I thought sometimes. I tend to believe that’s more my creative-artist side… Creating a balance between all ways of thinking and being, that’s the struggle. Especially when you are diverse and you don’t fit under any specific label (I will most certainly write about these labels and how we let them define us in some near future).

What I find incredible in this video is how rich and complex, yet clear and simple come together in such beautiful poetry here… Maths, Arts, Humour align to speak truth and wisdom.

Enjoy!

 

A small dose of Gratitude for the day

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Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about this new blog of mine and about Wisdom and Beauty, bringing thoughts and ideas together, and wondering how I could ever be able to put in words such abstract concepts and personal feelings and ideas about subjects.

And to be honest, I feel paralysed, intimidated and limited by words in general… I know their power, how they can transform people, relationships, history (just remember those 4 simple words “I have a dream” and how they had transformed our world…). In our society, words are the most common, efficient and powerful form of self expression for people. But what happens when words simply aren’t enough to express thoughts and feelings and bring them into reality?

I’ve struggled for quite some time (and still now) to try and speak about beauty and wisdom. How can I express something that transcends human thought with something as basic as language? Being a hardcore idealist (in the best and worst sense of the term), I’ve searched very often for that One universal language that could express the inexpressible, the “Truth” so perfectly and simply. I searched vainly in maths, music, arts, philosophy… I found extraodinary forms of expressions but not what I was hoping for. And I realized how empty and meaningless it seemed to search for such a language beyond words. Because sometimes (more often than not), words don’t matter at all. Not even art or music for that matter… They are simply tools. Means to an end. Beauty and Wisdom speak louder than any tools.

Wisdom and Beauty 101 is a challenge to myself to put aside the perfectionist in me, and to simply let the ideas and words flow, to beat procrastination and negative self talk and just write unapologetically from the heart. It is also a learning process :  learning to express, to share and spread thoughts and to discover what Beauty there is out there and to let myself to be moved by it. And I hope this blog can help fill you with the same Joy of witnessing and experiencing Wisdom and Beauty…

I would like to share this TedX “talk”… Please don’t listen to the words, watch, feel the emotions charged in this video.