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!