Lately, I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the importance of the relationships we build, specifically the bond that forms between teacher and student. This year has brought many changes, both personally and professionally. I have had the great pleasure of watching one of my own students begin her teaching career and appreciate the pride that she takes in her work and the positivity that she brings to each situation. Recently, I also experienced the loss of a teacher and mentor and the challenges that come with absence of such a strong, positive force. Finally, the completion of a degree that I began on somewhat of a whim comes to a bittersweet end, as my current teacher retires to another state, and I am faced with the terrifying prospect of doing this all on my own. This has been a year of change, but it has also been a year of growth.
As I have gotten older, or more “mature,” as I think it is more acceptable to say, I have started to realize the importance of the role that we, as teachers, are charged with. It is our responsibility to motivate, educate, and guide our students through their musical careers. As young teachers, I think that many of us begin with the idea that we are to “get better.” We are excited by the prospect of proving ourselves to our teachers, each other, and our students. Teaching is an excellent motivation for growth. However, as each year passes, I find my focus shifting to the relationships involved rather than proving my worth as an educator.
I have realized that the people who have made the biggest impact on my life as a teacher were those who taught me about my relationship with myself. I have been lucky enough to have had teachers who have taken a personal interest in me and my career and have provided me with the support I need when I have been unable to find it within. In this same light, nothing makes me happier than helping a student find something in themselves that they did not know existed. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing a student say, “Hm…I never thought about it that way.” This is the point. Opening our eyes and ears and expanding our horizons are the reasons we begin anything. Helping someone else get there is just icing on the cake. At the end of the day, teaching music isn’t really about teaching someone how to play as much as it is about teaching responsibility to oneself.
Of course, any time we take on something new, there is a responsibility involved. There is a responsibility to the others involved in the activity, those who help finance us, teachers, coaches, parents, etc. Most of all, there is a responsibility to ourselves that whatever we do, we give it our best and create an environment that fosters that motivation in others, as well. After all, music is supposed to be about sharing, and the best way to get others to share is to start by sharing yourself.