So we’ve talked about some of the benefits of teaching over the past two weeks and now it’s time for this series to come to an end (is it really a series? I’d like for it to be a saga… That sounds much cooler, don’t you think?). We talked about finances two weeks ago; about how stable students are, or at least more so than gigs can be. We also talked about how beneficial teaching is from a learning standpoint, both for YOU and the STUDENT. Now let’s talk about the intangible aspect of teaching. The really rewarding part.
Well, hasn’t each step of this been rewarding? I mean, let’s take Money – ya, that’s pretty rewarding, isn’t it? In fact, isn’t that the definition of the word “reward?” Sure, why not. And Knowledge, Learning, Understanding… Aren’t these rewards in and of themselves as well? Let’s just say yes. But these are the obvious ones, the ones you can see clearly from the surface, from the outside looking in. But this next reward is the MOST rewarding of them all, and unfortunately you cannot see/experience/feel it from the outside. You only get this one when you participate; you gotta jump in head-first.
What I’m talking about is the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, and it’s the most important thing you can ever do. Ya, money is great; in fact it’s necessary. And so is knowledge and all that other stuff. But really, what’s the point? I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just music we’re talking about here; we’re not saving lives (like doctors), protecting human rights (military or police) or steering the world into civility (government officials). At the end of the day, aren’t we just expressing our infatuations of a “hobby?”
It’s kind of true, isn’t it? I’m not trying to be condescending here, and I won’t get much more into this view point today, but if you’d like to discuss it further please check out my blog post called Don’t Forget What You Do – we can chat more about it there 🙂
If you’re looking for this reward (the most important one you’ll ever experience) you won’t find it in yourself. You won’t find it in dollars, possessions or securities. You won’t even find it in your confidence, in your intellectual command of a subject, or in your own abilities and experiences. You get this reward from helping someone else and witnessing first-hand how you’ve impacted their life. It’s unbelievable, unlike anything you’ve ever felt before.
Now obviously you don’t need to be a teacher in order to experience what I’m talking about here. Go help out at your church, a food shelter, a third world country, or anywhere that you know people are in need. You’ll find plenty of opportunities in the world around you to experience your altruistic nature. But another way we can do this is in our daily lives WHILE using our passion for music. I do this through teaching. I start each lesson – every time a student comes in to my office – the same exact way. I ask:
“How’s it going?”
“Did anything cool happen this week?”
“How’s school going?”
“Got any questions, need any help with anything?”
I’m not trying to break the ice or kill time here, I’m genuinely interested in what’s going on in the life of this person. You’d be amazed at how much people will open up to you when you just talk to them, ESPECIALLY when they respect you (and we just about always respect the people we study with). Every week I hear about the good stuff; the great vacations, raises and promotions at work, graduations, parties, family visits… I also hear about the bad stuff like deaths in the family, lay-offs, trouble with bullies… you name it. I remember one time an 8 year old piano student asking me if she should tell her friends that she thought another girl in her class had stolen something from the classroom (she didn’t have any proof, however, just a hunch). I started to explain to her that this is called “gossiping,” and it is generally not a good idea to spread rumors about people because it will ruin someone else’s reputation if it turns out to be untrue – and then it hit me.
Wait a minute, I thought, isn’t this something that you’re supposed to be talking to your parents about? Why am I the one being entrusted with this information?
She trusted me. I was an adult who she could relate with and trust, and she genuinely needed help in making this decision (as silly as it ends up being). And that brings us to a completely different discussion! If it’s kids that you’re working with then you have even more rewards and responsibilities, because you’re not just impacting someone’s life. You’re shaping their future and who they become! They look up to you and you have a unique opportunity to be a role model for them, someone they want to be like when they “grow up,” and someone that they will remember and carry with them for the rest of their lives. I don’t know how old you are right now, but I’m positive that you can think of numerous people (who weren’t your parents) that made a difference in your life when you were growing up, be it a karate instructor, baby sitter, teacher, yard duty, bus driver, youth pastor, on and on and on.
Even though it was 18 years ago I still remember my 3rd grade bus driver, Glen, who asked us Simpson’s trivia questions on the way to school (he gave candy to people who got the answers right). I remember eating my lunch in Mr. Geivet’s room, my 6th grade math teacher, every day cuz we all thought he was so cool. My 11th grade English teacher, Mr. Chew, told me I could be a writer on day (and I am). Professor Song taught me how to listen to the other instruments in an ensemble. Dr. Kessner convinced me that I was a composer first and a musician second. All of these people influenced me from my earliest years to the present, each of them impacted and shaped my life, each of them pointed me in the direction that I’m going right now, and the knowledge and remembrance of each of them is something that I carry with me EVERY DAY. And the funny thing is that I bet most of them don’t remember me, since I was just one kid out of the thousands that they taught throughout the past 25 years.
My point is this: if you think about it, you are who you are today because of the teachers that you grew up with (for better or for worse, I suppose), and I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is the most rewarding thing you will ever know. This is the most important reason Why You Should Teach, and I saved the best for last on purpose. There’s enough bad influences and negative role models for kids and adults alike. Stand out and give them someone to look up to and I guarantee they will hold onto it for the rest of their lives.