I learn a lot from kids. And not just the usual, “Kids are so full of innocence and wonder,” blah, blah, etcetera (although it’s true, they are).
What I learn are often strange things.
One of my students walked into her lesson one morning seeming distracted and sad. “How are you?” I asked, preparing for the automatic “Good.”
“Not so good,” she said. “My parents are fighting.”
From that, I thought, Why am I always keeping things safe? Why is everything always, ‘awesome,’ ‘great,’ or other? Why am I afraid to talk about the unsafe feelings – sadness, difficulties, or other things? I am actually glad this girl shared with me something real she was feeling and struggling with that day. She gave me the chance to react and respond to the real her.
One student of mine has taught me something just by being himself. He has always been an “easy student”: mild-mannered, pleasant, a hard-worker. He’s in an in-between age right now, almost a teenager. I ask him, “How would you like to learn this piece?” He says, “Sure.” “What music do you like?” “Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “I like lots of things.” He is really willing to go along with things I suggest. But it’s gotten to a point that I really kind of want to see him express anger, or frustration, or annoyance at me, just one time – so that I know what’s really going on. I want him to give me a chance to know him better.
And that’s when I reflect and see that, in many ways, I am just like him.
I will open up to people, and show what’s really going on, if they either express what I’m feeling first, to me, or if I know that who I am – in all my various forms – will be acceptable to them.
For instance, I’m a committed Catholic, and more conservative person in terms of politics. Most of my time is spent with people who I know lean more left, and who mistrust Catholicism. So, voila – I hide that part of myself. I don’t pretend otherwise, but I certainly don’t talk about it, either. I’ve already heard what they think of people who think like me (because they probably have no idea that they’re talking about me in my presence), and I guess I’m afraid that they will close their hearts to me if they know. Isn’t that funny and ridiculous?
But I have learned from my students, that I am just so happy when they share their funny, crazy, interesting, personal and unique thoughts. One girl looked at me and said, “Why are you always smiling?” See, I love that, because a person slightly older would have learned not to say what they were thinking, and I got to hear what she was thinking.
My students have taught me the most unique ways to teach piano. Just the other day, one girl said she was tired of the old “Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always.” She said, “How about ‘Grandma Betsy Didn’t Forget Always?”
Another student had a piece with the V7 chord in it all the time, and she said, “Let’s call it the Big Friendly Giant because it has B, F and G in it.” That’s awesome.
One girl came this morning and shared with me that she had been hoping to go to a soccer game this morning (soccer is her first love) but her parents had made her go to piano instead. She cried. I was thankful that she trusted me enough to tell me what was really going on.
So, I am thankful to my students for what they taught me this week, and hoping for more courage to share the real me with more people.