(I really like this feature on Xanga, so I’m going to try to start including it in my posts. It doesn’t really have anything to do with this post, it’s just here, OK?)
I tuned in today determined to write something, anything…just for the sake of posting once a week again. After all, if I can’t find anything to say once a week, maybe I’m not thinking. I need to take my mental pulse. As it happens there are several things I could write about, but being at leisure I decided to visit my friend Jon’s blog, the Levite Chronicles. And as so often happens, he inspired me.
In the third part of his series, “The Next Sentence”, Jon talks about the dangers of Teaching as Performance (the end itself) rather than Means to elicit a response. You should actually just go and read that post first, if not the whole series. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No, really, go ahead.
I’ve been teaching piano students for umpteen years, and since I’m teaching one-on-one, the idea that I could be merely entertaining never occurred to me. (I do use humor as a way to help students remember what I’ve said, and I occasionally “rant” if they haven’t practiced…but that’s definitely performance-as-motivational-tool!) The notion that a teacher has to give an assignment, a “next step” is just normal for me. I can see this being more challenging for a university lecturer in History, or even an adult Sunday School teacher. But there’s no point in having a music lesson if you’re not going to go home and work on an assignment. You might be interested in the rise and fall of the of Roman Empire for its own sake, without planning to write a book about it. You can’t very well visit it. But take oboe lessons without wanting to learn to actually play the oboe? Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
My teaching methods involve both the specifics of reading and understanding music, and the discipline of developing good practice habits. I attempt to teach my students to grow in objectivity, applying all the tools I’ve taught them for refining and polishing a piece until it’s performance-ready. Ultimately, I tell them, my goal is to do myself out of a job. When the student knows all the mechanics of the musical language, and they can analyze their own progress (“what still needs work and what’s my plan for fixing the problems”), they’re well on their way to not needing a teacher per se.
So a music teacher’s job isn’t to engender a lifelong dependency on herself…and this is surely true of any teacher, isn’t it? There will always come a point when the teacher has imparted everything he can. (You may need to return for coaching once in a while.) This reminds me of Paul’s recommendation to Timothy:
You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
(II TImothy 2:2)
At some point in their discipleship, the believers Paul refers to were expected to be able to turn around and disciple someone else.
My only qualifications as a piano teacher are that I sat under good teachers, and I love both playing the piano and teaching others to play it. The longer I teach, the more effective I become as a teacher. And at least one of my students is a teacher herself now. That seems fitting.
I know there’s plenty to discuss here. So here are some discussion starters for you:
Are all of us, as believers in Jesus and–ostensibly–disciples of His, expected to not only be active learners, but teach what we learn to others? In what way can Jon’s idea of “the next sentence”, making sure that people don’t merely listen but act on what they hear, impact the way you communicate with the next person you meet?