On teaching: humans not customers

This is the last week at the school I have been working at teaching the piano. I’ve been there only since the start of this year and I thought it would be easier than this to leave. Half a year? That’s nothing. Surely, I can extricate myself gracefully. I will have barely had time to settle in.

Or so I thought.

Clearly, I’m a bit of a numbskull because I always forget how quickly a teacher becomes invested in their students. Whether it is piano, theory, academic writing, research, information literacy, presentations – or even library school (speaking as a student in this last example), if you’re a halfway decent educator you take an interest in your students. You want to see them fulfil their potential. You ask them about their day. You find things out about their personalities, their home lives, their birthdays, their brothers and sisters. Tarnation, if you don’t get to know them and form a teacher-student attachment with the little munchkins.

I think teachers who don’t take an interest in the lives of their students fail at the most fundamental level. If you don’t understand the context from which the student is operating (say in approaching the piano) you have little chance of efficiently and productively assisting them in overcoming obstacles and making progress with their learning. Students are not clients, or customers. They are not “business”. They are people. Three-dimensional human beings whose very “human-ness” affects their capacity to take new knowledge and concepts and master new skills. If we forget that, we have totally lost the plot when it comes to education…music or otherwise.

And so, I find myself feeling a great responsibility as I begin to handover these little piano ducklings to a new teacher. I’m making a list of all the things I must remember to tell her about each one. He likes jazz pieces. She always forgets her books. His father won’t let him practice because it’s too noisy. She has difficulty in making eye contact. He only just moved here last year. And the rest.

I’ll miss them.



2 Responses to “On teaching: humans not customers”

  1. Kate says:

    It’s the capacity to care and connect that makes you a good teacher. My number 1 philosophy for teaching is that I’m a person first and a teacher second. You’ve gotta teach with your heart, right? Otherwise, how else do you make an impact? Hugs for your last days there, teach. X

  2. Wendy Davis says:

    Thanks Kate. It was all okay. And I totally agree. Person first teacher second. It’s the only way!

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