What Makes a Bad Teacher Bad?

Teachers and students. The idea is simple: Learn from someone who knows more than you do about a subject. You learn, you become more familiar with the subject, and then you get what you want. This process goes swimmingly when the teacher cares about the student as a human being first, and a student second.

This is great, right? Yeah! It is! But what happens when the teacher is bitter and sarcastic? Biting, and aggressive with criticism? Ouch.

Lots of students fear going into a music teacher's office because there is not a lot of distinction of the line between artistic ability and basic human character. Teachers can correct mistakes in a way that makes really smart people feel completely stupid. They can beat down a student with criticism, unwittingly, to the point to where a student on the edge of being an ebullient musical personality will deflate his or her own balloon and give up. Is this education? No. This is educational laziness.

I find that I most enjoy working with beginners. For me, it's like watching a beloved movie with a close friend who has never seen it before! To me, each and every beginner is a human being with human needs. I know that these people can at times be super busy, and there are weeks when they can't practice as much. That being said, I've completely settled upon the idea that the artistic ability (or lack thereof) is independent upon the ability to build and nurture generosity, strength, kindness, respect, and courage, though each certainly does help!

If I had a wish, it would be this: I wish that each and every teacher out there would make it a priority to separate what makes a person a human being with what makes a person an artist, a proficient musician. It is my desire that teachers could simply accept, willingly and generously, that each of their students is a human being with both flaws and beauty, that it's only the ability to play music that is lacking. I completely desire that teachers could learn to correct mistakes in students they work with without the student ever getting a whiff of sarcasm or bitterness (both are fools gold when compared to a righteous anger, safely directed and expressed!).

There is a difference between our humanity and our ability to play music. They aren't totally dependent upon each other, though I do believe that at the very top of the elite musicians, there is an unorganized club of decent human beings who happen to play music that pretty much astounds the rest of us. I wish that teachers everywhere could nurture both their students' humanity and artistry, together. It'd make for a far better world.