Inspiration author, William Arthur Ward, said it best: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (Goodreads.com)
This has been my teaching motto for as long as I can remember. I believe I was born to teach and that I was also gifted with musical abilities beyond my understanding from a very young age. The combination of these two gifts set me on my life’s path, that of being a music teacher.
I have recently been nominated for an educator award, and when these types of nominations come my way I never feel adequate because I did not get my degree in Music Education or Piano Pedagogy. Instead, I opted for a degree in the field of human behavior, specifically with a passion towards adolescent behavior. I believe the most critical part of teaching is understanding what makes a student “tick.” Oftentimes parents have told me that they would have terminated lessons “long ago” except they liked the way I related to their child and vice versa.
My natural goal in teaching is to help produce musicians that are well-rounded human beings, with the ability and desire to share their talents and to provide service in society. I don’t recall ever making it a priority to be a knuckle-rapping, wrist-slapping, perfection demanding teacher. I have had students go on to do great things (piano performance majors, Broadway performers), but I believe it’s more because I related to them as individuals and helped them to express their musical passions in their own unique ways.
I’ve always understood that kids may not remember all that I have taught them but they will remember how they felt during the learning experience and I have made it a point to create a joyful and passionate learning environment. Don’t get me wrong, I have extremely high expectations of my students. I set the bar high because 99.9% of the time students will meet and exceed the standard I set. (Lesson 95 – Achieving when the bar is high)We work hard, but we work hard with purpose.
My motivation in joining various music associations has been strictly for the benefit of my students. First, these associations provide opportunities for my students to set goals to perform and be adjudicated, and second, they provide me with opportunities, through workshops and masterclasses, to better my teaching techniques and style. I believe in continuing education and a lifetime of learning.
As a teacher, I have my students set goals at the beginning of each year. These goals are designed to teach them life skills, such as choice and accountability, time management, setting priorities, integrity, responsibility, public speaking and performing, and, of course, goal-setting. I also encourage them to explore other artistic ways to express themselves through art, poetry and writing. (Lesson 92 – Helping students prepare for the future)
So, where other teachers may have wonderful lists of degrees and certifications, that’s not me. I spend a lot of my time in volunteer positions that will benefit me as a teacher which in turn benefits my students. I love my job as a teacher! There is no greater calling!
Sally Palmer owns Sally L. Palmer Music Studio in Bellevue, Washington. She has over 40 years experience as a piano and vocal teacher and coach, and is an accomplished accompanist. She is the author of Six-Word Lessons for Exceptional Music Lessons.