Yesterday I happened to be talking with an Air Force General Officer. He lamented to me that he had no golf game, though he took golf in high school. The time and place did not allow me to share, but I have thought before how many instructors do not really “teach” but instead they allow their students to get by without learning fundamentals.
I, fortunately, had a different experience, and so did he (obviously) in areas other than golf. One of my early teachers was a band director, but not just any director. He was a tyrant who insisted that his students sit down, shut up, and be the very best they could be while in his class. It happened eventually that I had that guy as an instructor all the rest of my high school years. There was not one moment at which he did not insist that I be all I had the talent to be. He conveyed that thought to every one of us, every day.
About the time I got out of high school, it was my good fortune to learn that I was not the most talented person in the world of music, and to have learned from that teacher that I did not want to invest time to be average. That teacher, by the way, was Jim Leonard, the band director at Choctawhatchee High School for 20 years. Jim is gone now, but I had the good fortune to know and consider him a friend for the last 30 years of his life. His children still run Playground Music in Fort Walton, and he is still one of the brightest memories in my education. His students are themselves general officers, doctors, lawyers and people like all the rest of us, now scattered all over the world. Not one of them will ever forget the legacy and lesson that we should not be satisfied with a partial effort.
All this I say because I was asked by my friend Christopher Saul to write something that was on my mind, and this article is what was on my mind. Sorry. Next time it will be real estate.
To those in our world who have elected to become teachers, I commend you if you care about making your student the best he or she can possibly be. I know your effort is sometimes drudgery, and there will be days when you wonder whether anyone cares that you push your student to be better. Pushing is hard work. I promise that your student knows, and your student will never forget.
Again, it was my good fortune, like 99% of today’s young football players, runners, and even mathematicians, to learn that I was never going to like myself as a professional musician. But if your students are an arrow, and if you aim them properly, it won’t matter the field they play on, or with whom. Their flight will go far better than it ever would have without you because you taught them not to be average. Our teachers who care can’t possibly be paid enough. They have the most important mission any one of us can have.