You don’t need a degree, a chalkboard or a classroom of 25 to teach. Often times the things a teacher passes on to their students isn’t part of a curriculum at all. The most impactful teachers leave their students a lesson plan for life.
But life doesn’t have a curriculum. Otherwise we’d all know what was expected of us or what we can expect from life. We’d know when we’re going to be tested, and what topics in life we’d cover so we can memorize the answers and at least pass with a C, rather than feeling like a failure at times. That blueprint doesn’t exist on a piece of paper. But it does exist in us. And it’s Natural for us all to influence others. That’s why we’re all teachers in some shape or form.
Recently I attended a retirement party for my high school music teacher. It was a nostalgic reminder of my awkward teen years, the good, the bad, the ugly and perspective I had at the time. It was also a friendly reminder that it’s been 13 years since I was 18.
Damn that went quick!
Sure, my music teacher taught me a lot about music. I learned how to play the saxophone without sounding like a rendition of the Alfac duck (or goose whatever your interpretation is). I learned the balance of forte and piano, scales, arpeggios, and what it meant to practice, which does involve taking your instrument home once in a while.
But at that party while surrounded by other people this teacher touched both professionally and personally it made me realize how much he taught all of us without saying a word. It brought back thoughts and instinct 18 year old me didn’t understand or relate to yet. But 13 years later I see my music teacher with a different perspective.
- I see the same warm smile cross his face when he greets everybody. You gravitate toward him because he welcomes you in.
- I see the same fire in his eyes for his passion in life… music and helping others. Time hasn’t aged it. It’s made it grow.
- I marvel at how after all these years he still listens to you as if you’re the most important person in the room.
And it all came back to me as a teenager in his classroom. The grace and nobility he carried himself with through unruly teenage-angst-ridden halls. The passion he has for music and hearing his students perform while enjoying it with them. The optimistic persistence he fought with to give his students every advantage he could.
9 times out of 10 that optimistic persistence paid off. And his warm smile would spread from ear to ear again as his students excelled. Because it wasn’t about his program. It wasn’t about the competitions or awards. It was about his student’s experience. It was about their growth not just as musicians, but as people, that fulfilled him.
That’s a teacher!
He never even had a textbook!
And he didn’t need a classroom either. Nor does anybody. I learned more about how to conduct yourself professionally and personally, under admiration or scrutiny than I could ever realize when I was 18.
I wasn’t that smart.
I’m still not that smart at times.
But it’s certainly something to strive for.
Teaching is a selfless act. If the old saying goes “you never stop learning” than everyone around you is a teacher. Who else do we learn from after graduation?
We all teach each other through our own thoughts and actions. When we communicate an idea or knowledge through experience we’re giving a perspective others may not have and vice versa.
The way you carry yourself in general can teach others not just how to act or react but what is socially acceptable.
Today there are plenty of hard-hitting issues on what is right, wrong, legal, illegal or excusable. Whether you want to admit it or not what you preach and how you react has an affect. It’s taught. It’s habit forming around a professional culture, personal culture, or youth culture. It has an affect on you and what you achieve. You never know what or whom you will influence.
Who did you accidentally teach? Who will learn lessons from your passion, determination, and charity? Or lack there of?
Who gave you a curriculum for conducting yourself?
I know I’m not alone in citing my music teacher as a positive influence others have or can learn from. And that’s probably the best symphony he’s ever conducted.