I’ll never forget my piano teacher. She was one of the best in the country. I started piano when I was four. And what a four-year-old remembers of her piano teacher is that she was as big as a wardrobe and her fingers looked the same size and length – basically she had 10 long thumbs. Her posture – hunched. Nevertheless, she walked tall and emitted warmth, security. Her eyes – dramatic and sad. Communism had stripped her family off everything they had (and that was a lot), including her husband. She had a grey hair, boy-cut, and her big lips always curved into a contralto, “forza, Velislava, staccato”.
I will never forget my piano teacher. My parents took me to her to “test” me when I was about four. She checked everything – solfège, hearing, hands, bones, my eyes probably, too – and then gave them her verdict. Blunt, plain, honest. “She is exceptionally musical. Her hearing is extraordinary. She can sing and guess every tune and accord. But she has very thin bones and small hands. She won’t be a good pianist.” And by “good” she meant “she won’t be an Ashkenazy”.
Either way, we did it. Eight hours a day, my mom and I, on the piano, practicing, playing gamas and scores, and rondos and sonatinis and sonatas and impromptus, for this concert, for that production, for this exam, for that event. Ten years, dedication, hard work, pain in the hands and the tendons. But a great pianist I did not become. I regretted it because I loved it. I regret it to this day.
My point is not my regret though. My piano is still at home. My music is everywhere I am. I not only love certain pieces, I have preferences of whom they’re performed by.
My point is that there are no teachers to teach, preach or speak to you the truth today.
There is no teacher, and rightly so, to tell you, “you’re not that good, buddy, drop it off…find something else to do”; to evaluate you, to predict how far you can go, and to save your precious time. It feels like I’m talking about a long-gone, non-existent God. And it’s the truth. It’s all business and I won’t waste more internet space in explaining why there are no real teachers. (Most) teachers aren’t teachers anymore because:
1. They aren’t happy with what they get in terms of satisfaction – let’s face it, there are a lot of kids whose parents just push them unwillingly to study something they thought was “intellectual” or “trendy”.
2. They aren’t happy with what they get in terms of salaries – let’s face it, governments are more likely to spend extra on supplying computers and internet connections (like there’s something more a computer can do that a person can’t?) than increase teachers’ salaries.
3. Because teachers can get more from telling their pupils, “you’re OK, keep it going”. More private lessons = more private income.
4. Because, again let’s be honest, there are incompetent teachers out there. I’m not excluding or including. I’m stating a fact. Although you should check Darlena, a wonderful teacher (from what I read on her blog).
What I’d teach my kids is that people won’t tell the truth. That’s a given.
But teachers won’t tell the truth, either. And that’s a tragedy.
Because, whom do we entrust our kids to if not teachers – those other parents, educators, norm-makers, ethics-builders, culture-bound, belief-biased, intelligence-limited, truth-telling human beings who look after our kids for about 6 hours on average out of 8 hours on average (given that kids sleep for another 10 hours on average). Question mark.
In that, how would I know if my kids are good enough? When it’s up to me – I’d tell them the truth.
But then, how good you are at knowing if your kid hasn’t got a dormant talent? A talent at all, about anything?
Can I rely on teachers today to tell me the truth about when my kid misbehaves? When he’s got real trouble in algebra? When he’s really hating accounts? And when he’s got his heart on chemistry, that there’s something really special about him because of that?
Can I rely on the experts today? On my kids’ teachers?
I remain wondering.