As I begin training yet another class of new hires for our company, I have been looking back at the teaching and “being- taught” experiences that I have had in this life. I have begun to ask myself, what does it mean to teach?
One could look at the acronym of T.E.A.C.H. and ascribe attributes that encapsulate noble and good teaching…Truth, Enlightenment, Acceptance, Caring, Hope.
I have been taught by magnificent teachers with very different styles as, I’m sure, have all of us. There was Dorothy Martin, in 8th grade, that made Shakespeare come alive and to this day imbued me with a passion for “The Bard”. There was Eloise Haldeman, who recognized my musical gift, nurtured and mentored it, getting me into advanced music classes and experiences so that my gift could flower. As I went through high school and college I was touched deeply by so many teachers who, perhaps, had no idea of their impact. Margaret Hillis at Northwestern believed in me and taught me profound truths in music. There were voice teachers who nurtured, bullied, inspired. Vera Rozsa, one of the great voice teachers of the last part of the 20th century and first part of this century, in Europe, taught me profound vocal, musical and life truths during my London years, she will always be a part of who I am. I had conductors and coaches that just by the way they conducted or played the piano, taught me infinite wisdom in non-verbal ways. But I remember each and every one of these teachers and thank them many times each day for the lessons each taught me.
More recently I have been inspired and transformed while being taught yoga; learned new skills such as Flamenco dance; and have been taught other martial skills that I never dreamed I could aspire to…and yet, with the concentration, wisdom, experience and grace of my teachers, I’ve exceeded any expectation I’d ever had.
It seems, looking at my life, that I was born to be a Teacher. If you had told me that 30 years ago I would have balked. I was “an artist” a “performer” certainly teaching was done by “those who can’t”. Ah, how wrong I would have been!
Teaching is done by those who have indeed done it, absorbed it, distilled it and are graced with the gift to impart it.
As I filled in my musical performing income with voice teaching, I began to see, slowly and begrudgingly, that I was gifted in teaching. The gifts of empathy, patience, caring, and ingenuity were just that….gifts…that I only discovered as I taught. I saw voices change, careers change, lives change…because of the gift I was given… to teach.
I learned that one can only teach the Truth because anything less falls apart. I learned that Enlightenment was a mutual thing between student and teacher. It goes to that line from The King and I …“It’s a very ancient saying, But a true and honest thought, That if you become a teacher, By your pupils you’ll be taught” . I experienced that Acceptance of where the student was, was essential to moving the student forward. I also learned by teaching that Care meant that no one, neither human nor critter learns by being criticized but only by being cared for. Last, but certainly not least, through my own teaching and by being taught there sprang a “wellspring” of Hope. Whether hope for better singing, thus a better operatic career; hope for better expression in dance; hope for peace, increased health and inner journeying through yoga; hope for better self-defense; or…. as in my current position of Director of Training…hope from my new hires for a career that they will love and in which they will prosper.
In the second book, A Wind in the Door, of Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time quintet, there are two characters that are TEACHERS ( others are Namers and Counters of Stars…things I would have wished I were…far more “romantic”:) But these Teachers are Truthful, Enlightened, Accepting, Caring and when it looks like darkness will prevail and all hope will be lost…teach HOPE. Ultimately, it is Love that prevails…ultimately, that is the primary mover of the universe…Love. And the Teachers…including the greatest TEACHER to live on this planet…taught it.