I was recently part of a question and answer panel discussion at a music teachers conference. The questions were really terrific and thought-provoking. But one of them really made me think. Ready? Here it comes: “What is the single hardest part of being a teacher?” It wasn’t that I didn’t have an answer, it was that my mind was flooded with millions and millions of “hardest parts” vying for the top spot! So I thought and thought, and then offered my answer in the form of a quote: I said, “In the words of Eliphas Levi, ‘A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard.’” I have always been fascinated by the odd, inherent, almost-contradiction of terms that is teaching. We must be extremely good at what we teach so we can teach it to others. We must possess very advanced abilities in the area we will teach. Much of what we will teach we learned long ago, and often because we were good at it, it came easily to us. But now we teach others who don’t understand it at all. So, the hardest part of teaching to me is that we must put ourselves in the place of students who find what we are teaching daunting, difficult, frustrating – and to them – seemingly impossible. So by that logic, would I – knowing nothing about knitting – make a great knitting teacher because I would understand the frustrations and problems of a beginner? No, because I have no idea how to knit! And that my friends is why Levi’s words ring so true.
Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
About the Author
Dr. Boonshaft is the author of the critically acclaimed best-selling books Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose, and Teaching Music with Promise. Dr. Boonshaft is currently on the faculty of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where he is Professor of Music and Director of Bands. He has also been named Director of Education for KHS America. He was honored by the National Association for Music Education and Music For All as the first recipient of the “George M. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education.”
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