I remember the first time a couple approached me about teaching their daughters music. One wanted to play piano and the other, the violin. I was fifteen at the time, a total novice myself, and up for the challenge.
I still remember the feeling on that first lesson day, rummaging through all of my books, copying off homework pages, organizing pencils by color and tucking a sheet of stickers behind the music stand as rewards for when my students finished a song.
I never anticipated teaching for very long. I began because the opportunity arose, it seemed like a nice way to make a little extra pocket money, and why not? But while students have come and gone, and I've never had more than half a dozen per year, this little side hustle turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for.
Every year, I talk about it being my last as a teacher. Music days can be stressful, exhausting, and discouraging if a student can't seem to pick up the concepts you are trying so hard to teach them. I threaten quitting. But it's hard to give up something that has given you back so much.
Being a teacher is more than just technique, homework, and laying down the law. There is the thrill of accomplishment, and best of all, there is friendship. My students make me laugh with their stories and antics, beaming proudly when they finish a song perfectly, or giggling uncontrollably as they admit to giving their violin a name. They teach me creativity, stretching me as I listen and try their ideas, prompting me to get to know each kid better, discover their learning style, overcome each individual's obstacles, and nurture every unique talent. They inspire me to work harder and keep growing, bettering myself so I can pass it on to them.
As for patience... while I've accepted that we will review the musical alphabet a thousand times, and yes, it's my job to repeat the same instructions lesson after lesson, these kids have shown me a crazy amount of grace (and yes, all of this includes my little siblings who forgive me every time I skip a lesson). They kindly remind me if I've forgotten to print off their favorite song, ignore when I'm behaving a little more flustered than usual, or shrug and assure me it's okay when I snap a violin string and have to spend an extra twenty minutes repairing it.
God has a way of answering prayers in a way I never expected. I prayed to become a better pianist, He thrust me unexpectedly behind the keyboard in church every Sunday. I prayed for a ministry, and He gave me music students. I've spent hours teaching notes, music theory, and rhythm. But in between, I've listened to a student spill out her dreams for the future, sat and talked with another on the verge of tears because he'd had a bad day, and clapped with excitement because one student got a callback to be actor in a musical. My favorite is the day a student walked into my living room, violin in tow, and declared that when she grew up, she wanted to be a wife and mother - because if that was what her music teacher wanted to be, then so did she.
My family will be the first to tell you that I'm a complainer on music days. I'm tired, worn out, definitely not good enough for this job. But when I list all of the blessings this "job" has given me, it's hard to be anything but thankful.