I consider myself a teacher for a couple of reasons. I have always embraced the concept that “if you want to truly learn a particular skill or craft, you must find and work individually with a good teacher. If you want to be a Master of that subject, you must teach it to others.” The real blessing of being a teacher is getting feedback from your former students of their successes in life, especially if YOU were the teacher who inspired the life changing shift for your student.
I have to admit that I catch myself absolutely gloating at the tremendous accomplishments my students have achieved; with my recreational scuba diving cap on, I have produced other scuba instructors, boat captains, and one young man who has gone in to the world as a lawyer for environmental protection. As a music instructor, I have enjoyed seeing my protégées win international solo competitions, play with music ensembles around the world, and share the stage with ME (their OLD music instructor). My acrobatic yoga students are producing jaw droppingly beautiful images as print models.
The most profound example of this that I have been witness to was of my Mother. I acted as caretaker for my Mom during her last year of life. A third round of cancer devastated her body, and we knew that the hospital visits were more a way of making her impending death somewhat more comfortable. My Mom was my original teacher- she taught me to read before attending kindergarten, sew my own clothes… Of the many things she taught me, I realized during her last month alive that the most important lesson was in celebrating the light and potential in others.
On one of our hospital visits, a big, athletic, handsome young Black man who was the medical technician on duty that day, gleefully recognized my Mom as one of his “old high school teachers.” Glancing at her chart, his dimeanor switched to stoic seriousness. The young medical tech then put everything down and held her hands. Fighting back the tears that had just welled-up, he looked into my Mom’s eyes as he told her that the reason he went on to college and wanted a career in the health field was because of her. He wanted her to know that she was the overall favorite teacher of all the students in the Special Education Department because she would frequently express her belief to those Special Ed students that they were able to do well in life. This young man explained that the student body she worked with felt that my Mom was the only adult who treated them with respect. Watching my Mother lose her hair during her first battle with cancer and never missing a day of work in spite of her chemo and radiation treatments was a true example of love and commitment to others, and for this young medical technician, her tenacious example of providing care for others was the impetus to inspire him to do better in life.
My Mom was a Warrior Princess who led her charges by living what she taught. What a blessing to have feedback in this lifetime from your students. And like my Mother the quintessential teacher, I am blessed.
Photo of yours truly in May of 1999 alongside my very proud Mommie Alice. Graduation day, receiving my MA from the ‘Critical Studies and Experimental Performance Practices of Music’ department on the campus of Mandeville College at UCSD in La Jolla, California, my Mother’s Alma Mater.