Horses and Lions
I'd like to point out one of the most helpful commodities you can enjoy as a musician. No, it isn't an expensive instrument. Nor is it a famous pedagogue. It is simply this: a colleague who believes in you and consistently sticks up for you.
If I ever had to work hard in a career, it was as a public educator of music. (See post here.) In fact, if teaching private lessons were akin to owning a housecat, teaching in the public schools would be akin to owning a lion. Not only are you baffled at what to do with it, you can't show your insecurity, or you'll be eaten alive! Only those who have tried it can fully relate. There were keen disappointments, looming mountains of setbacks, and an overall lack of support in my early teaching years.
Faced with the chance to become a teacher in the public eye again after giving it up indefinitely, I regurgitated to my new friend, a wonderful teacher herself, some of my fears and past failures—fully expecting a sympathetic nod of agreement and understanding. But I got more than I bargained for . . . in the best possible sense!
For starters, she didn't seem surprised or uncomfortable, though I certainly felt that way as I sat there shaken up and in tears over this cruel world. Rather than jump on the bandwagon of supporting me in my trepidation . . . rather than responding with, "Oh, I'm sorry that happened," or offering the kind but misguided notion that teaching isn't for everyone, this wonderful woman responded with confidence. After I spelled out how I had tried and failed, she looked thoughtful. She said, "You know, you actually have an advantage. With these experiences, you know all the ways NOT to teach. And you're going to be an amazing teacher because of it!"
I thought of the words of Marvin J. Ashton: "Yes, a friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am but who is willing and able to leave me better than he found me."
Her confidence in me awoke similar confidence from deep within myself. It really did take courage to climb back on the horse. It is not an overstatement to say her words inspired me. Unlike other mentors in my life, she wasn't going to chance me falling off. I was going to stay in Music Education if she had any say in it. She was hanging on to me!
I no longer felt expendable, like the music program people didn't know what to do with—the elephant in the room that there was no room for. This program was critical. To add to the mystery of it all, for her, it wasn't just about the job that someone needed to step up to. For some reason, I was important. Apparently, I was worth sticking around for.
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