Ten year reflection

This video is performance of Angelina, performing a medley of her original compositions, at our 2022 Spring Concert. The pieces are composed for a video game called, “The Legend of Cauliflower” (Folks, when this becomes a blockbuster, you heard it here first).

Angelina came to my studio the fall, 2012, when I started teaching in Bellevue. And she “graduated” in summer of 2022 as her family moved overseas for a new adventure.

Ten years! I saw her weekly, except during summer and holiday breaks. I remember the first few lessons of teaching her Ode to Joy, and five-finger scales, and her delight at discovering the concept of transposing. She entered composition competitions (and went all the way to national), solo piano competitions, went to Geneva and participated in summer music camp by Juilliard School of Music, went through the whole ABRSM exam and finished with Distinction, played in school and community bands, and during the last few years of her time with me, she was doing various composition projects with her friends.

That was not all. We also went through many valleys — those times when life felt challenging, piano felt hard, motivation was a struggle, and when various factors in life contributed to the level of work, focus, and desire. Many tears were shed during these times.

For her last recital with me, we decided to put her original compositions for the video game into a solo piano project. It was such an honor for me to work with her on it.

When I started my studio in Bellevue, I was at the most difficult point in my life. Not a good time to start a business in a place where you don’t know anybody. But I felt a conviction to do it. And that first month, I had two students and one of them was Angelina.

I so looked forward to my weekly lessons with these two students because that was the only time I completely forgot about my own problems.

I fell in love with teaching, and teaching the two students so much, that I could not imagine feeling as excited about other students that would follow them.

Ten years have passed and many more students later, I now know that teachers have a superpower to fall in love with each student we teach.

The pandemic has brought a shift in education. I have written blogs about it and praised the prospect of hybrid teaching and the opportunities it brings.

But the other side is that the pandemic has also made being a teacher more challenging.

Teachers, especially those who work with children have had to go through enormous amounts of changes and responsibilities during the past few years. Many are leaving the profession because they are simply burnt out. Many feel the lack of support and lack of sufficient compensation for their work.

Teachers teach by mentoring, guiding, empathizing, leading, supporting, serving, and yes, loving. Teachers are more than mere instructors. A teacher gives much more than knowledge because a child does not learn just by getting the information.

I had a bit of taste in teaching when I was a university student and I thought I would never be a teacher again. 18 years later, I fell in love with teaching and know that this is the greatest, the most creative, and most dynamic work I have been able to do. Perhaps it took me that much time in my life to be less self-focused and to truly embrace the calling to be a teacher. But it does have a toll on me, physically and emotionally (My chiropractor says it’s because I forget about myself when I teach).

They say it takes a village to raise a child (African proverb) and every village relies on a teacher to do the part the parents and other adults are not equipped to provide. My hope is that every one of those villages take care of their teachers because the prospect of a future where children are being raised and taught by AI’s is pretty grim.