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Ideas on Learning

The most important ingredient in teaching

When I was signing up for my first semester of classes in college, someone told me to pick my classes based on the teacher. "Regardless of the course topic, if the teacher is great, take it. The enthusiasm they have will rub off on you."

That was good advice. I hated math in high school, but I discovered I loved calculus my freshman year because of a professor who was passionate about math and teaching. His love of math helped me gain confidence in college and left me with a fondness for math I still have.

Passion is not a requirement for being good at a job. And I certainly have had jobs that I was not passionate about, yet I did very well.

Teaching violin, though, really does require passion to be effective. Being passionate about something doesn’t require being extroverted, animated or entertaining. Passion can be a quiet, determined confidence that what you are sharing with the student is valuable and relevant and meaningful.

Through dumb luck, I discovered an amazing musical world I had no idea existed when I was younger. Music that is playful, creative, meditative, fun, experimental, social, fulfilling, emotive and free of pressure, perfectionism and expectations.

And I love leading students there.

The most important thing students take away from their 30 minutes a week with me is not the songs or technique that I teach. It is the feelings I convey to them -- the interest, curiosity and enjoyment I feel about the music I play and the people I meet through my music.

It is not the only thing that motivates a student, but passion for teaching is an important part of the environment that builds their motivation.


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