A Weekly Smiling Face

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

A few weeks ago when I arrived at school I was given an envelope from the secretary.

One of my pupils (she’s only 5 years) had given her the letter to save and give to me on my next arrival. The envelope was beautifully decorated with some of my catch phrases written all over it.  I was a little stunned but very touched. And then I opened the envelope.

Not one letter but three, each about how much she loves the piano, is excited about coming to lessons, and is always greeted with a big smile!

Gratefulness spilled from the pages, I was truly humbled by the generosity of this little girl, but also very aware of the power of my words (repeated by her in the notes), which had all been absorbed and responded to.

Keep on Smiling!

The last couple of years of my life have produced some quite difficult personal experiences. I think this is simply the life condition. I am so lucky compared to so many. I have had to dig quite deeply to resolve some of these things.

The mantra of ‘life isn’t fair’ can ring from the ears quite profoundly, yet in reality it is pretty useless wanting it to be. Good friends, and even the kindness of strangers, have helped me get through this.

The piano – and music – has been of huge support, along with my rock of a husband and three precious children.

I feel that life has knocked the edges off me a little, helped me be kinder to others, but has also at all times (not always successfully!) helped me to try to teach more consciously.

I try to be completely aware of what I am saying, how my face is looking, what my body language is doing. I visualise the parent – if they are not sitting in the room – sitting there watching me. I try to make the experience that I share with another human being a positive, uplifting one, so that these can be positive memories in that person’s life.

I do not know what each pupil (beneath their piano playing) could be going through, but I do know that I want to at least make their interaction with me positive. So the piano for them can be like it is for me, a lifelong friend.

Back to School

As I begin the new term, I again resolve to first and foremost to be the teacher that I would want for my own children. A teacher that, if the child was asked, “is she kind?”, they would without hesitation say YES.

As teachers, working with children and young people at the most formative of years, I think being fully conscious in our teaching is really important.

We have the opportunity to do a huge amount of good, building young people’s confidence, self-esteem and abilities to cope with the journey of their own lives.

Having to stick at something where there can be just slow, gradual progress is such a wonderful life-long lesson. Tenaciousness is something that really can make our young people resilient and adaptable. As one of my teachers, the late Eric Leveridge said:

“Karen, remember that a piano teacher can actually be providing a service to the community. Supporting parents and young people as they make their way in life.”

I’ve never forgotten this.

So as I start my teaching again, I will resolve to begin each lesson with a welcoming smile, focusing on being conscious throughout the lesson. Trying to do my own little bit in life’s rich tapestry.

I start the term with huge gratefulness, as I am so lucky to have a job that I love, working with so many lovely students and parents. I also know that I am part of a huge community of music teachers who try to make the world a better place. Giving precious time to a new generation of young people making music, creating, doing good.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”   Carl Jung

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs Keyquest Music - his successful independent music education business, private teaching practice and creative outlet.

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