The incoveniences of conveniences in education

Parents and teachers very often look for what is “convenient” to them in educating children. Convenience is for example having some music lessons in school, rather than in a studio, having lessons in their own house, rather than in a school. Or some, for example, might think that weekly lessons are a necessity for advanced students.

A while ago a parent wrote to me that his daughter was able to receive “lessons” in school, so she would not come to me for the next semester or at least for a while. At first, I couldn’t understand what this parent meant with “lessons”: I thought that since the kid was starting a new school, he wanted to take a break for the Fall. Then finally I made the connection between this child’s school and a program I had read about. I couldn’t let him go thinking I don’t care at all if one of my students is leaving. Those students are like my own children for me (and I teach since more than 20 years, so I have a lot of children to care about!). Usually you take a young kid and you bring him to college. That’s the ideal path.

 

I didn’t want to criticize his decision: I am sure he has his reasons. I don’t know this guy who offers piano lessons in schools, but, as a musician, I would not trust someone who teaches piano AND other instruments in all possible different styles. So I was surprised about this sudden decision and sincerely worried. From a certain point of view I am sure it will be as if we never had lessons in the past – because of the method I use!- or, if they will follow the kid really well at home, this kid won’t technically improve, but at least won’t forget the basic and important knowledge I taught. 

I had a related experience with my own two older kids: I brought them to a local music school a long time ago and unfortunately I realized too late that their violin teacher was behind them in violin playing- no technique, no knowledge of basic music theory, despite a degree in music. For a while I even thought: who cares! I can help my children by myself, so why should I go elsewhere if they have lessons here through a scholarship? But I was wrong. I had to teach them violin myself during that period as we were surviving with the little knowledge in violin playing we had from their previous teacher. As a pianist who never played violin, I couldn’t correct more than notes. I couldn’t correct their technique, their way to produce sound and so on. When I finally decided it was enough, I realized I didn’t have to look for convenience or prices. Not because I am rich and I don’t care about how much I pay, but because at one point it was more than clear to me that education is the best possible investment in my children’s future and not just an expense. It is an asset.

It is not convenient at  all being in a “limbo” with someone who just listens to students once a week because he/she was paid to do so. Music is taught by imitation since ever. You’ll play like your teacher. If your teacher cannot play, you cannot hope to do better and there is no book you can read to learn what and how to correct the way you play and understand music. Because it is really hard to learn how to listen to your own playing and to your own sound.

And music is taught by inspiration. While I could inspire my children, I couldn’t show them technically how to play properly and couldn’t tell how to correct their sound.

I have learned the lesson then.

Either there is quality in education or it is more “convenient” not to take advantage of conveniences.

A teacher who is NOT offering the best possible instruction and is not passionate and dedicates to his/her students would better work in an office somewhere and let the education to others who really want to engage in children’s lives.

As a student, I could learn more by travelling twice a month to a rare and awesome teacher, than taking weekly lessons from someone who was local and… cheaper.

The easy way might seem convenient, but on a long term there are more inconveniences than conveniences involved in such choices.

 

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