The title of this post is not my own original bit of wisdom - it actually came from a fortune cookie I had earlier this week over at P.F. Chang's.
While I do find it odd that many fortune cookies offer ambiguous life statements rather than actual fortunes, this particular one struck a chord with me (so to speak).
I love teaching piano to kids. It is an extraordinary experience each time. Being able to work one on one with a student is something rare that they don't often experience anyplace besides in music lessons. It gives them a place to be themselves and get individual attention, an individual educational approach designed specifically for them, and an outlet through which they may get more comfortable asking questions and conversing with an adult teacher at an early age.
Beyond that, learning music is an invaluable experience in self-discipline. In most other activities that children participate in they work with others - I am thinking primarily of sports (it is also of course invaluable to learn how to work as a team, too!). In piano lessons, or other instrument lessons for that matter, children learn how to be dependent on themselves for no other reason than personal growth and desire to learn (there are no grades given, so no real "incentive," generally speaking).
That all being said, I do find that I probably learn more from teaching students than the students may learn from me! Sure, they learn the notes and how to play the instrument. But the teacher must learn and practice patience, understanding, listening skills, tolerance, and still be energetic with each new student that comes in the door - often applying these qualities in different ways to different children. Teachers must also learn how to work with each family individually - they all have different needs and expectations.
Besides those basics, children will often point out things that I as a teacher had never really thought of. I find myself saying at least once a day "wow, you're right - I'd never thought about it that way before!" I am sure others out there have had similar experiences in their fields.
I personally feel as though I hadn't really come close to evolving as a musician myself until I started teaching music lessons some five years ago. And I expect to constantly be learning and having my eyes opened to new things - by my students.
For this, I thank them.
Yeah, yeah... all from a little fortune cookie ;-)