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The "Good" Teacher

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Every year during district and region audition season, I second-guess myself as a teacher. It's rather comical that the cycle is so predictable, yet it never seems to lose momentum. The pattern goes something like this:

1. I coach etudes ad nauseam

2. I preach the importance of slow, methodical practice

3. I meticulously scrutinize minutia so students can hear at a deeper level

4. I host a mock-audition to get kids used to the intense audition environment

5. My kids go off to their auditions

I'm rarely surprised at the results of auditions. (Most of the time, I can anticipate a student's trajectory within five minutes of their very first lesson.) I know which of my students get nervous and which ones thrive under the pressure of performance. I know their sweet little idiosyncrasies better than they do. And yet, though it is entirely out of my control and I do EVERYTHING in my power to prepare them (from making practice plans to writing specific weekly goals), I worry for them.

Although it may sound cheesy and self-gratifying, I am constantly evaluating my efficacy as a teacher. My students' binder, a curriculum I am constantly modifying and adding to despite the fact that it works very well, is a small testament to that. How is it, then, that confidence from years of wonderful students making beautiful music manages to shrivel to self-deprecation every November? The struggle boils down to this question: am I a good teacher?

Instead of fighting the struggle, I am learning to embrace it. It would be a disservice to my students if I didn't care so much about their well-being as saxophonists (and even deeper, as PEOPLE). If I just let every audition go by without asking myself "what can I do better next time", I wouldn't grow. If I didn't sit down with each student after their audition, go through it with them, praise them for all their hard work, make a list of new goals, and dive in to the next adventure, I would be doing our field a great disservice.

Without the ability and willingness to improve, there is no such thing as a "good" teacher. Perhaps, then, a "good" teacher is one who is willing to grow and learn with AND from her students.

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