Thank Your Teachers

After yesterday, I have a new appreciation for teachers everywhere.

In my last Forpy post, I told you that I now have a flute student, which is awesome because I could use the money.  I was nervous for our first lesson, but really, I thought, I’ve been playing for nine years.  How hard could it be?  I googled some flute basics, because I can never seem to remember the exact mechanics of how a flute makes sound, but other than that — dude, I’m practically an expert.

insert extreme sarcasm

 My student, A, and her mom came around 4.  I welcomed them in, chatted a bit, and looked at A’s flute, a pretty Selmer.  I told her the names of the pieces and showed her how to put it together.  Then I asked her to blow into the head joint, and my (already very minimal) plans fell apart.

She had a beautiful tone for a beginner. When I started playing, it took me a month just to make a sound.  A had had her flute for a week, and she already had this gorgeous tone.  I had planned on spending most of the half hour teaching her how to hold her mouth, but obviously that went down the drain.  Great going, Sarah.  

After that the lesson was a mess.  I gave her a few embouchure tips, and then I sort of said, “Well…”  I awkwardly looked at the clock.  About ten minutes had passed.  I was going to die.

“She does need to learn to read music,” her mom said helpfully (or unhelpfully).

I had completely forgotten about reading music.  What musician forgets about music??  My thought train was so scattered the next few minutes A and her mom must have thought I was nuts. 

Oh, yes, I thought.  Music.  That thing.  Well, A, this is the musical alphabet.  It only has five — no, six — how many letters are there?  Let me count on my fingers.  Do I have staff paper anywhere? I used to…let me kill a few minutes searching for some.  Hmm, can’t find any…notebook paper will do.  Here’s a staff, five lines…this is a treble clef…you know, flutes play in treble clef…here are the space notes and the line notes…isn’t there some kind of mnemonic for learning those?  Anyway, I’m having a really bad time explaining this to you, so let’s just learn how to hold your flute!  Seven minutes to go.  Arrgghhh.

I showed her how to handle her flute properly, then I was at a loss yet again.

“Is there some sort of book she’ll need or anything like that?” A’s mom asked.

Ah, yes!  I wrote down the name of the book.  Then, I gave up on the “expert” front (or rather, acknowledged that it had been given up twenty minutes ago).

“You know,” I said, “you are my first student.  I know I’m not really explaining things the best way, so please [please, please, please] let me know if something doesn’t make sense or there’s anything I’ve forgotten.  I’ll definitely be learning along with you, A.”  It’s sure a good thing I’m giving you a discounted rate.  I really hope you think I’m worthwhile.

“Yes, we’ll do that,” A’s mom responded.  “We literally know nothing about music, so as much detail as you can give us would be great.  Can you write down exactly what she needs to practice this week?”

I did.  There were still three minutes left.  “Well, I really don’t know what else…”

“Can you play a bit for us?” mom asked brightly.  

Sure, sure.  I went and got my flute, explaining that my tone wasn’t great because I had just gotten my braces.  I played a few scales and went into the high and low ranges.  Then finally, finally, the lesson was at an end.

I showed A how to clean her flute, A’s mom and I discussed payments, and I sent them out the door.  Then I shriveled into a crisp of shame.

Ya’ll, teaching is phenomenally harder than it looks.  For one thing, it takes a lot of planning, which I really didn’t do.  (Shame on me.)  For another, it takes talent and practice to be able to explain things in a way that someone can understand them.  I’m afraid I do not have that gift, but I can learn.  (Yes, I can!  I can hear you doubting.)  

I better learn fast, because A is coming back next week.  Man, weeks have never seemed so short.

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