Friday, November 14, 2008

Fit to Teach

It is amazing the amount of people I have got to know over the last couple of weeks just by being in the main building at work and not secreted away in some prefab.

I have learned that one of my colleagues is a tattoo addict! She got her first tattoo for her thirtieth birthday and has not looked back since. Her advice to me, as if it will ever be needed is never to get words tattooed because the ink eventually slips (whatever that means) and the letters shift.

Another colleague does judo. I think that might come in really handy with some of the people I encounter during the day!

I sat next to a lady at lunchtime who is an accordion player! She is one of those people who can pick up any musical instrument and play a tune on it. She doesn’t like brass instruments much, but she can play them.

I shared with her that for while I had piano lessons from a friend. What I didn’t say was that I sometimes led worship in church, and felt that perhaps being able to play a musical instrument might help if I wanted to be able to write worship songs. My friend was told by her own music teacher, that teaching someone else was a good way to learn oneself! I didn’t really need to be motivated, I was keen anyway, but she was teaching a young boy at the same time and had introduced glittery stickers. She thought that the offer of a sticker would make me practice harder or whatever. Suddenly getting the sticker seemed to take precedence. I suppose that it worked to some extent. I stopped messing around on the piano and practiced really hard – but it was the messing around, making up silly melodies that I really enjoyed. Once it became hard work, I got de-motivated! The pressure of getting the sticker got too much.

The work colleague told me about a particular student she taught some twenty years ago. She lived in Falkirk, I think. It was somewhere not far from Edinburgh.

A friend of hers asked if she would be willing to teach her boy. It turned out that the boy was just four years old, so refused thinking that he was too young. The friend asked her to come to the house and meet the boy before she made up her mind.

It must have been a big house because one of the rooms had a grand piano in it. They boy was s child genius on the piano. Move over Mozart! She recognised his potential and he first thought was she couldn’t teach him. It wasn’t a case of there was nothing that she could teach the young Mozart, but she didn’t want to teach him any bad habits! He had too much potential to be damaged by a bad teacher – which she wasn’t by any means.

She phoned up a music academy in Edinburgh to ask at what age they took on children. Six years of age was the minimum. She couldn’t persuade anyone that he was worth the effort. They did, however, give her lots of advice of how to teach him. The most important thing was not so much the technique but making sure that he stayed interested. As it was, he has a very severe asthmatic illness and was often at home. He spent the day playing the piano.

The academy in Edinburgh eventually enrolled him not long after his fifth birthday. He went on to be a concert pianist, played a million other instruments, released albums and all the rest!

To be involved in part of that has got to be good!

I was thinking about her hesitation to get involved with him because she recognised his potential and didn’t want to cause him any damage. To teach him bad habits, or to use an approach to teaching that would turn him off piano playing for life was a heavy responsibility. In the end, armed with all the help from the Edinburgh academy, she went for it.

I think of the responsibility of being a teacher in the church setting. Every child of God has the potential to be a world changer. Perhaps some people never get to be the world changer they were meant to be because some other people taught them badly.

I don’t think that anyone deliberately sets out to bring a sermon, or a word, that is designed to mislead or deceive another, but sometimes there is a vibrant truth that gets watered down to make it palatable to as many as possible. It may not be bad teaching, but it doesn’t qualify as good teaching either!

If we are looking for a people of God leading powerful lives, it has to come because the word of God was preached powerfully to them.

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