Today, I speak to you totally out of my role as a piano teacher. Yet what I have to say relates so much to the process of impacting individual lives and institutional dynamics, as well.
Sometimes, as a teacher, I create crises. It may appear to be a semi-involuntary response. It may even feel like that. Yet I've seen it coming for a while and usually am rather certain that it's highly unlikely to avoid a crisis. I do it when I sense that the student or his or her family are going down the wrong road and refuse to wake up. Knowing that occasionally a family does.
You see, families often think that learning to play the piano is play. Now, play is optional, right? It's an important part of our lives, but we can play the way we want to play and choose what we want to do in a whole realm of what constitutes play. What I often wonder is if the parents have had this same pattern growing up and are now unable to cope with the demands of responsible parenting. It's difficult to tell. There are some things I know for a fact, though.......
Learning to play the piano is not a matter of life and death, and I never want it to be. It IS, however, a matter of commitment to a very difficult task that will eventually allow the student to truly play the piano--at a time when working to learn something new is going to be a lot more fun than in the initial stages.
One of my colleagues with a highly respectable record recently told me that she had picked up only two new students this fall. "Both of them decided it was just too much work for them," she said with a chuckle.
The problem with individuals learning skills that have the potential for lasting a lifetime is that it is a lot of work. This is true for institutions, as well, if they have had a history of pretending to be something that the institution obviously is not. It is a lot of work to face the depth of reality that is required to develop character and responsibility.
So here's the crux of it all: It is just totally against my philosophy to contribute to the developing irresponsibility in a kid, even though that refusal has cost me quite a few students. It is, likewise, against my philosophy to spend much time with people or institutions that are irresponsible or immature. If that sounds selfish and demanding, that may very well be a good assessment.
What happens when we create crises? We may end up the losers of some things and winners of others. There is a price to pay. What is remarkable, however, is how many times I've seen my students turn around, just as I did my patients in mental health nursing, when I have the courage to hold the boundaries and keep the crisis alive! To that I'm committed, and it's not child's play doing it.