In Praise of Good Teachers

I have been very fortunate. Good teachers have guided my journey as an organist.

Like most organists, I started out as a pianist. In my very early teenage years an intense spiritual event changed my course to the organ. With the support of some great examples in the ward I grew up in and the tremendous sacrifice of my parents, I was able to start an astonishing adventure that continues to this day.

I’ve had many teachers as an organist, both formal and informal. The Lord brought me into contact with each of them. When it comes to his work, there are no coincidences. He has a plan for each of us and his purpose is to raise us up to his level so that we might return to him.

I have seen both good and not so good teachers in my time, but in this essay I talk only about the good ones. As I have worked with each of the good teachers, I have observed several traits that each of them has had in common.

First, they have generally been positive. There is a mixture in teaching of praise, correction and tolerance that must be finely balanced if a student is to make progress. A good teacher’s greatest tool is praise.

Second, they have been very patient. Learning the organ well requires the application of spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional skills. Patience is required as a student learns to integrate each of these skills into their performance. Good teachers know how to be patient.

Third, they have kept the long-term view in mind. It would be easy to get bogged down in minutiae and forget that the goal of teaching is to make people better. Good teachers never lose sight of the goal.

Fourth, they have been good examples of being good students. Teachers and students work together as a team. While most of the learning comes from the teacher to the student, good teachers delight in learning from their students. They exhibit the same attributes of learning that they want to see in others. Good teachers are teachable.

There are many other attributes of good teachers that could be discussed, but these are some of the most important. Good teachers on earth are echoes of the greatest heavenly Teacher who guides us all. May the Lord help us all to be good teachers.

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