Mrs. Nielson: My treasures are those lives I have mentored…


Sharing what I love, what I know, what I feel is an incredibly rewarding career. In teaching I am investing myself, using my mental and physical resources to enrich the lives and train the minds of another generation.

My heart has been drawn to teaching since I was in my teens. I am intrigued by an opportunity to sharpen children’s senses and expand their mental capacities. I have been astonished at the acumen of the three-year-old playing Bach or the month-old baby using his fist to turn the pages of a book I was reading to him. He was so eager to hear and see what comes next. We sorely underestimate the capabilities of very young children.

IMG_4750Music has been my teaching medium. Eloquent melodies, subtle harmonies, diverse rhythms and colors captivate and inspire me, and I love to urge my students to explore their own musical possibilities. The study of music disciplines their minds, compels them to focus, requires them to listen, trains muscles and joints and invites them to communicate. No wonder that Plato in The Republic called musical training “a more potent instrument than any other.” We have a lofty and fulfilling profession.

But teaching has done more than satisfy me. It has motivated me to continue to learn. The years I teach teach me. At every lesson I seek new insights into the score and try fresh ways of explaining musical concepts. I must adjust to all kinds of learning curves and personalities and ages and giftedness. Each student presents a unique challenge. I must be versatile in my approach so that a five or eighteen-year-old will comprehend. That constant effort helps to prevent professional stagnation and reinvigorates me. I paraphrase Chaucer’s clerk, “Gladly would I learn and gladly teach.”

The demands of strict scheduling and lesson planning have forced me to set priorities in order to pack quality teaching into each lesson. Always I look for ways to move students toward their potential as well as to release their tensions.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned is patience. In a fast-paced life, patience has helped me temper my natural voltage but also has spurred me to stay young with the young.

I am indebted to hundreds of students past and present for those moments when an eloquently shaped phrase draws a gasp from me or when I am tempted to applaud a convincing climax or when the finesse of an ending jerks a tear from my eye. That’ when I know they “get it”! That’s when I know the sensitivity is flowing from inside and they are expressing personal thoughts and feelings.

I even prize those moments when a student grins after a particularly devastating error and turns to me, anticipating either strong discipline or what one student called “stern love” Sometimes a smile is the only rebuke necessary!

I have also delighted in congenial repartee with my students at lessons. I am grateful for the diligent practice at home which has earned for them so many top prizes, scholarships and careers as professional musicians worldwide. Our enduring warm friendships are a joy to me.

Teaching never really stops. Details may be forgotten; the shaping of a personality remains. some of my casual quips and comments areIMG_4683 remembered and quoted to me years later as life lessons learned. THINK! is my perpetual one-word advice. A stack of letters describes the ongoing impact of that word in the lives of my students. Henry Adams, in TheEducation of Henry Adams says, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

To me teaching means that I am preserving an art, a proficiency, an erudition, a beauty, a  refinement, a vision. These are cultural essentials that safe guard our humanity and our spirits. The “invaluable intangibles” that I try to share far outlive the dollars I earn. My treasures are those lives I have mentoredTeaching music is a civilizing profession. I am audacious enough to believe that dedicated teachers who inspire excellence, artistry, faith and reason are a stabilizing force which restrains a culture from descending into turmoil and chaos.

What a trust to be a teacher with such a mission!

© 2014 Richard Rejino