Teachers have the power to change our lives

Abbie DeMuth, Arts & Reviews

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The first time I picked up my flute, I grasped its cold metal between my palms and it made me feel powerful. My fingertips were timid and not yet precise as I pressed down the keys of my instrument. Before I attempted to play flute for the first time, I imagined a sound so perfect the birds would stop singing just to listen. I imagined Earth would stop rotating just so people worldwide could lend their ears to hear the sound of me playing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I was shocked to witness the sound I made as I pressed the flute to my lips. I had created a sound consisting of spit (and lots of it) and air passing through the body of my instrument without speaking a note. The sound would make birds fly faster just to escape the torture and Earth spin faster in an attempt to fast forward my failed attempts at being a musician.

Throughout the following week in band class, my band director, Mr. Stephan, had all of the flutes play individually to hear the progress in our playing. Sitting in the last chair, I made multiple pathetic attempts hoping to produce somewhat of an acceptable sound through my instrument. After failing desperately, I slumped as I tried to disappear into my chair to avoid the humiliation of having 50 pairs of eyes glued to me and my “musical sounds.”

After class, Mr. Stephan asked me to stay behind. Instead of assuming I wasn’t practicing, he offered to see me during my lunches for additional practices. Within the following week, I could produce a sound and sat in the front row of the band. Mr. Stephan never underestimated me, but rather saw the potential just waiting to be released. He recognized my dedication and unwillingness to give up, I just needed additional help to take my flute playing one step further.

Throughout my two years at La Mesa Junior High School Mr. Stephan taught me how to read music, recognize basic rhythms and notes, and realize the importance of intonation and pitch. However, he taught me more than the fundamentals of music. He taught me to “just play” my instrument without fear, he influenced my decision to continue my musical journey and introduced me to what would become my first true love, music. Mr. Stephan succeeded in his requirements as an educator, but more importantly he made a lasting positive impact on myself and many of his students.

Teachers have a greater responsibility than simply educating students. Educators should inspire their students to do more than what they believe they are capable of and challenge them into achieving things they never thought they would do.

Being a teenager is a difficult stage in life. Sometimes all we need is a teacher’s word of encouragement, a positive comment or the suggestion of extra help, showing they are interested in helping you succeed. Even writing “good job” or “you’re almost there” with a smiley face on a test can do wonders to a student’s perception of themselves (thank you, Mrs. Krusey).

Self-doubt kills more dreams than low test scores ever will. Constantly correcting students in an overly critical manner, rarely speaking encouragement or an actual compliment can discourage us to the point of defeat. Raising the white flag is often an easier course of action than admitting we were too intimidated to try and fail. Teachers have a responsibility to increase confidence, not destroy it.

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Teachers have the power to change our lives