Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Bonfire

What makes a good teacher?

If you would have asked me that question 10 years ago, I'm not certain how I would have responded. Perhaps with something like "Someone who is nice and makes it easy for you to learn the stuff".

However, I spent 7 years away from that time, I've grown up a little, and changed, well...a lot. The dreams that I had created in the first 18 years of my life have been lying dormant, patiently awaiting the time when someone or something would light the spark that would finally give them a chance at life.

I went back to school this fall, finally. One of the most important things I have learned so far is that, a good teacher will not only create those sparks, but he will pile on the firewood and fan the flames until your dreams are a brilliant, roaring fire, capable of taking on a life of it's own.

Teachers of this caliber seem to be rare in this day and age. It is because of this that I consider myself to be genuinely blessed to have classes with not one, but TWO such teachers this semester.

They have both found those dormant dreams deep inside of me....they have both grabbed onto them and started pulling it out into the open. They have both been encouraging, highlighting the areas in which I am already skilled, but not ignoring those that need some attention before I can truly shine.

Growing up, I've always wanted to write. If I were to dig through my parent's attic, through the boxes upon boxes of notebooks and journals...alongside the thousands of drawings of horses, you'd find stories and poems galore, mostly unfinished. I loved to write, but I simply didn't have any sort of direction, or a solid foundation to build upon.

Now I'm an adult, and rarely have time to write for myself, as can be evidenced by this intermittently updated blog. Starting college, I was required to take an English Composition class. Though it focuses on analytical writing, I have an instructor that is great enough to have drawn out my potential for all to see. He has encouraged me, and given me the power to boost my self-confidence immensely. I now feel that, though I have a long way to go yet, I can not only write, but write WELL. I still need to hone my skills, and learn to be more consistent with my abilities, instead of relying on writing during times in which I feel "in the zone," but I will get there.

Another thing I've wanted to do since I was very young, is to get involved in music. I can remember being 7 or so, and receiving a small electronic keyboard for Christmas. Along with it, I got 3 or 4 keyboarding books with dozens of songs in them. I taught myself to play nearly every song in them, many of them by heart. I remember softly singing simple songs to myself as I played around on it, eventually learning by ear, to play those songs. How badly did I want to REALLY learn to play an instrument, but sadly, my parents could not afford an instrument, much less lessons. I was in percussion in the 4th grade, at school, but since I had no way of practicing at home, in 5th grade, the teacher told me I could not participate.

But that desire to infuse music into my soul has not gone's merely been waiting in the shadows. It started to make it's way back out into the open when I befriended a clarinet-playing photographer whom I may have mentioned before in this blog. He set up the kindling, my Music Appreciation teacher lit the fire.

I look forward to his class every Tuesday and Thursday, more than any other class I have. For that hour and fifteen minutes, I become completely captivated by the passion he has for both music and teaching. I watch him perform -- and I say 'perform', because you couldn't possibly call something you love so much 'work' -- in front of the class, and think to myself, "That's what I want to be when I grow up." No, I don't want to be a music teacher....I want to be that passionate about what I do in life.

As he goes through each chapter of the book, he talks about so much more than just the music. The beginning of each chapter, there are 2 or 3 pages on the art and architecture of the era...he goes through it in detail, with incredible, detailed knowledge of each painting and sculpture shown...from the artist, to the subjects, to the artists intent. He talks about what life was like during that time period, and really gives you a much deeper understanding of both the music and art. He puts so much feeling and passion into it, that you can't help but start to feel a bit passionate about it, as well.

School has become an incredible part of my life, largely due to both of these outstanding teachers. I am only on my first semester of college, so I am hopeful that my remaining years in the world of academia are littered with many more heroes like those I discussed above.

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