Have you ever thought:
“I’m not good enough,” or “I’m just a student”?
Does that ever stop you from teaching or doing something that you would’ve done… if you were “good enough”?
I’ve got to admit that I never used to think I was good enough.
I kept thinking I’d apply for this and that when I get my next ______. It would always be later, when I’m good enough.
I want to say that my first formal teaching position practically fell into my lap, but that’s not true– I had to work for it.
But, how do you know you’re not “just a student” anymore, and you’re ready to go on and teach?
When are you “good enough”?
Once, I had an almost-epiphany.
I was in a math class, and the professor had a PhD in math. I’d taken university calculus in high school, so I knew most of the material.
Good for me, because he spoke alien. He made everything more complicated than it needed to be.
He was nice and he was great at doing math, but he couldn’t teach. It wasn’t just what he said, it was the way he explained things.
If you asked for directions to the washroom, he’d probably tell you to “Exit through those doors and enter the university from the West-End. Then, wait in line at the office for the washroom keys, and go down the hallway.”
It turns out there’s a public washroom right behind you, but he’d probably forgotten all about that since he only ever used the properly private washrooms.
He’d tell you to shake a Coke 30 different ways to fizz it up when you can just stick a Mento in there to make it explode.
I went to every lecture, bemused while copying his notes and remembering how I’d learned the material, in an easier way. And thinking how I’d explain it again to my friend beside me, who had trouble with math in the first place, without his mumbo-jumbo.
That’s when it hit me hard. There are many, many different ways to teach. That professor knew his math, but he didn’t know how to teach. Doing something doesn’t mean you can teach it, and vice versa.
Are you right for teaching?
Teaching is an art itself– it takes practice. Playing flawlessly doesn’t mean you’re an amazing teacher.
Some people seem like they’re just naturally great teachers, but really they’ve just had more practice. It’s like being a comedian.
Did you know that by the time comedians step onstage, they’ve told their jokes hundreds of times already?
Not kidding. The jokes are funny because those people spend hours tweaking and perfecting the jokes so they get just the right amount of laughter each time. It’s like a pianist performing onstage.
It looks easy, but it’s not. They just have a good sense of their glass walls and you’ll never know that they’re sweating under their suits.
Not everyone can be an amazing teacher right away. Heck, most people are only comfortable teaching certain age groups.
What’s the minimum level?
You don’t need a whole bunch of degrees.
In fact, I know people with a whole bunch of music degrees and they STILL don’t think they’re ‘good enough’ to teach. There will always be doubt.
With that being said, it’s generally acceptable to be at a grade 8 or 9 (RCM) level to start teaching beginners in Classical music.
You want to easily sight read beginner pieces and know the concepts well enough to teach.
Of course, if you have another skill like improv, then by all means, start running jam sessions.
At one point, I would’ve jumped at jam sessions– I was trying to figure out a jazz piece when I finally realized that I couldn’t improvise anything without embarrassing myself.
Teachers don’t actually know everything. It’s totally alright to keep a music dictionary handy. It just means that the world of music is so big that you can’t possibly store everything in that great head of yours.
That’s also why prepping for lessons can take a while; you have to know the material well and you have to plan to teach it well.
Should you learn or teach?
That’s always the question. Should you get “good enough,” or start teaching? How about “get better” for free?
If you’re even considering teaching, but you’re telling yourself that you’re not “good enough”, then you’re just holding yourself back. And that means you should go for it.
We should always be growing in one way or another. Like, some of the most technically-dazzling pianists I know can’t improvise. Which is a shame, because it’s like being unable to speak a language unless it’s scripted.
There’s always something new to grow with and you don’t have to do it through a new degree or diploma. There are online courses that you can do at your own pace in topics like business (I don’t have any experience with these, but I’ve heard great things about some… just make sure the instructor is reputable). You can even get some new vibes, or free motivation.
Plus, you can keep reading my writing and being in the Artiden community. That always helps you grow. ;)
The big idea is, if you’re even asking if you’re good enough to teach, then you are probably good enough. The question is whether you’re ready to teach.
When you’re a total beginner and you have no business teaching anyone anything, then you’ll be so focussed on doing that you won’t even think about teaching.
So you’ll know, when you start wondering if you should teach, is when you should be teaching.
The point where you’re “too good” and you don’t grow anymore is where you’ll fall off the tracks.
SO, I’m going to publish a series of posts about teaching piano, and I want to know…
Do you teach piano? If so, how did you start? If not, what’s holding you back?
Just leave a comment below to join the conversation!
And, if you know anyone who will find this useful, go ahead and send it to them.