There are some things in life I cannot do. I can’t hurdle. I can’t do push-ups. I can’t do chin-ups, either. I’m not a very good cook. And I’m not good at being tactful.
But there are some things I can do very well. One of them is teach. I know I am an extremely good teacher, especially at music. I find communicating my love of music very easy – and most of the time, I love it. Some types of teaching I am extremely good at. I am very good with big groups of people. I am very good at teaching cello to beginners and people up to about Grade 6 level (that’s ability, not year group).
I was contacted by a parent of a teenager – would I teach this young person the cello? I said what I normally do – I’ll give them up to four lessons, and then I’ll see if they like me, I like them and we can work together. I don’t usually teach teenagers, but I thought I’d see what happens.
First lesson, fine. Although this particular teen seemed very bright in the lesson – and had been playing the cello for ages, but wasn’t so far down the road of progress. I wondered why… bad previous teaching? No practise? Father assured me that they had time to practise, and said they’d like to do AMEB exams (Alarm bell 1 starts to ring. I hate preparing kids for exams. For most people, they slow progress. There’s a lot of hard scales that aren’t related to pieces. But I left it.). Gave student some work to do, and a new piece.
Next week, the day before lesson two I got a phone call. Didn’t want to come at the agreed time, as it was the start of holidays. They’ll see me in two weeks instead. (Alarm bell 2.)
When it came time for lesson three, I had a concert that evening, and I wasn’t feeling settled. So I called to see if I could see this student the day afterwards, on a Sunday. No problem, they said. That Sunday, I got an email. Can’t come – grandfather’s funeral. (Cue alarm bell 3.) Who forgets a funeral the day before?
Lesson 4 arrived – no-one showed. I sent a text message. ‘Oh – we thought it was a different time.’ came the reply.
At this point, I decided it wasn’t going to work. Slow progress of teen now explained. I wrote back, saying I didn’t think this was going to work out. No accusing anything. No asking for cancellation fees. Then came the cranky text (and with lots of typos. I mean, please? Don’t I even deserve a spellcheck?) from the teen.
So this made me think….. Did this family even consider the loss of income for me here, as I blocked out times, and then had lessons cancelled? Thank goodness I wasn’t relying on the money – but I could have been.
And why can’t people just apologise for their mistakes? At no point did I get ‘Sorry. My mistake. I stuffed up.’ Has this completely disappeared from society? I hear teachers do this in Primary school all the time, teaching children to say they are sorry. Does this lesson disappear with the onset of puberty?
And don’t I deserve a bit of respect? Even just to have a correctly spelled semi-abusive text sent to me? I mean, I can do this thing I was originally asked to do. The teaching part. I’ve been doing it for a number of years now. Actually, decades, now.
So I don’t teach this particular person any more. I do, however, teach some lovely people. I enjoy teaching them immensely. I also teach in some excellent schools, and like doing this.
That’s it now. End of rant. Feel better.