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A Constant State of Learning

One of the best things I ever did for my teaching/playing was not sign up with an orchestra; I signed up for Tai Chi instead.

When I had finished with my Bachelor's degree and my teaching was just starting to get underway, I was looking into activities that would get me out of the house. My first inclination was to check out orchestras. I figured it would be a great way to meet local musicians and network.

For several months, I looked into various adult volunteer orchestras. I talked to conductors, checked out past and present concert lists.... the works. In the process of doing this, I started really thinking about something a teacher trainer once told me about how it's important to always be in a constant state of learning.

I most definitely do not know everything there is to know about music. And being in an orchestra would have for sure put me in a state of learning. But I realized how easy it would be for me to be consumed by musical activities. Music is my job and my passion. It would take almost no effort for me to spend my entire day just completely involved with teaching and playing.

It's one thing to learn new facets of an already lifelong pursuit. It's another thing entirely to be in a situation where you are a complete beginner. I came to the conclusion that in order to prevent teaching/playing burnout, I was going to have to make a point of creating time to do hobbies that were not necessarily music related.

So I took up Tai Chi in the evenings instead of orchestra. It's been about a year now and I'm still happier than ever about my decision. For one thing, it gives me a chance to stretch and build muscles. So I can actually play for longer amounts of time and I don't feel so stiff anymore after getting up and down all day with my younger students (if you've taught young students, you know what I mean).

Another, and quite unexpected I might add, side effect of pursing my non-musical activity is that it actually made me a better teacher. The philosophies behind Tai Chi (never use force against force, learn to redirect) have helped me to cope with approaching difficult parents and/or students. I am also much more empathetic with my students, especially the adults. By putting myself in a constant state of learning and "being a beginning student," I keep my teaching self in check.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. It's easy to go towards the thing we consume all day. I always feel like I can learn more and more about the subject (music) that I already know so much about. I know I can always be better, and feel more knowledgeable. But it's in those activities where we're not experts that refuel us to in other ways, and unexpectedly help us look at the things we're already good in a different way (which helps us be better in that area). It's a crazy good cycle that keeps you on your toes.

    1. Plus I find it's really effective for burnout prevention. I'm more enthusiastic about my teaching if I force myself to have activities where I can turn my teaching brain off.


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