Over the past few days I have been thinking about strengths and weaknesses. In particular, I have been thinking about those strengths and weaknesses that our inherently our own.
I teach a wide range of students. I have young, young beginners up to advanced, as well as adults. This gives me a lot of time to do some observations during my teaching week. I have a 5-year-old that has been taking lessons since late spring. She is my most committed counter and is steadier rhythmically than any student I’ve taught. I have a 9-year-old that can transpose any piece I give her into any key – she even, sometimes, inverts the melody and/or the hands. I have a 6-year-old that is faithful in observing articulation and dynamics. I could go on and on and tell you the strengths I observe weekly during every lesson I teach. My students all have amazing strengths – strengths I wish I would have had (or been cognizant of) at their age.
They all have weaknesses too. We all do. This is why we take lessons – to learn, grow, and become better. We capitalize on our strengths to make our weaknesses bearable and moveable. If we only had strengths, why would anyone make any sort of effort? What would be the motivation?
I’m a good sight-reader but my aural skills are sadly, frighteningly subpar. So, I keep my strengths strong and work on my weaknesses to make them doable. My efforts are good for my character, right? Right.
This applies to more than music, to more than my observations as a private teacher. How am I making my weaknesses in life stronger? Am I continuing to fight the good fight and struggling to improve myself daily? Am I learning something at the close of each day? I sure hope so.
I had a teacher in high school that taught me more than the required subject matter. She was my honors and AP English teacher. She helped me discover a true love of good literature and she taught me to question the things I read, the things I learn, and the things that are thrust upon me. She taught me that observing the world around me was more than just okay. She taught me to value the life that I’m given and the talents that accompany that life. I still remember sitting in her class in awe at her knowledge and compassion. I could tell you story after story about the lessons I learned sitting in her classroom. One of the lessons that has impacted me most was that we start dying the moment we stop learning. She told us several times over the years that she strove to learn something new every day – sometimes she would share what she learned with us. For some reason, this has stayed with me over the years.
You start dying the moment you stop learning. Growth ceases when you stop striving to improve.
So, yes, we have strengths and praise the good Lord for those strengths. Remember, that our strengths make our weaknesses bearable and moveable. I want you to ask yourself every day – “What am I doing to improve? How am I striving to change? How can I make my weaknesses a titch stronger? What can I do?” You can do this. We all can.
“Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?” – John Keats