Do You Want the Heart of an Effective Teacher?

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As teachers, we should be well versed in our subject areas.  We should be continuing our education in every way possible from further schooling, reading professional journals, keeping up with new techniques and new technology, and of course articulating with other professionals to gain further knowledge of our subjects. This article aims at providing directors insight into the heart of an effective teacher.

After all of that, we must remember what we are doing with all of that knowledge and experience.  We are conveying it to other people – students.  We must remember that we are working with real, live people.  Each individual comes to us with their own set of complexities, styles of learning, experiences and standards.  When you add several individuals together into one class room – you have a great challenge before you!  My belief is that if you are going to successfully reach each individual you must reach their hearts.  This can only be done through God who is the master of reaching both the individual and the masses at the same time.

What makes a teacher special?  Effective teachers reach the heart of the individual.  They take on a role that supersedes the subject.  They take on a mentor role.  They make a difference for the better in the soul of a person.  Sometimes despite the individuals desire to learn a subject, the individual will try because they simply appreciate and respect the teacher.

I just attended the 90th birthday party of the very respected Bill Robinson.  He was born in 1919 and is still teaching a full studio of French horn students today!  Bill studied with the great player, author and instrument designer Philip Farkas.  He had an entire career of teaching as he was the director of a legendary middle school band in Oklahoma.  He went on to teach at Baylor University and retired in the mid 1980’s.  After coming to Florida to live the good retired life, he set his horn down thinking he would never play again.  He received a phone call from a student who learned of his retirement and new location and accepted to work with her.  After that the word spread and more and more students began studying with him.  His second career of private instructor has lasted presently two and a half more decades after his retirement!  At his birthday party – attended by several former and present students – he stated that it was not about the pedagogy or even the music, but rather about the student.  That is what kept him going for all of these years.  The investment in the individual is what made him get up every day, even when he was tired, he would go teach.   He noticed he would actually become energized while he was teaching.  He said that he learned more from the students than they did from him.  He also stated that if you don’t like people – don’t teach!

This is very much a godly principle.  Jesus cared about the least individual.  He went out of His way to reach each person on their level.  He prayed for people and laid hands on them to heal them all night long sometimes and the Bible says He healed them all!  What I am stating is that we can drive ourselves straight into burnout if we try this on our own – or – we can spend some great quality time with the Father each day and let Him fill us so we can go out and minister in His strength.

We have all seen the teacher who was more concerned about how the student made them look than they were with reaching and teaching the students.    Be more concerned with the students than the subject and you will make an enriching and lasting impression on them.  This kind of teaching will do more for motivating students than any assignments you may give.

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Jim Matthews

About Jim Matthews

Jim Matthews is a veteran band director of 30 years at Jackson Middle School in Titusville, FL. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Florida State University. His bands continuously received superior ratings at band festivals. The bands have received the Florida Bandmaster’s Association Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty and Twenty-five Year Superior Awards for continuous Superior ratings. He is presently the Brevard County Music Instructional Coach for all secondary band directors. Jim co-founded the FLBandWorkshop for band directors held each summer in Titusville. It is a hands-on, in-depth workshop. For more information see FLBandWorkshop on FaceBook. He is a member of Florida Bandmaster’s Association, Music Educator’s National Conference and Phi Beta Mu – an International Honorary Band Director’s Fraternity. He is also a National Board Certified Teacher in music. For more information, see the About section.