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Gardening Students

Last summer I moved to a different house, leaving behind a wildflower garden, roses, hostas, rose of sharons, and many other plants that I had watched grow for several years.

In my new home, there were NO trees or flowers, just a few (stinky) boxwoods that are too big for me to pull up.

From my experience at my old home, I knew I needed to start working on plants right away, because it would be at least 5 years before they became the garden I would enjoy.

As I have planted and already watched some plants die (chewed on by bunnies), and others yet to take off, I realized that gardening, like learning or teaching music share a lot of the same need for patience, perseverance and wisdom.

It's Going to Take Awhile

Neither gardens nor students blossom overnight. Plants may seemingly sit in the ground for 2 years without seeming to grow. Students are beginners for just as long. Unless the plant is sick, it is growing roots below the ground. Likewise, a wise teacher is laying a strong foundation of good technique, theory, and basic skills. I have seen arborvitaes take off and shoot up after 4 years of slow growth. Likewise, some students, working regularly, suddenly are playing "real" music after 2, 3, or 4 years.

Don't Try to Force Growth

Yes you need to water, fertilize, pull up weeds, but only enough to keep the plant going. Letting the plant grow is the hardest part of gardening. Likewise, with students, you have to correct just enough to keep the student learning, but let them figure out some things on their own. Criticizing too much can paralyze students, and stop their musical and intellectual growth.

Sometimes It's Just Not Working Out

Maybe the plant needs to be moved to a different location. Maybe the climate has changed. Maybe you just need to pull it up and try something else. I never just use one learning system with a student, but pull from a variety of resources. If one is not working great, I try another. It is rare, but sometimes I realize I just have to let a student go. Usually, it is because of commitment issues, either to practicing or lessons or a combination of both. If that should happen, I wish all my students the best, and hope that someday they will be ready to try again.

It's Worth the Effort

When you start planting trees and plants around your house, you are dreaming of the day when the tree will shade your patio, and you will see butterflies and hummingbirds fluttering about your roses and wildflowers. You are excited, but you know you have to be patient, and just keep plugging away at caring for your garden. When you start music lessons, you are dreaming of the day you can play "Fur Elise" or your favorite Beatles song. It is easy to get discouraged by the years and effort it takes to learn to play well, but it is worth it. Too many students get tired or bored before they reach that point. There is nothing like being able to sit down and play a piece of music well, except maybe the satisfaction of sipping your morning coffee in the shade of the cherry tree you planted while gazing at your purple coneflowers with bees buzzing about, pollinating the gardens of the future.

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