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11/30/2004 @ 05:01 PM: For the past couple of weeks I have noticed a significant change in my motivation for school. My overall goal for this school year (my last) was to whip my GPA into shape as a means of preparation for law school (application to and discipline for). This semester however started out slower than any since I returned to school, and for a while I was very concerned that I had completely lost the fire that existed when I initially went back. I am quite ready for it to be over, but that is more simply senior-slump kind of stuff (please no "senior citizen" pun-type age jokes). What I learned this semester is that my stress level is very much zero-sum. Meaning, I only have so much to give, and all of the various things I do get automatically prioritized. My #1 concern from roughly mid-spring through early November was the presidential election, followed closely by the need to keep up and maintain things relating to my 35-plus guitar students (professionalism). Though the election certainly didn't turn out as I would have liked, I've still been able to keep a cut-the-losses attitude and make plans for the future. I've been relieved in many ways. (Who would have guessed that?!) Since the election, I've been fired up about school and the remaining projects I have left to do. I'll be able to resuscitate my status in many of my classes, though I am concerned still about one or two. When this term is done I hope the motivation carries over to my final semester.

My guitar students remain the #2 thing on my mind. And it's significantly easier to handle that concern without said former election stress looming. Yesterday, one of my adult students asked if I got mad with students who didn't come to the lesson prepared. She quickly added that I probably don't care so long as I'm getting paid. That comment has stuck with me. There is some slight truth to it, but moreover I care so damn much about helping my students progress that it weighs on me heavily when they don't practice, and the lesson time in turn becomes about trying to motivate them and/or get something through--a very "at least" approach. Yes, teaching is a job and business for me, so I'm there to get paid. But the up and down process of a given teaching day--one lesson after another--is quite mentally exhausting. It is obviously made easier when a student is prepared and moves quickly; advanced students inevitably require a more unique approach and are therefore more fun (usually). So the question still dogging me is: To what level should I/must I require discipline from students and then enforce it? I view my role as the person who supplies the student with the tools to sculpt their playing; the decision to take it or leave it is really their own. Funny, too, that whenever I give the discipline speech in a lesson I'm also quietly thinking to myself, I should really take my own advice when it comes to school. I recall as a kid my sister getting booted from her violin lessons because her instructor was unsatisfied with her work ethic. There have been a few students who have made me consider such action, but I've never actually done it. To date I've only been teaching for roughly seven years, so hopefully soon the blurriness of that line between fun instructor and discipline-imposing teacher becomes clearer.

thumbnail 001thumbnail 002thumbnail 003thumbnail 004Photo Chronology: 1996 to Today
thumbnail 005thumbnail 006thumbnail 007thumbnail 008Please feel free to peruse these memories from the AT photo archives.

Andrew Thomas