Once a long time ago I read a book titled: The talented and the non-talented. I was under an enormous influence of its author and I could not overcome the immediate discomfort with the title and then with some of the content of the book. The author, a well-known violin professor, no longer living, was a Polish pedagogue who has raised generations of very fine violinists. At some point in my youth, I was even considering studying with him as he represented to the musical world an aura of grandness and authority that nobody would dare question, let alone argue with his teachings.
It took many years before I came back to that book, which I have never read in its entirety (and I have never studied with him either) and I still could not brace through the chapter on the “untalented”. I was deeply troubled by this distinction made public and talked about as if it was all right, as if it was to be accepted by everyone and absolutely unquestioned. I was additionally troubled that I could not freely talk to anyone around me in authority on violin playing as I was fearing their approval of this point of view. All in all, I have never discussed it with anyone other than my family of musicians, where I knew it would be safe to disclose my discomfort.
It only took years of my own teaching to come to a final realization where that discomfort was coming from. I have at last realized that as a teacher we serve the student and not the other way around, meaning it is up to us, teachers, to find a unique voice to communicate with every student. I have over time and after several years of experiencing frustration and difficulty while teaching, become able to recognize that I was only as good a teacher as the student would recognize. I have become enlightened with a thought which was equally troubling: my point of view of my teaching did not really matter, as it was the ability which I would develop in communicating and serving each student that mattered only.
This is when I have also finally understood the discomfort I had with the book. I have recognized that there were, in my point of view, no “untalented students”, there were only bad teachers! I understood through many trials, errors and many thoughts about quitting (yet never having cancelled a lesson), that I was doing something wrong. I was expecting of a student to make me happy. I thought prior that it was me making decisions on what was going to be the right approach for a student and the series of requirements and expectations. Of course, that is when I was always unhappy while teaching. Only after years of deep consideration, self-examining, and self-reflection, I have come to an understanding that each person (student) has their own unique mind and acquired abilities which are better developed than others and that it depended on me to help find the path in each student which needed to be addressed. I realized that students were always open to a dialogue, but never to an imposition, that they needed my attention rather than only expectation, that my goals were not their goals, that my imagination was not their imagination, and that what I liked was and is not a mean of an objective nor subjective judgement point about their talent. My only role is to develop their own abilities, allow them to feel enriched by the experience, help them grow their self-esteem and to appreciate their efforts however small or big they are in my perception.