I love movies, especially movies that are inspiring and challenge my perspective of the world. One of my favorite movies of all times is Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke. At the end of the movie, the young men in Professor Keating’s class climb on their desks and proclaim, “O Captain! My Captain!” a quote from a poem by Walt Whitman that proudly proclaims the impact that their teacher had on them. Despite the many ups and downs in the students’ worlds, including the suicide of one of their classmates and the firing of Professor Keating, their lives were forever changed by what happened in their poetry class.
This is the impact that teachers have in their students’ lives. Lives are forever changed.
When I think back to my earliest teachers, I remember my First Grade teacher, Miss Scott, who as strict as she was, instilled discipline and fun in learning. There was also Miss Shaw (Fourth grade) and Mr. Hunt (Fifth grade) who saw my love for acting and hunger to learn and observe. Outside of my school setting, I remember my dance teachers, who despite my forgetting their names, etched beauty through movement and performance in my memory. My piano teacher, Mrs. McClure, is another standout for me as a young girl, sitting for hours at the piano, practicing scales and music that would become a big part of my life.
I suppose I remember my teachers in creative arts more than my math and science teachers; although Miss Hand, who taught my Tenth Grade biology class and lead the Science Club in which I was a member, is also one of my most memorable teachers. Her excitement for science was contagious, plus she was/is a huge fan of jazz.
As I grew up and headed off to college, I knew I wanted to pursue music and performance. Of course my voice and piano teachers, vocal coaches, opera directors, acting coaches, and dance teachers made an incredible impact in who I was to become professionally. As I write this, my thoughts are overflowing with memories from my undergrad days at Centenary College of Louisiana, Stetson University in Deland, Florida, and graduate school at DePaul University in Chicago.
I could spend hours writing so many stories from these experiences, and perhaps one day I will, but for now, thinking back on all the hard work I put in to learn my craft, my hours in the practice rooms, at the piano, on stage, in the library listening, studying, and writing…all of those experiences were possible because I had great teachers in my life that encouraged me and saw something in me that pushed me beyond what I ever thought was imaginable by myself.
Good teachers mentor you, show you the best parts of yourself, and encourage you to go deeper in order to pursue more than you could ever do on your own. They bring their own expertise and experience to the table, offering a perspective that is unique and personal.
As I reflect on these things, I realize that these are the aspects of teaching that I absolutely love. These are the things I try to convey in my own teaching. Seeing a student grasp something that I have taught them is the most rewarding feeling.
I often hear my teachers’ voices in my head as I teach my own students. Even though I am not a parent, I can imagine that this is similar to hearing your mother’s voice come out of you as you discipline and guide your own child.
Teaching is leaving a legacy. It is a generational blessing that is passed on so that the best lessons in life are continued to be alive and present.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all teachers of some kind. We teach by our actions, our words, our intentions, and our contributions to this world. My hope is that whatever subject we teach, we teach with love.
Our everyday life is a lesson for someone, whether you know who is watching you or not. Teach well!
I often say to my singing students that we sing because just speaking doesn’t say enough. Singing evokes emotions, mood, and tells a story from our souls. It expresses a vulnerable part of ourselves, using our own voices, unique and God-given.
For the young men in Dead Poets Society, telling their professor they loved and appreciated him, despite everything they went through, was not enough. Standing on their desks and proclaiming “Oh Captain! My Captain!” said everything, in an emotionally poetic way.
I encourage you to reach out to the teachers in your life and have your “Oh Captain! My Captain!” moment. Remember we all are teachers, not just because of a chosen profession, but in life. Parents, friends, pastors, even strangers are teachers in their own ways.
As we take this LEAP and honor the teachers in our lives, let’s do it out of love and respect. Let’s thank them for the legacy that they left in us and the legacy we are leaving in others.
**If you want to check out more of my teaching philosophy, specifically for vocal technique, check out my YouTube channel, Voice Academy LA. You can also book sessions for online voice lessons through TakeLessons.**