Many times, when we use the term music education, I feel embarrassed. I know what music is, but what is education? I read once in one of my Zen books that a teacher is like a good bonfire: while it is burning, everyone enjoys its heat and light, but when it is done, only the ashes are left to be carried away in the wind. Some people told me that this is a cruel metaphor. Another metaphor I once heard was a story comparing some teachers to builders and others to gardeners. I like the gardener metaphor better. Just by looking at my garden I realize that every plant needs different care and attention. They each blossom at different times: there are the roses that are beautiful and proud and have sharp thorns and there is the colorful, yet shy and soft Geranium. There is the Bougainvillea that scrambles over other plants and there is the independent Pear tree. The lawn needs plenty of water but it will survive without that much and it will even wander in the direction where it can find water. Then there are the very sensitive ones and the very special ones that have their secrets. The Night Jasmine, (Cestrum Nocturnum) has a very sweet perfume, but only at night. The Lady Banks’ Rose, that evergreen huge bush, covers the gazebo. No one knows that only for three weeks every year it is covered with plenty of light yellow flowers that have a gentle smell of violets.
I am not a keen gardener: most of the time I just let them be. I watch and I only do what is necessary: a little trimming here and there, a little water, some food. Even if there were no gardener or if another gardener came, each plant shall live its own life and in the end will produce its unique fruit. The cherry tree will never give oranges and the Apricot will not grow tomatoes.
In education alike, as much as we want our students to grow tall and abundant, we must help them realize that they also need to spread their roots wide and deep into the ground. This is our main responsibility as gardeners; this is our responsibility as educators.
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