My Longest-Standing Student

When you start teaching, you really have no idea what to expect.  You imagine that you’ll be working with students on the kind of highbrow topics you studied in university. My childhood guitar teacher told me how he inherited a student from his dad, also a career teacher.  But you don’t start out imagining what a 2, or 4, or 6 year relationship with a student might be like.  In the summer of 1996, I started teaching a developmentally developed gentlemen, we’ll call him JZ.  We were both in our 20s then.  JZ still comes to weekly lessons with me, and it’s 2016.  This summer is our 20th anniversary, and we are now both in our 40s.  There is a deep and instructive irony in the fact that my longest-standing student is someone for whom NONE of the teaching strategies I learned in college work at all.  To teach JZ, I had to throw out the entire rule book, and improvise–and build over a several year period–a whole new methodology, one which to this day I only use with him. Initially that was terrifying, but simply by being willing to try, I have been able to sustain a unique 20 year relationship with JZ.  And the only ingredient that mattered was faithfulness. In those twenty years, I’ve changed teaching locations 5 times.  JZ has moved a couple times.  By chance I’ve moved further south and he’s moved further north so it’s now quite a drive for his caretakers to get him to lessons.  But when logistics threatened the relationship, I’ve persisted, with JZ’s dad’s support, to make sure there was a way to get him there.  There are still plenty of lessons where I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing with him, but I can take pride in my persistence and in the incredible longevity of this unexpected teaching relationship.

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