Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

A Blog for Teachers
by Mary Jean Powers

Priceless Mentors

Jul 13, 2020

“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.”

Junot Diaz

There are no short-cuts to becoming a great teacher. As with any aspiration, we gradually become proficient through experience, study, reading, observation, and the inevitable trial-and-error. Practice never makes perfect, but it does make us better! If we have a good mentor, we will improve with practice, and each step will be lighter – we will have more courage, more confidence, and less fear.

When I was 16, several parents asked if I would teach their children how to play the piano. I had been studying piano for 10 years at that point, and the idea of teaching had intrigued me since I was 12 years old. I knew that someday I would “be a teacher,” but I had no idea how that might look. When given the opportunity to teach children in our church Sunday school, I eagerly accepted, and approached the responsibility seriously and creatively. I now had this additional opportunity to learn to teach music, so I petitioned my piano teacher, Mr. Byrd, and he agreed to mentor me! Mr. Byrd had a private studio located above the movie theater downtown! It was equipped with a spinet and a grand piano and across the hall was a small, musty waiting room. Gracious man that he was, he shared the studio with me free of charge! He saw me – he acknowledged both my enthusiasm and my fear. He saw the teacher in me, and he committed to doing his part to see me become the teacher he knew I could be. He wanted me to learn to teach; and even more extraordinary, he wanted to teach me how to teach. His was an invaluable investment! As my new students progressed, so did my questions. We spent a portion of each of my lessons going through the Grade 1 piano book he recommended, and he would explain how I could best instruct children on the basics of piano playing, music reading and theory. Week after week, I sought his wisdom. He walked through each step with me, even sending new students my way. By the end of my first year of teaching, I had 20 students of my own, and although it was a challenge, I discovered that my passion was indeed, teaching. The road would have been longer and the learning curve steeper without my mentor, Mr. Byrd. All told, my music-teaching career lasted 35 years, and I never tired of it. I realize now that the gift of a good mentor is absolutely priceless!

Do you have a mentor? A teacher who can teach you? Someone with more experience and wisdom; one who will come alongside you as you learn? If not, do what it takes to find someone! Pursue them; ask for specific kinds of input. A word of caution: don’t make it your goal to find The One who will be by your side for the rest of your life (although that would be a rare and tremendous gift!). Rather, keep in mind that different teachers can impart different insights. Whom do you admire? Which of their qualities would you like to possess? When you find teachers who exemplify these traits, ask them to tell you their story. Most people really enjoy telling about their journey to success! 😊 Invite good teachers into your life and you will excel … and have a lot more fun!

About Keep Calm and Shoot Straight

I am a teacher. You, too? I hope you love the profession as much as I do! I was 16 when I got my first teaching gigs – I had 20 private piano students and a Sunday School class of 4 and 5-year olds! At that point in my “career,” my definition of teacher was very limited. But now – after 45+ years of experience – I have come to realize that teacher can mean many different things. I’d like to share some of those insights with you! My posts will range from quotes to prayers, from cartoons to words of wisdom. Much of my teaching experience has been international, so you'll get to watch some video stories from around the globe. Jesus is the best Teacher I know, so I will be including Him in this blog, as well. I hope my thoughts and my story will encourage, provoke, and inspire you to become the teacher you’ve been created to be!

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Mary Jean Powers

Mary Jean Powers

B.A. in Christian Education
M.A. in Biblical Studies
Music teacher (band and choir director, private instruction) for 35 years
International Bible teacher for 17+ years
Certified Walk Thru the Bible instructor
Certified TESL International Instructor
CEU Provider for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International)
Certified Life Coach and Chaplain

Who am I? A teacher coming alongside teachers!