While living in Korea, my son had the privilege of studying violin with a student of the great Shinichi Suzuki. He was a lovely, unassuming gent of indeterminate years who often had my young son sit on his knee, who invited us for lunch at his home and took us on long walks. At first this behavior really mystified me; what I wanted, what I was paying for, was violin instruction for my son, not walks and luncheons. In time, I became more relaxed with these “idiosyncrasies” accepting them as simply part of the package required to have this well-known and highly successful teacher. (Many things required my adjustment in Asian culture!) Eventually, my distractible son blossomed under Dr. Kim’s care and really solidified his relationship to the violin. As it came time for us to leave Korea, I asked Dr. Kim what I should look for in a teacher when we returned to North America, thinking he would say, “Someone who can do the Suzuki method,” and give me some addresses or at least, “Someone who understands small boys and can continue the work we’ve done on his bow hold.” I was astonished when the old man looked me in the eyes with his warm and curious own and said, “Find someone who loves his students.” Here was the head of Suzuki training in all of Korea, a student of the great Master himself, a doctor of Music and honored speaker at Suzuki training institutes worldwide, not only teaching my beginner, one very small Canadian boy, but seeming to care very little about the method he had spent his whole life sharing.
I have been reminded of this dear man and our conversation often since. Over time, (I am a slow learner!) I have realized that perhaps it is not Suzuki technique that makes a great player, though many in the West may think this is so. It seems to me that Dr. Kim believed it was the relationships and respect for the child that Suzuki sought to emphasize. Dr. Kim was excelling as a “teacher” even when we weren’t “having lessons” by truly knowing and respecting the child enough to allow him an atmosphere of learning and a growing relationship to the music and the instrument.
That “ah ha” experience with Dr. Kim helped me to understand the golden rule of the PNEU schools “whereby teachers shall teach less and Scholars shall learn more,” (Vol.VI) Mason meant her teachers foremost to be people living in relationship with others. A Charlotte Mason teacher is a “…guide, philosopher and friend,” not “showm(a)n of the universe,” and, dare I say, a mentor as opposed to a master of technique? Somehow this is an even more sobering thought than a teacher having to “know it all.” Doesn’t it mean that knowing the principles and methods of Mason, the right booklists and the ways of narration is not enough; my character and relationships matter and others are depending on me to live my life fully and authentically? I remember reading with some terror as a young mother, Henry Ward Beecher’s words, “The mother’s heart (or teacher’s) is the child’s schoolroom.” God help us! And yet we produce our own growth no more than the geranium on my windowsill.
Mason said, “We study in many ways the art of standing aside.” (Vol. III) As teacher “development” then, I offer the memory of Dr. Kim and the following checkpoint from Philip C. Brewer. This passage lives in my commonplace book as a reminder. I’d love to know what inspires you in the quest to be a “Charlotte Mason teacher.”
Strong enough to be weak;
Successful enough to fail;
Busy enough to take time;
Wise enough to say, “I don’t know;”
Serious enough to laugh;
Rich enough to be poor;
Compassionate enough to discipline;
Conservative enough to give freely;
Mature enough to be childlike;
Important enough to last;
Courageous enough to fear God;
Planned enough to be spontaneous;
Controlled enough to be flexible;
Free enough to endure captivity;
Knowledgeable enough to ask questions;
Great enough to be anonymous;
Responsible enough to play;
Assured enough to be rejected;
Stable enough to cry;
Victorious enough to lose;
Industrious enough to relax;
Leading enough to serve.