I started out my college career as a music education major. My second semester I encountered a professor who broke me. He told me I had no talent and that I'd never make a career in music.
So one day I left a note on his studio door telling him I hope he is more gentle with students like me in the future, quietly dropped his class, and left the music program.
Before I turned my back on music for good, I decided for my own pride that I was going to prove him wrong. The semester I dropped out of his class, he assigned me Franz Schubert's Moment Musicaux No. 1 in C Major and proceeded to do nothing but tell me what I terrible job I was doing and how I'd never learn the piece. So I decided when I dropped out of the music program that I was going to take that piece to my longtime piano teacher -- who always nurtured my love and passion for the piano rather than tore me down -- and ask her to help me learn it for the upcoming American Guild of Music competition.
Even though I hated the piece (and I was never one who was motivated to learn pieces I hated), I was determined to learn it and prove that professor wrong. Well I did more than learn it. I won 3rd place at the competition that year.
Despite my success at the competition, the damage had already been done. That professor had sullied the one thing in my life that gave me solace and comfort.
Fifteen years later and the scars are still there. They will never fade. They will always be a part of me.
I still own a piano, but I very rarely sit down to play anymore. Every so often I'll hear a piece I used to play, like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or Chopin's Waltz in C# Minor, and that is a small impetus to make me want to sit down and play for a half hour at a time, but the passion and the drive I once had is completely gone.
So why share this story on my blog? I'll let you make those connections. I'm pretty sure it's fairly obvious. But just in case it isn't, I will leave you with one final question: are we building our students up or tearing them down?