This blog post was introduced in VI facebook page today and it showed in my timeline, so I read it.
This is not anything like a comprehensive feedback to the blog content, but some random notes of the things I remembered while reading this blog article.
There is one person I remember whenever I read anything about teaching. The person is George Balanchine, a well-known ballet choreographer, and one of the founders of the NY City Ballet and the ballet school associated with NYCB. I was taking classical ballet lessons in my twenties and had a chance to get and read his biography by Bernard Taper and this book has always been on my side since then because this is a very interesting and inspiring book.
So, why do I remember this particular person whenever I read about teaching? That is because I read in his biography that he considered himself much more important as a teacher compared to him as an eminent choreographer. Balanchine was a very curious person and loved to have his dancers try new things and see what will happen. He had his own definition of the word “teacher”, which was much wider and far more profound than that which is generally accepted, something like a job to teach how to do something. He used the word “teacher” as something close to human resources developer. He choreographed new ballet which included the techniques that the dancers believed that they were not good at, and encouraged them to get over the limitations they put on themselves. And he was not doing this solely for the dancers. He needed skilled and courageous dancers who could dance what he choreographed. The teaching process per se, where he could see the real dancers move in an interesting way, was his source of inspiration to choreograph a new ballet. In this sense, he played the role of a giver as a teacher, and his dancers, i.e. his students played the role of givers for him as a choreographer. This also applies to other teacher-student relationships. Teachers give a lot of things to students, but also receive a lot from students. And I think this is the most rewarding part of teaching.
Speaking of having students try new things, I remember another biography, but this time it is an autobiography by Akira Kurosawa, a famous Japanese film director. In many of his well-known films, he worked with an actor named Mifune, and Kurosawa actually tried to give him a chance to play a role of different nature in every one of those films. That was because Kuroswa was strongly against the film company’s bad habit of using popular actors/actresses for a same kind of role over and over and over again. Many film companies have this habit because this is a safer way to make a hit and earn money when producing a new film. But, according to Kurosawa, nothing will be more cruel and inhumane than to demand actors/actresses play a single same type of role because their potentials will be withered by losing a chance to try new things. So, Kurosawa had to fight the company management frequently to have Mifune play a variety of roles. But thanks to Kurosawa’s resistance, Mifune developed himself into a very versatile actor and many of the films in which he was starring were a great hit. So, Kurosawa played a role of, so to speak, “a strong, memorable art teacher” in his relationship with Mifune.
Lastly, this blog article also reminded me of some words of Haruki Murakami, a very well-known Japanese novelist. A few years ago, he was running a site where he could directly communicate with his fans. He accepted questions from his readers and there was a teacher who asked Haruki what kind of things he should care about when standing in front of his students.
Replying to this question, Haruki said “Novelists and teachers share something in common. My readers cut out something from what I wrote and keep it for a very long time. I think people do the same thing with their teachers. They listen to you in class and cut out what they need from you. So, you see how huge our responsibility is. My advice to you is, be somebody who can welcome with confidence any attempt to cut out any part of you.”
I think these episodes I remembered are all related to the blog content.
Hope this makes sense