Ending Well


During my time as a teacher, like every teacher, students move on for various reasons. (I miss them!) Career changes, lack of funds, not enough time to practice due to work, you know, the typical life-altering seasons of change that get in the way of artistic pursuits or open the doors for better ones. I totally get it. My life has gone through it's fair share of change. Believe me, I understand.

During these goodbyes, Some students ask me why I have a 30-day notice in my studio policy to stop lessons. My answer consists of 25% having to do with paying my bills (yes, I have rent and a car payment!) But the majority of the percentage has to do with teaching my students how to end well. This is very closely tied to my "whole person" philosophy of teaching. I don't just teach my student how to play the cello, I teach them how to be better, more whole people through the cello.

I understand the need to change, to move on, to end pursuits however successful or not. But what I want my students to learn is how to respect all the effort they've put into their cello education. (Not to mention my own time, love, sweat, and tears!) I want them to learn how to say goodbye. At the end of the day I want them to know they did all they could to succeed, even at ending.

There are far too many opportunities in life to just press the "Esc” button and parachute your way out of a potentially awkward situation. I think about the times that I've not ended well and it makes me squirm with discomfort when I consider what it would have been like to really end well and say good goodbyes. Ending well is not the easy way out.

Good goodbyes are rare. I've been working my way through The TV series Ally McBeal in my free-time. (90's Nostalgia!) Saying goodbye rears it's ugly and dramatically painful head in Season 4 through one of Ally's break-ups. Leaving a note doesn't cut it. Come on! :-)

I find that a couple weeks of discussion followed by a week or two of saying goodbye is the best combination for ending well with lessons. It gives us enough time to put the brakes on quitting out of fear, (Lord knows I've wanted to quit stuff in the past just because I thought I couldn't do it!) It also gives us enough time to really soak in and recall the amount of (or sometimes the lack of) hard work it took to get to the current point.

When we quit really fast we often miss the good stuff and fail to give ourselves time to mourn the loss of that thing in our life. I ask a lot of my students. They spend a lot of time practicing and thinking about the cello. If their season of life demands that they put the cello on hold, this could mean some mourning and a huge adjustment period.

How about you? Have you wanted to throw in the towel with the wrong timing? Are you avoiding the tough conversations? Is it time to move on, but you're avoiding the goodbye so sticking with it? Considering quitting out of fear? Let's talk it out!

I can tell you right now, if you are, you can guarantee you're missing out on some really tough but beautiful conversations. It's an opportunity to discover grace, freedom, forgiveness, anger, beautiful sadness, and extreme levels if gratitude and respect, especially in regards to a teacher/student relationship. I challenge you to bring it up at your next lesson, regardless of whether you're my student or not. I promise, it will make you feel better about it all in the end.