Embracing the Salmon Leap
It is always hard to lose a student. And it happens to even the best, most highly regarded educators. When you teach a musical instrument, sometimes people quit, for all kinds of reasons that may or may not have the slightest sliver of a reason you could have influenced.
And yet every time it hits me like a breakup. My pulse races and I feel weak and trembly and attacked and unappreciated and pretty much like a complete failure.
I used to fight that feeling. Used to get angry, and defensive, and eventually go do something not so much soothing as mind-numbing, like watch tv and eat too much. But it would pursue me, sometimes for weeks, once or twice for months, until I finally acknowledged the wound that had been dealt me.
And then, a la Rumi, light would enter.
There was always at least a small nugget of uncomfortable truth I was avoiding. Facing the pain is only difficult to begin. Once I have turned toward it, I pass through like a juvenile salmon leaping blindly over the dam.
And I emerge a better teacher. Every time. Even when the student has loved me and I them and they are leaving for reasons like moving out of state (or, hell, even when I have left them by moving across the country and they in fact stuck with me right up until my departure date). There is always something I could have done differently.
I don’t fight the feeling anymore. I let it roll through me and within a few days (sometimes even a matter of minutes) light is already shining through the wound and I am off and running, evolving as a teacher once again.
Occasionally this even happens in time to keep the student. But even when they still go, the parting is always graceful, not just on the outside, sealed with plaster of professional decorum, but on the inside too.