These are the words that pinged to me from our family WhatsApp group, under a goofy photo of my son-in-law with my Ohio Speech and Hearing Professionals Board certificate pictured in the background.
Covid-19 had brought my adult daughters and their husbands to our normally empty nest, with each one of us was working from a different room. My son-in-law, Jason, had been working in my speech therapy office, and noticed that the certificate had been issued back exactly thirty years to the day. Obligatory congrats from my kids followed, as well as messages that marveled at Jason’s eye for details.
Thirty years. What an accomplishment. A wealth of experience to draw on to develop my expertise and serve the speech-language therapy needs of countless children. Impressive.
But then the nagging thoughts entered. Is it though? After all, the first children on my caseload could be parents by now. I’m a grand-SLP! Is this a positive or a negative? Should I keep this new-found anniversary on the down-low?
Well I’m asserting that the answer to that question is, “It depends,” and I’ve found that answer from an unlikely source. My piano teacher.
Mary Rautenberg, of blessed memory, was my childhood and young adulthood piano teacher. My husband was surprised at the time to learn that the piano teacher I was always raving about was 83 years old. Her skilled and veiny hands were a testament that life was coursing through her with the same excitement and passion as years gone by.
When it was time for my oldest daughter to start lessons, I picked Mary’s brain about the Suzuki method as opposed to her traditional methods of which I was quite familiar. Being that Mary was the daughter of a concert pianist and an accomplished and experienced traditional piano teacher herself for over 50 years, I was sure the conversation would default to skepticism and critique. “You know Sandy, I’ve read Shinichi Suzuki’s writings. I think he’s onto something with this method. It’s very compelling.” she shared. She went on to explain the gaps in traditional methods, and how the Suzuki method could fill those gaps and improve the way children learn an instrument.
Then came the time I went to Mary with a question about my piano. My beloved hand-me-down baby grand was due for a rebuild. The technician shared that it was not worth the investment; and a quality well-maintained piano was out of my reach. I was a fairly serious piano student juggling two small children in a small house with a failing instrument and a very tight budget. “You know Sandy. I recently went to a piano store to explore the benefits of a digital piano.” This from an 83 year old woman with two Steinway grand pianos in her living room. “I put on headphones and asked the salesman to leave me alone. After practicing for hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that you would benefit from practicing on a quality digital piano with weighted keys.” Well into her senior years, Mary was able to imagine and appreciate the possibilities and practicalities of technology. Practicing with headphones while my kids were napping was an added bonus.
Mary was a legacy of traditional music education and practice, yet she embraced the possibility of opening her mind to new possibilities, technologies, and solutions. This is where “It depends,” comes in. If you’re a curious SLP who is able to imagine new frontiers in your field such as the TikTalk, then you’re always learning, growing, and improving through the years. The more years, the better. If you’re treating children the exact same way for 30 years without an openness to change the paradigm, not so much. I’m going for the former.
Happy 30th License Anniversary to me! I’m passing out cake.