Those Who Can, Teach

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

That cliché is a big pile of bull crap. But if you’ll shuffle it a bit, the literal definition of “teacher” will come out.

“Those who can teach those who can’t do”.


Sunday. After the twenty-minute LRT ride, plus more than an hour firmly sitting in a cold bus traveling on PIE… plus the fifteen-minute stride on the wet Roxy vicinity, and another fifteen looking for a legal way to cross the street, I finally reached the music centre (this is really spelled this way in Singapore) where I would be having my first job.

The slightly weird thing was, I went there to teach “ukulele”. Oh man. Honestly, I always thought that ukulele was just a toy. Though it’s cute, I didn’t expect that people here really take that toy musical instrument seriously that it is included in the curriculum of most music schools. I don’t know. Maybe because it is easier to play chords with four strings. Maybe because kids’ fingers are well-suited in the more or less than one inch frets. Maybe because it’s cheaper than an entry-level acoustic guitar and less hefty. Or maybe because of this amazing guy. I have no freakin’ idea.

So anyway, I did some chitchats first and showed-off a little to the staff and teachers with an old piano until my student arrived with his comely mother and younger sister. The three were startled when they found out that a handsome foreign guy wearing multiple earrings and dirty pants would be the new instructor. By the way, I shaved my rocker’s beard so I kinda looked decent. Ha!

The student: a typical jolly seven-year old boy with his two front teeth still just peeking out. He already had a couple of sessions according to his notebook and already knew like six chords and wild thrumming. The problem was, he couldn’t play a single song from start to finish.

I taught him beforehand some basic things like the proper handling of the instrument and correct finger positions. I also fed him with new easy chords and apt strumming patterns.

During in-between minutes, I tried to break the ice more before awkwardness decided to settle inside the room. I let him talk about himself and I listened to his stories about his classmates and family, especially his sister that he loves so much. It was a way to know him better and by sharing my own stuff too, I somehow demystified myself. After that, we started to be comfortable with each other. We had a couple of laughter and some other mirthful moments.

But what I really wanted to ensue was, for the kid to completely play a song straight without stopping. He wasn’t quite happy with Jason Mraz so we ended up with the undying and still twinkling fraction of Mozart’s “Theme and Variations”. He liked it and before the forty-five minute session was up, he finally nailed it without being obfuscated with the chord changes. I was so glad he did. It was quite an accomplishment, not only for him, but for both of us. I wrote some important home practice marks in his log. Some “to-do” things to smooth away his rough edges and to tighten his loose screws (please don’t take the last sentence literally). I hope he’ll progress more in playing his ukulele as much as I hope for myself to be better and successful in everything that I will be doing.

He happily thanked me upon leaving the center, but honestly, I should be thanking him for bringing back the positive vibes that I lost some days ago. Most of all, for the wonderful experience. Thanks Kenn.


…then place your ring finger on the 2nd string, 3rd fret.


Teacher, I can’t.




What the…? Did I just Singlish-ly say “can”? 



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