As an educator, I'm a sucker for a story about a teacher who makes a difference in the lives of his students. Mr. Holland's Opus is one of my favorite movies. So, Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky is a memoir-like book about Melanie's father, Mr. K., a man who taught many students how to play an instrument- and how to expect great things from themselves, was an instant must-read.
Mr. K's own life was anything but easy. Ukranian born, Mr. Kupchynsky spent part of his childhood as a refugee, and then came to America where he became a music teacher, married and had two daughters. Heartache followed him, as his wife was diagnosed with MS, and his younger daughter Stephanie murdered.
Yet, Mr. K. continued to inspire his students. His screaming and demands might not be considered acceptable by today's teaching standards, and I can almost hear students complaining to their parents about his brutal honesty and teaching techniques. Yet, many of his students continued their music education. Those who pursued other interests still credit Mr. K. with instilling such attributes as dedication and perseverance.
As Mr. K. aged, their teacher, who they at once viewed as larger than life- a big and intimidating presence- becomes smaller physically, yet still his students continue to look up to this man - a legend in their minds.
Joanne Lipman, one of Mr. K's former students, along with his daughter Melanie take turns telling Mr. K's story. From their experiences with him - as a teacher and father - to his childhood and relationship with his mother - they help reveal what made this man so successful and how he was able to mean so much to so many of his students.
As a teacher myself, I'm an easy target for a story about a teacher who has touched the lives of his students, yet there was more to this story than just some predictable feel good message. Strings Attached is a wonderful story about the impact one person can have on the lives of others.