School is back in full swing, which means Lady J’s after-school ensembles have started. I get to spend my Tuesday afternoons helping 25 students learn to play the ukulele. At the same time. God help us all.
Most of them have had no prior experience with the instrument. I’m no ukulele virtuoso, but I know enough to stay ahead of them – for now, heh. Over the course of our time together, we’ll familiarize ourselves with enough chords so we can sing and play several songs for their loved ones. “It’s not enough for us to be adorable,” I tell them. “We have to sound good too!”
So we start with the easiest chord. One finger on one string. For most, this was no problem. Then two fingers on two strings. Some problems but still okay. Then three fingers on three strings. What had been a fun rehearsal turned into bedlam.
My fingers hurt!
This is sooooooo hard!
I will NEVER get this!
“Dudes. What do you have to do in order to be good at ANYTHING?” Practice, they tell me. “How long have you had your instrument? Like, 10 minutes? Why are you expecting to be amazing at this? There is a difference between difficult and new. Calm down. Keep going and you will get it.”
This outer dialogue was much calmer than my inner monologue. “OMG. Everyone is panicking. I am a blight upon my profession. Nobody will ever learn to play if they are learning from me! Why is this so hard for them?! They are going to go home and tell their parents that I should be fired.”
As we were wrapping up, a 2nd grader got my attention. “Man. I feel so much better! It was hard at first but now I am getting it! I was worried!” I smiled at him and said, “Toooooold yaaaaaa!”
Tee hee. I love when my babies stick with anything long enough to see how much progress they can make.
Wait. Doesn’t that mean my inner freak out was unjustified? Though I was encouraging them to keep trying until they get it, my reaction was as though I wanted – and expected – them to be perfect in their initial attempts. Because they weren’t, I was being ridiculously hard on myself. “Joan, your teaching isn’t perfect! Why are you even here?! Maybe this was a bad idea.”
Is it really possible that teachers aren’t expected to get everything right on the first try, either? Are we allowed to be human, or is it like society portrays us – either martyr or wholly unqualified?
It felt good to return to work in the following days and hear from both parents and students that they were having fun in my group and excited about what they are learning. I suppose I should I do what I am asking of them and keep showing up. Perhaps.