It’s hardly news that Lady J does not handle her imperfections well. However, there is one type of mistake I make that bothers me more than any other by a long shot. I would venture to say that this is because it is one, at least from my point of view (which may indicate this is an area in which I need more work), that I do not make very often.
I believe that I hurt someone who was already hurting. This hurts me not only because I try to love the way Jesus loves me but because of how I couldn’t see that it was happening. I think of myself as sensitive to the needs of others and fairly emotionally intelligent but right now I feel like a complete idiot.
I am fighting back tears as I type these words. This is the first time in my 4+ years as a classroom teacher that I have felt legitimate remorse over how I’ve dealt with a student.
Here is what’s been happening:
I see my students who meet for one of my after school ensembles once a week. I also see these same students in class. I have one, new to our school, with whom I’ve found myself particularly frustrated. Not only does it take several redirects of his attention to get him to be on task, but when he tries something new, he complains about it. As I work to manage 15 other students whose fine motor skills have, uh, equal room to grow, one who will NOT quit complaining just grates my nerves. It’s the end of the day, I want to be home, I feel like I’m asking something simple, blah, blah, blah. I am not a teacher who raises her voice often; I believe in economy of dynamic. If you live a Fortissimo life it won’t be effective very long. Turn it up from my usual mezzo forte and there is no mistaking that Ms. Lady J is serious. Yet I’ve found myself turning it up quite a bit toward this young man, because I thought it was what he needed.
Our concert is coming up and I thought he could use some additional help, so I reached out to his mother to see if I could spend 30 extra minutes with him on his own after school. As the day came closer, I was dreading dealing with his complaining. I contemplated canceling and making some excuse. I hoped he or his mother would forget. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as carline ended and I walked back to my classroom, he bounded toward me.
Let me tell you something – I needed that 30 minutes of extra time INFINITELY more than he did.
We reviewed chords. We had some spontaneous music battles with one another. I saw quickly that his musical struggles were indeed minimal. He smiled a lot and when he missed something, he would sigh, look up, and try again. Then he would get it. By the end of our time together, I was asking him some questions. He wouldn’t look at me as he answered. I asked if he was okay and he said he was just shy. He told me he was excited that his Grandma is coming from New York to live with his family and that he likes his new school. I walked him out, met his mom, who thanked me, and drove home, pensive. I had invited him for extra help but God knew that I was the one who needed the time after school to correct my attitude, not some sweet kid’s chords.
I have been trying not to beat myself up about being overly firm with this student. He just needs a gentle touch and I was too wrapped up in my agenda to see that. It is humbling to be reminded that despite not being a beginning teacher any longer, I can miss the forest for the trees. I am praying that he continues to adjust to school and that I can bring him as many smiles as possible.
I hope that in time, music can be something that gives him the confidence to look people in the eye and share what he has to offer. For me, though it hurts and I am scared to make a mistake like this (and I am sure I will again), I have to keep sharing what I have to offer, too. May my best continue to get better.