One of my strong career interests has always been teaching. One of my side interests has always been music. I tried going through a teacher certification program and got extremely discouraged with the constant questioning of how I would do one thing or another and the lack of support and encouragement or assistance in brainstorming. My discouragement reached a peak when a professor spent an hour justifying her opinion that no blind student could pass student teaching. That was in 1994. Not long after that incident, I gave up trying.
A few months ago, my aunt told me that she was teaching two small groups of children to play handbells at a church on Wednesday nights. She wanted to know if I would like to assist, mostly by playing the piano. I agreed, but often my heart has not been in it. I felt that my aunt was not very familiar with my potential or my knowledge of music. She insisted on reading me all the notes despite the fact that I had played the songs, meeting with me early to go through this routine every week.
Last week she announced that she would not be able to be in class this week. The kids have a performance next week. Would I be able to hold practice with the older group? I agreed to try this. Of course, there was the routine of reading me every note in the melody of "Silent Night", which the children were to play on the bells. I was curious to see just what would happen when I had the opportunity to lead the practice. It was arranged for one of the kids' mom to come in to help with anything that required eyes.
There are five kids in the group. One was absent. Since all the kids are needed in order to play the song, my own mother sat in and played Megan's bells. Mom is a seasoned bell player and I'm sure she was bored to tears. At first I was nervous with her being present. I have never learned to conduct, so I was making do as best I could. I used a lot of oral prompts, keeping time, etc. I was thrilled when one of the kids who is not a music reader finally understood the timing needed to work with his two bells. Another child with a learning disability rang his bell with 99% accuracy. My nervousness about Mom went away before long, and I found myself moving around the tables, which were arranged in a large U shape, and making my best attempt at cuing their entrances using eye contact.
On the way home, Mom talked a lot about the session, saying that she would be interested to see what I could do with my own group of students and that I had done well with the eye contact. Those comments are important to me for two reasons. Moms can be the most critical and the most supportive people in a person's life. Mine usually resorts to playing devil's advocate in the hope of getting me to think objectively about a situation. She is also a much more skilled musician, in my opinion, than I am, and I have always feared playing or doing anything with music in front of her. Her compliments and encouragement meant the world to me from that perspective. But more than that, she detaches herself from her mother role and never fails to give me objective feedback. Her comments were also important to me because they let me know that I really can deal with a classroom setting. Of course, dealing with 20 students is very different from dealing with five, but if I can deal with five then perhaps I can develop the skills and alertness to deal with 20.