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Violin Lesson

 

One time at a parent-teacher conference, I was pretty mean to the sixth-grade teacher for something very ironic: she was a lousy speller. Every note she sent home had spelling errors in it. She habitually circled words as "wrong" on our child's papers when in fact, they were spelled right. Or she would leave misspelled words in place without comment.

 

Now, I spell for a living. Helping our kids spell well is highly important to me. But I'm afraid I was so disappointed in her spelling instruction that I came off as hypercritical to this poor teacher, even mentioning the generous salary and benefits we were providing for her, and couldn't we expect better quality spelling instruction for what we were paying?

 

OK, say it: I got angry, and tactlessly went off on her.

 

She turned bright red, looked like she was going to cry, said that she was fully aware that she was a lousy speller, but that she was working on it.

 

Seeing her hurt reaction, I cringed. I might have been right . . . but I sure wasn't being kind.

 

I hurriedly apologized, the conference ended, and I rushed into the rainy October night to start my car. Inexplicably, classical music blared out of the car radio. It sounded like a Bach fugue, at three times normal speed and volume:

 

DA-DA-DAHHHHHHH!!!

 

DA-DA-DA-DAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

 

DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DAHHHHHHHH!!!!!

It was so fast and so loud! It was painful!

 

It felt like the violin bows were magically jabbing out of the radio and stabbing me in the eye!

 

I punched at the buttons wildly to get it to stop. Finally, it fell silent.

 

I sat in the dark car, with the windshield wipers beating a gentle rhythm, sank my head onto my clenched hands on the steering wheel, and cried.

 

As irritating as that music had sounded to me, I had sounded to that teacher.

 

With kindness and empathy, I could have gotten my point across and made some suggestions for spelling instruction that might have encouraged her and made things better for the kids. Instead, I was just loud and sharp, like those imaginary violin bows.

 

Instead of being constructive, I'd hit major sour notes.

 

So I learned something that night. Since then, I've been strictly Mrs. Positive with teachers. When I see an academic shortcoming, I quietly supplement at home, and voila! Problem solved. Teachers' feelings spared.

 

A relationship between a parent and an educator should be a lot like playing the violin: you run the bow over the strings, back and forth, not too hard, not too soft, and with a little effort on both ends, you can get into rhythms and patterns so you can make beautiful music together, as friends, not adversaries.

 

You know what? There's no misspelling in music . . . or in friendship.

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com School Mom 04 2008

 

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