Today I added an experience that I am not quite sure, yet, how to place on my resume: substitute beginning violin teacher. I was asked last week if I would do a huge favor for one of the music teachers at the school my children attend. Without any hesitation and before even knowing what the request would be I said yes. I love the school, the teachers, and the staff. Anything for the school I would happily do. Then the teacher informed me that the school needed an emergency orchestra teacher for this week, to teach beginning violin for second graders. I hem-hawed around for a few minutes explaining my lack of ability and such until the teacher told me the kids are not even up to using a bow. My heart rate and blood pressure eased and I said sure. After all these are second graders, how hard could it be.
Today was my first day. I prepped by chaperoning for a field trip with 125 third graders on a swamp tour. Did I mention I signed up to ride on the school bus? Did I mention this same bus did not have air conditioning? Did I mention it was 90 degrees this morning? And did I forget to mention the bus ride was about 45 minutes? What a preparation!
Fast forward to 3:15, when the bell rings and school is dismissed. I went to round up my class of second graders. There along the fence were 15-16, maybe 17 second graders, who had no idea who I was or that I was their teacher for the day. To my surprise there was no protest.
We made it to our designated temporary spot (kids without instruments had to obtain loaners and sign them out). Then we hiked up to our designated classroom spot. But our first choice was already occupied, so was the second choice. So we hiked back down to our temporary spot and were assigned...the balcony. Did I mention the balcony (really a porch) is outside? Did I mention that I did not have a blackboard to write any music notation down? Did I mention how humidity and heat stretch violin strings?
I got all of the kids in some form of a line, took attendance, and then attempted my lesson for the day: explaining the different parts of the violin. I asked the students to get out their violins, only their violins - no bows. But the kids wanted to get their bows out. And I told them to put their bows back. Okay, now back to the parts of a violin. I was able to communicate about the neck and then, and then I lost them...one person was playing their violin like it was a guitar, one was swatting at a spider with their violin, and one somehow managed to get their bow back out and was playing like crazy.
I adjusted the lesson and began to pluck, or pizzicato lessons with them. Just follow me kids: D D rest rest, D D rest rest, D D rest rest; and the like. This went well until they spotted a wasp nest and a real live wasp. The "real live wasp" by the way was on the other side of the glass wall - thus, inside the building. I was able to calm them down a bit, we plucked some more, but then the wasp moved and that got the kids all in a tizzy. When I calmed them all down I noticed one little girl had tears streaming down her face. I was not prepared for this. I wasnt going to go Jimmy Dugan on her so I simply asked what was wrong? Another kid had told the crying kid that she was not allowed to name her violin, Viola. (I had instructed the kids earlier to name their instruments). I told the kid she could name the instrument whatever she wanted to, if tomorrow she woke up and wanted to name it saxophone or chocolate chip cookie it did not matter. We all had a good laugh and were able to pluck some more, A rest A rest; A rest A rest... Then the wasp moved again and a parent was spotted inside the building, the very building where the rabid wasp ruled, in the very hallway where the wasp caused bedlam and fear. The kids had no choice, they had to warn the unsuspecting parent of the assured lurking danger (because everyone knows in situations like the one I am describing the wasp would not only sting the parent just because but also sting the parent until he/she was motionless and in a coma). To make matters worse the parent, recognizing the melancholy of modern day American and a world starving for comedy, decided to act like he could not hear the dire warning from the kids. While this exchange was taking place rock star violinist, bowing like mad, and the swatter were back at it in full force. I looked at my watch: 4:21. I said pack it up kids, that's it for the day.
But what to do about the wasp...inside the building...in the hallway...the very hallway that held their backpacks which the students had to retrieve before going home? Piece of cake. Kids we are spies, if we tip toe and don't say a word the wasp will never even know we were there. By a miracle of the Holy the wasp paid no attention to us and not a child was stung or slipped into a coma.
If only all of this could be intimated in "substitute orchestra teacher" under work experience on my resume...