that one studentNovember 20, 2007
Every teacher has “that one student.” Actually, it’s probably a safe bet that every teacher has many, many “that one students.” I also have several of these, but there is one that is very particularly “one” at this time. We’ll call him David.
David is a 7th grader, and he’s new to music. Very new. He likes music, but he’s never done so much as look at a piano before this year started. He is a percussionist and he’s not particularly coordinated. I suppose he’s better coordinated than most, but he is still a goofy 7th grade boy. It’s not his fault, so don’t blame him.
David gets discouraged easily. He doesn’t like to make mistakes and is prone to retracting his sparkling personality whenever he doesn’t just soar at something. I try to encourage him, but its very difficult to do with other people around. David tells me that he just wants to do well and its hard when you are trying to keep up with everyone else and everyone else has a year ahead on you. This is all very legitimate. Most of the other band students have at least one year of band on David. It’s quite a challenge to stay afloat.
David is a bouncing baby boy. He is very rambunctious, energetic and happy most days, as any boy his age should be. It’s a healthy thing. His mother and father are very supportive people, and they encourage me to do what is necessarily to reign in the bounce when I have to. David likes to play games, and he likes to have fun, and he loves to make music, but sometimes this all gets in the way of having class.
David doesn’t work well in group settings. David needs to be taken to a corner and shown secrets privately. The best times of his learning thus far have been the days when he had a class period all to himself. He focused, took me seriously, took himself seriously, and really learned a great deal. Today was one of those days.
Today was our last day of school before Thanksgiving, and I was relieved that David was willing to stay after school today, of all days. We worked on his music. Not very hard, not for very long, but some, and some is better than none when all you’ve been doing is stumbling along day after day for about a month. It was a productive session, and I think the lesson we both learned was that baby steps are still steps, and its important to celebrate the small successes.
Had that same lesson been given during a normal class period, David would have floundered, given up, acted very confused, and not worked as hard to understand. That said, when we are one-on-one, I am more patient, have a better time explaining concepts and more willing to accept mistakes than otherwise. It is a better situation for all.
There is a dilemma in all of this, however: If I rely on such quality time for the bulk of his learning, there will be time for anything else, and everyone will be neglected. I remind myself this is one of the battles I have to face as a teacher. I have to learn to cut the rope a little and let David drift while I sail around the rest of the students’ needs. If I can, I’ll reach out and pull him back in, tie him up to me for a bit if I have to. Sometimes, you have to push the babies out of the nest if you want them to fly.