Seventeen is a big number. Seven returning students, ten new students. When I group them that way it all looks very manageable. All together they look like more than the sum of their parts.
They were excited, yesterday, coming in. Eyes big. The new ones wanted to know when they would have violins. They are ready to play concertos. One child informed me, very seriously, “I’m doing violin because my mom said I had to.” One gave me five examples of How Fast A Learner I Am. We will move slowly, and that is hard but at the same time easier—so much less overwhelming than “Here’s your violin, this is how you hold it. Here’s your bow, this is how you hold it. Now play.” And I think we will have fun, regardless of how we ended up together in the first place.
I don’t know who was more nervous, the kids or I. For them I want to project calm and confidence, but every year is new, the territory fresh and a little wild, and every year I wonder if I am really up to this new year of teaching. I have trouble feeling calm.
And then we start, and everything’s okay.
We began yesterday with background music (Twinkle Theme and Variations) and coloring (treble clefs) and snacks, and worked our way into learning each others’ names, standing still, listening to and following instructions. The newcomers will be painting the fence, Karate Kid-style, for a while, and that tends to fly in the face of young peoples’ expectations. But it is like the scarf I have been knitting for months and months: day-to-day the progress is slow, and certainly not our culture’s usual way of acquiring things. But I got used to the slowness, and I enjoy the process. Recently—suddenly, it seemed—I noticed that the thing has length. Someday I will wear it and forget how long it took to make. Someday, suddenly, we will look at each other over our violins and say, “Look how much we’ve learned!”
Here’s what else I forget, and have to keep re-discovering: it’s not just every year that is new. Every day is new. Getting to know each other, fence-painting, problem-solving—we are in it together. What luck. I can’t wait.