Our youngest is so smart! Honestly, we don’t know where she gets it. We are very average people, yet we have confidence. I might have an extra measure of confidence. Gracie, like all our children, chose to play in the band. We love the band program and all the good stuff your child learns. Our director was nearing retirement and each year he seemed to hang on a little more.
The boys had taken turns playing the band. Kaylie tried the clarinet until cheer came along and dominated our lives (literally). Gracie was up to bat now. She tried out on several instruments, but really enjoyed the trumpet. So did the rest of her class. There were a few on each instrument and 500 on trumpet. That is amazing for a school of 600 to have 500 trumpeters.
Anyway, in beginning band she shined, and in seventh grade she shined even more. Always trying for first chair, but getting second chair most of the time, since Coleman was so amazing on the trumpet. We often reminded her that second chair out of 500 was pretty great. She was not happy and continued to push.
Eighth grade came with a new twist. The lingering band director asked her to try the baritone. She wasn’t thrilled at first. She brought it home to play for us and I was convinced. It was beautiful. The deep sounds had a way of ministering to the deep parts of your soul. Somewhat like a string base of cello. You simply push pause and soak in the rich sound those instruments play.
She accepted her new challenge and the evil race for first chair was over. She was the Lone Ranger of the Baritone section and she was riding high. That is until her sister suggested, “You should try out for cheer! We could both be cheerleaders together in High School before I graduate.” When I heard the this horrifying suggestion, I wanted to scream. Cheer is killing me (and my wallet)!
Gracie said she wanted to try and I played the part of a supporting father since my loving wife said I had to do it. I hoped the tryouts would go badly and she wouldn’t be too crushed when she did not make the team. The try outs happened and the bad news came… “Daddy! I made it! I’m a Cheerleader!!” My excitement could hardly be contained.
She went to camp and early (early!) morning practices which led to tears of injury and soreness for her, and tears of check writing for me. Summer was over and school was starting. Gracie heard the band director retired. I was surprised. “Do you know who your new director will be?” I asked. She looked at me puzzled and said, “Daddy, I’m not in band this year. It’s the same hour as Cheer. I’m a cheerleader!” As if I needed reminding.
The day before school they went to meet the teachers. She was curious who the new band director was so she peeked in the band room to have a look-see. The door opened quickly and the director was right there face to face. He introduced himself and she quickly said her name and offered to shake his hand. “I’m glad to meet you. What instrument do you play?” he said. She told the director she played the baritone, but was not in band this year due to her commitment to cheer. He quickly came back, “You! You’re the baritone player! The last director told me all about you!” Her eyes were wide. “He said you are the best baritone player he had ever heard. I can’t wait to hear you play.”
When she and her mom got in the car to drive home she asked, “Did you hear that? My old director told me I was the best baritone player he ever heard.” My wife said, “We have tried to tell you, you are really good.”
She came back with, “I know, but my teacher never said that. He never told me I was good.”
Through hours and days of battling the decision in her head and heart, she chose to quit cheer before the first football game and go back to band. If she had never heard the affirming words of her teacher, she would have left the best thing for a good thing. Kids need our affirmation. As a teacher, you should speak up and tell the kids what they are doing well and what you believe about them. Paint a picture of what they can become and achieve, and watch the power of your belief in them provide wings to sore to new heights.