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As I rolled my eyes at the kids running around, I was at a loss. I was given the responsibility to teach children from the orphanage to play the cello in preparation for a concert, but I couldn’t even get the kids to sit down in their seats.
“Josh, the bow doesn’t go that way…”
“Jose, the cello is an instrument, not a toy…”
And there was Diana. She was a sassy Latina teenager without parents. She constantly gave me attitude, talked back, and pretty much did the opposite of what I would ask her to do. And then finally after a month of constant tug and pull, I was done with the lack of her enthusiasm. “If you don’t want to practice, then there is no point in coming here and wasting both our time.”Silence. No sass. She simply looked at me. Tears came rolling down her cheeks. I felt as though I was a parent and maybe this was the first time she had ever been disciplined. However, tears were not what I had expected. I began to console her and explain that I was not mad, but rather frustrated with her lack of interest. Through her sobbing and gasping for air, I could barely discern her words.“No one cares what I do….why do you care?”
Care? Of course I care! Why would she even ask that? I suddenly realized what I had done wrong. I quickly assumed that her lackluster effort was merely because she did not want to participate. However, what she needed was reassurance that I genuinely cared. I began to give my undivided attention to Diana. Instead of making conversations that only revolved around orchestra, I began to make conversations to know more about her. I was able to witness the rebellious little girl change to a sweet little girl that ran to me for hugs. Through the changes I saw in her attitude and passion, I realized that the change I witnessed was not the result of her own but a change made together. I had not put the same passion, effort, and attitude from the start. All of the qualities that were needed to be a leader had been restored gradually as I began to genuinely care for each and every one of my students.
By the end of the rough journey, my students were able to successfully perform at the Fullerton Presbyterian church. I felt overwhelmed by what I saw. It was not the performance nor the music that moved me: It was the effort and hard work that were put behind every music note. For the audiences watching, it may have been a cute little moment but to me it meant everything. Words can’t describe how proud I was as I stared at the spotlight of my students. I felt as though my job as a teacher had been fulfilled and never in my life before had I felt such love and happiness for success that wasn’t my own.
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