How I Relate to My Students


It’s Saturday. It’s awesome. My husband is helping a friend move and I’m, well, useless. This belly gets in the way of everything, I can barely bend down, and lifting is out of the question. Tune in next for the pregnancy woes…

Here it is: the house to MYSELF and the possibilities are endless! I know I’ve got to soak this in because as rare as it already is, I’m terrified it may never happen again and I’ve been containing my excitement about it for a week.

First, I did the obvious. (Cleaned the house, right?) As I’m jamming to a fresh batch of downloaded tunes and making my way through the house, I’m inspired for my next task. Nope, not slicing yet. I’ve changed my mind 17 times already about what I’m going to write about so I still need time to decide. It’s time for my dear old friend: the keyboard.

It has been several months, but it’s not my fault. Radio stinks lately and if I’m not inspired…I’m not inspired. Thank. You. John. Legend. You’re the man! I’m obsessed with his new song. Hopefully it will last long enough for me to learn at least a fraction of it, but again, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if I just knew how to read music? I could just pull up some sheet music, print it out, and play to my heart’s content? Only in my dreams…

I taught myself how to play the piano when I was a kid. (Well, five notes. No Beethoven.) I was four years old and mom was in the back of the living room ironing when I marched up to the piano during a commercial break and tried to play the intro to Eureka’s Castle. It was probably a week before she signed me up for lessons. I loved them! I loved using the mechanical pencils to draw and erase notes, and I loved earning the shiny little stars every time I aced some task I was supposed to do. I had books of all of these easy songs. My teacher would pick one, play it for me, send me home to “practice” and then make me replay it the following week. It was great! Then she stopped playing for me. She started sending me home with harder books, tell me to practice, and I would choke. My secret was out and the fun came to a screeching halt. How am I supposed to play these songs when I’ve never heard them before? So, I quit. Sports were easier and more fun.

Now, a couple decades later, my skill level is only slightly better. I know more songs, but it still takes me forever. When I hear a song I love, I sit and play the beginning few seconds a bajillion times on repeat until I have it down and then I move onto the next few seconds of the song and so on until I get frustrated, BANG all of the keys at once, and press power. I’m done. And in that moment, I think about my students. I think about my struggling readers. I think about stamina and how long it takes to build. I’m overwhelmed by how much I want to accomplish, how much work it would take me to get there, and how much easier it is to just bang on the keys and walk away until I’m inspired again. Because, let’s face it, I could sit here for 3 more hours and keep trying but it’s not going to be pretty and I can find a MILLION other things to do for fun. (It’s not you John, it’s me)

So when we have those frustrating times in class, I kind of get it. Among other things, they need to be inspired, they need time, and sometimes they just need to be done for a while and enjoy something else until they’re inspired again.


8 thoughts on “How I Relate to My Students

  1. You had me laughing at “did the obvious …clean.” Because that is exactly what I would do first. Your personality really comes out in your writing….it’s like being in the same room, laughing and chatting with you, which is so infrequent these days at two ends of the building….glad you joined on too!

  2. I. LOVED. THIS.
    The way you wove from pregnancy to piano playing to reading and stamina was amazing and beautiful. I can tell you “get it” through the voice you used in this piece. A genuine. real. voice. Nicely done.

  3. I laughed when I read the beginning because I always clean first when I have the house to myself. I always think I will do “whatever I want” and then never do- just cleaning. Welcome to slicing!

  4. This is so great, Nicole! Your humor and tone seep right through this piece. It sounds like you, so genuine and reflective.
    I’m so glad you decided to do this! You’re gonna love it!

  5. Nicole! I sat here reading your slice saying, out loud, “I didn’t know that about her!!” “I’ve known her for how many years and I didn’t know that!!” What a beautiful way to share a piece of yourself -through your writing. Clever. Clever. Clever.

  6. Nicole, I laughed that you cleaned the house first. I remember having this “nesting” phase…forever! Anytime I had, I would clean. Your belly getting in the way of everything, ah I remember that. This piece is so relatable and humorous. Look at what this writing challenge has given already…an insight, an understanding to your kids. Love that you’ve joined and excited to take the journey with you.

  7. I know your students feel that you get them also, such a great piece. I only clean when I am avoiding something and it is when doing those routine tasks that ideas open

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