Today was my last day. The last time driving over the 520 floating bridge. The last time calling ahead to say I was stuck in traffic on said bridge and that I’d be there about ten minutes late. The last time shuffling lesson books and notebooks and asking “what would you like to play first?” The last time reviewing last week’s lesson, being impressed with progress or commiserating with the student over lack of practice time. The last time saying “Goodbye;” the first time not saying, “See you next time.”
I gave each of my students, or each family of students, a book of holiday songs as a parting present. We spent the last ten or fifteen minutes of our lessons today picking out a holiday song (or better yet, a duet!) to practice and play for family.
Every one of them said, as we slogged through this thinly-disguised sight-reading exercise: “This is fun!” You can imagine the pitter-pat sound my heart made every time I heard that! The inscription in each book was “From Ms. Bird, with love and best wishes for a lifetime of music-making.” And if they can say sight-reading is fun, then they are well on their way!
This fall, for the first time, teaching was a real strain on me. My schedule was never the same from week to week, and I was constantly having to play catch-up or rearrange twenty people’s schedules in order to keep up. It added a surprising amount of stress to my already stressful season. I know the students suffered, too; I don’t think they made as much progress this fall as I know they could have if I’d seen them every week. And that is why I have to stop! If I truly wish for them a “lifetime of music-making,” they need consistency at this stage of development. It would be selfish of me to ask them to stick with me through my irregular schedule and cancelled lessons. But I have thought about asking…
I can’t get the voice of one of my 5th-graders out of my head: “I’m going to miss you so much!” She must have said this half a dozen times, and each time I thought my heart would break. As happy and proud and joyful that I am to have made such an impression, to have given these children the gift of music, I am so sad to let them go.