Every time I saw a piano, I hesitated. Could I honestly say that I played it when the verb was just that – played – as in, past tense? I took lessons for at least 12 years, after all, from age 5 through undergrad, with a few breaks in between. I would tinker on keyboards when I saw them. I never lost the ability to read music. Yet I hadn’t actually sat and TRIED in years.
There was something very deep, almost sacred, and a little scary about sitting down in front of my current piano when I received it two months ago. Half of me feared I would have forgotten everything. The other half expected my mind and hands to immediately remember the most difficult pieces I’d previously mastered. Two months ago, when I first re-started, my initial ability was somewhere in between (of course!).
It has taken my fingers time to relearn the spacing between notes without looking, it has taken my mind time to trust my fingers to play the right notes, and it has taken practice to play pieces beyond the earliest years of my lesson books (which I am thankful to have!). And this is all GOOD. It is good to use a gift I have had for most of my life, and it is good to take the time to learn new pieces. It is good to practice something over and over until it is as easy as I wanted it to be right away. I believe this is good because I believe that the commitment to practice and improve is beautiful, sometimes more so than a seamlessly played sonata. It is hitting the wrong notes, making stink faces, and trying again where passion for the instrument is developed. And honestly, once I master a song, I move on, and play it as a warm-up for the REAL thing – the practice of the piece I next want to conquer.
So why am I waxing poetic about piano practice?
Well, I’m about to be “new yet not” to something even bigger in my life – my job. After four years at one district, six if you count the years spent subbing while in grad school, I’m going to a new district, taking on two new grade levels of English content, and going down to half-time. I feel like I’m sitting in front of a new piano again, wondering if I will fail or soar.
Hitting the wrong notes today reminded me that I won’t have a perfect day every day, but that will only push me to keep going. Hitting the right notes without much regard to the sheet music or my hands on the keys reminded me that some days things will go smoothly. Most days will be a mix, which, in this profession, is to be expected in the beautiful way in which we get to model being the kind of persistent learners we hope that our students will be, too.
Switching from English I to 8th grade English mid-day might be like a song that insists on multiple key-changes; jumpy at first, but to a beautiful overall effect when mastered. Adjusting to halftime hours and all the what-ifs that it brings will hopefully bring a strong rhythm to my life. Finding where I fit in two new departments, in a new building, in a new district? Well, just like I do with my piano, I will show up every day. I will give my everything. I will love every second, even when things go a little more sharp or flat than they should.