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A View From the Audience

I'm pretty bad at actually *taking* a compliment.

As a music teacher, I'm complimented after each performance by smiling parents and families:
"You do such amazing things with the kids."
"This is the best performance I've ever seen."
"Thank you for everything you do with the kids. They love you."

Nearly always, I duck my head, mutter thanks, and say something about how it's all the kids. Not because I'm modest (because I'm really not) but because it felt like what you're supposed to say after a program. Some part of me knew it was genuine, but honestly, by the time the show was over, I was tired and wanted to clean up and go home and enjoy some silence. I needed time to process. Time to see past the mistakes, the things we'd worked on over and over but never quite nailed, to see the performance as a whole.

I'd never really seen a performance as a whole until last week.

My son's first grade program was Wednesday. I was the mom in the bleachers, watching the kids rather than analyzing the performance.  I teared up at them all singing together. I swelled with pride as they sang a round (With kazoos! Three parts!) I laughed and snorted at the super-silly finale. I didn't notice a single mistake - not because there weren't any, but because of the joy we were sharing through music. LP and his friends were singing and dancing and playing instruments together, and we as an audience were lucky enough to be invited.

And the very first thing I did was tell his music teacher how much I loved the program. I thanked her for doing such great work with the kids. I told her all the things that parents rush up and tell me after every show - and I meant them.

Just the way parents mean them when they tell me.

There's a lot of perspective that comes with being a teacher and a parent. Most of it changes the way you do things in subtle ways, but seeing exactly what you do from an outside point of view is transformative. Now I know what every parent who has ever taken the time to compliment me feels. I'm sorry that I cynically brushed that aside, or even belittled it in the slightest way. That person was experiencing the power of music - created by someone they love - and was thanking me for the opportunity. That's a huge thing. A huge thing that I'll take the time to truly acknowledge from now on.

My job is important. I've always known and respected that. But now I know how much it truly means to other people - and that's a compliment I'm going to relish each time I earn it.


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