Saturday, September 26, 2009

Broken Recorders

The 4th graders recently received their recorders that they will learn to play in music class. This is a time of great joy for the students and a time of great anguish for many parents and siblings.

One student told me a few years ago that her sister had hidden her recorder from her. I can’t say I blamed her, but I told the girl I would keep replacing any that got “lost.” Another girl told me, “I know all kinds of songs.” Considering she had just gotten it, I was really surprised and asked her what songs she knew. She said, “They don’t have names. I just make them up.” “Good for you!” I exclaimed.

One time a girl came in with her music extremely dirty and crumbled up. When I asked her if she needed new music, she said, “No, that’s OK. It reminds me of home. My brothers step on my music and crumble it up when I’m playing.” One girl who loved playing the recorder was going to her sister’s college graduation. She asked me if I thought it would be OK to play on the airplane. I advised against it.

Many students every year tell me their recorders are broken when they can’t make the desired sounds. I used to always laugh inwardly. Now I’ve come to expect that comment. The fact that my beginning recorder students make . . . shall I say, unique sounds, has nothing to do with the recorder. Any recorder they try (if they continue playing it the same way) will be “broken.” Fixing a “broken” recorder usually involves looking at how it’s being played. And voila! The “broken” recorder is now fixed.

This is true in life also. How easy it is for me to blame an undesired outcome on something outside of myself. This relationship is bad. It must be the other person’s fault. My job is awful. I blame my boss or co-workers. Instead of blaming the brokenness on something external, we could look at our own role in the situation. Sometimes it is a bad situation and we need out. Sometimes, however, if we get out and go to a new location, a new job, or start a new relationship, we may continue getting the same results.

The students with the “broken” recorders didn’t need a new recorder. No matter how many recorders they would have tried, the result would have always been the same until they started playing it differently. It's the same in life.

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