One day, the 7-year old Intermediate Ballet class I play piano for, had a substitute teacher. Though the little girls didn't realize it, they were quite privileged to have this instructor. A famous Russian ballerina who now taught the professional dancers that made up the ballet company. Immediately I could sense this would be a different class than the girls were used to, for this teacher was disciplined and focused and was used to nothing less than the full attention and hard work from her students, no matter what their age.
From my seat behind the piano, I watched the girl's faces as they struggled to understand the higher-level of combinations from their new teacher. I saw some grow frustrated, confused, and some gave up. But for as much as these girls were not used to their new teacher, their new teacher was not used to the inexperienced girls, and continued her class as if she were teaching her skilled adult company.
In the middle of the class, the instructor mistook a young girl's confusion for not paying attention, and told her as a punishment, to show the combination alone in front of the class. Was I the only one who could see the mis-communication that was sure to result in a train wreck? The little girl couldn't understand. The instructor thought she was being disrespected and therefore had no compassion when the girl grew frightfully red with embarrassment and self-consciousness.
The young girl tried tentatively to mimic the combination with a look of pure terror across her face. All eyes were on her alone. I held my breath as I felt the pressure for her. I wanted to speak up and become the peace-keeping translator for the two of them. And just when I thought the girl would make it through the combination, she collapsed into tears of humiliation. Yet the instructor still had no pity for her and moved on with the class as if nothing had happened.
My heart broke for the little girl as I watched her struggle at the bar to pull herself together. I wondered, had the instructor forgotten what it was like to be a vulnerable child in the spotlight? And finally the little girl decided she could take no more. In one split second, I saw her little, wet eyes meet mine all the way across the studio, and she ran from the wooden bar straight to the piano where she buried her head in my lap and sobbed.
With one hand I stroked the girls blonde hair, while with the other, I tried to keep time on the piano. In between the music, I dug into my purse for a tissue and whispered, "It's okay. Calm down. Take a deep breath."
She cried between sobs, "She hates me!"
The class continued without missing a beat while the young girl sat next to me at the piano bench, summoning the courage to return to the bar. She never was able to.
I felt so awful for the little girl, knowing that this would be one of those stories she will remember for the rest of her life. I knew she hadn't done anything wrong to deserve to feel like this. Yet I also knew the instructor had certain expectations of her students and that's probably what made her, and her students so successful in their careers. It was a difficult issue to "pick a side" in, or to know exactly what was right and what was wrong.
But I came to the conclusion later, that I am for the children. I am for showing them compassion and love. As the little girl's sobs subsided into hiccups, I thought about what I would say to her when the class was over and I had a moment to talk to her. Perhaps she was overly sensitive, but that's how most children are. I know I was (am). And I know this young girl will have more experiences like this throughout her life. So I told her that no matter what happens, or what people say and do that may hurt our feelings, we must always do our very best. We must always try our very hardest. And we must always be very brave. And since we know how it feels when someone hurts our feelings, we must try to never hurt other people's feelings.
She nodded as she looked up at me with her tearful eyes. Before she went back to her parents, I asked the instructor to speak with her. I was even further convinced that the 2 spoke completely different languages when the instructor couldn't understand why she was upset. She apologized anyway and gave the girl a hug. I hoped that brought a bit of closure for the impressionable, little girl and she would be able to overcome her bad experience.
When I got home that day, I skyped with my 2 little nephews. They took turns showing me how they can jump off the couch. I smiled and watched patiently, wishing I could give them a hug and thinking, "I'm for the children."
"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?'
And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, 'Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.'"