Fully Dressed

During one of our games at the workshop last week, Michiko reminded us to smile and be relaxed even when we’re concentrating hard.  It was fun to look around the circle and watch the frowns and furrowed brows soften into expressions of happy interest.

It also reminded me of the time I was teaching a student the difference between piano and forte.  “Here are two letters: p and f.  The p stands for that instrument over there – what is it?”


“Right, and we say it like this:” I dropped my voice to a whisper. “Piano.  What do you think it means?”


“Exactly right.  And its opposite is this one, the f. It stands for forte, and we say it like this: Forte!”  I did my best brash, confident forte voice.  “What do you think it means?”

“Um,” the student hesitated demurely. “Mad?”

I laughed, but more out of shame than amusement.  You would think that I would have learned, after that, to regulate my expressions around young children!

However, a year or so later, I was teaching the same game to a three-year-old boy, an only child with a very quiet disposition.  He was interested, engaged, excited.  We got to the last one, ff.  Exhilarated, I jumped up and shouted, “FORTISSIMO!”  He burst into tears.  His mom and I both burst out laughing, which was about the worst response we could have had, I'm sure.

The number of little things to remember while teaching is depressingly long; even with constant reminders, it's so difficult to keep them all in mind at once.  Someday, maybe I'll have it all down.  Or not.