The Black Belt: Eluded in 4th grade / Mastered in 12th grade
This is my 12th year at the same school – twelve years of teaching Recorder Karate to fourth graders. Every senior has to give a brief speech, and this is the first year I’ve ever had a senior talk about how the elusive black belt haunted him since fourth grade. Here is the text of a speech by Alex, a senior this year.
I have a confession to make. This has been something that has burdened me for mine years and I feel that I need to get this off my chest. I never received my black belt in fourth grade. Now, for those of you who were not here in fourth grade, getting beads and belts from our music teacher, Mrs. Herring, was a BIG DEAL. The problem for me was that I was not particularly good at playing the recorder. But like all of the other nine-year olds in the class. I wanted my beads and black belt for the recorder in fourth grade. This has been something I have thought about many times since fourth grade, and it has always stuck with me. For a while, I tried to convince myself that it was not such a big deal. Perhaps it did not matter that I never received that elusive black belt. I thought, “Why do we even play the recorder?” I get that it teaches us to play instruments at a young age, but all it ends up doing is making us convince our parents to buy us two guitars and an amplifier, and then decide we really don’t like the guitar after all… or was that just me? Seriously though, when would the recorder have a real life application? No one grows up to be a professional recorder player. All it really even is, is a tube with holes that you blow into which produces a fairly unpleasant noise. Well, technically, Wikipedia would define it as a woodwind musical instrument of the family know as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes – whistle-like instruments which include the tin whistle. None of which sound like it will make a guy really popular in a college dorm. But I quickly left this foolish belief that the recorder is insignificant in our lives. The recorder teaches us some great values and morals that we should all live by. The recorder teaches us discipline. I would stay up countless hours at night practicing my pitch until I could play “Hot Cross Buns” without looking at the notes. It also teaches us honesty. I remember actually stealing some of the cooler colored beads to put on my red necklace so that I could look cooler in front of m friends. At the time, this method of stealing the beads proved to be wise, in that my fourth grade street cred shot up, and the amount of my friends doubled… to like four. But looking back on this, I realize how bad what I had done really is. Stealing is wrong and you should not do it. So I would like to publicly apologize to Mrs. Herring for taking the coolest beads from the bin that someone else who worked harder and practiced more house than I did deserved. Over my ten years at Hammond, I have accomplished many things that I will look back on fondly. I graduated Middle School with high honors; I finally beat Cardinal Newman in soccer; I survived Mrs. Bailey’s tenth grade math class; and one year I even transferred half way through the year from Drama Tech to dance, where I got to display my dance moves to the entire middle school. But the one thing that has always haunted me was not getting that black belt in fourth grade music class and I have decided that I do not want to look back on my time at Hammond with a sense of regret. So, I am going to ask our fourth grade music teacher, Mrs. Herring, to join me on stage so I can finally earn that black belt in front of all my peers.
Alex dropped by my music room two weeks ago to ask if I would help him pass his black belt for his senior speech. I quickly made and sent him a refresher/crash lesson on “Ode to Joy” and waited for the performance. With nerves of steel and guts as large as Texas, Alex spoke, played, and won the hearts of all who listened. He earned his Black Belt.
How cool is that?!!
We know that “Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.” - Scott Hayden
We’ve been snowed in for two days…. I can’t wait to get back to teaching.
How about you?