Tuesday, April 17, 2007

He Sent His Son

Sunday was my last day in Primary. I am now a ward "communications specialist," which essentially means I print the program for Sunday. I can't say I'm entirely happy about the change in calling, but neither am I really sad.

I am incredibly grateful for the last few weeks I had in Primary. It's taken, what? almost two months for them to replace me after I asked to be released, and those have been the best two months of the calling. Pretty much the week after I asked for the release I started feeling comfortable in the calling, where before I'd felt like it wasn't really mine, like I was just a place-holder, or a stand in for the president and my pianist, who both seemed to know "how things should be done."

When I first stepped in to the calling, I could sort of understand that. It's pretty normal to have to acclimate to a new teaching style, and to figure out how things are done within a group. I started shortly before the primary program, too, so it was a pretty high-stress time additionally. But a couple of things happened that I think made it nearly impossible for me to find my footing. Preeminent among them was the injudicious use of me as an example of bad teaching by the pianist during a talk on how to become better teachers. Not quite the way to make one feel welcome.

I struggled with forgiving her for that, which is not one of my spiritual gifts, by the way. I can hold a grudge with the best of them. I found myself, after that, doing subtle things to annoy the president and the pianist--refusing to comply with proscribed teaching methods, working on songs other than those designated for the program, even bringing in outside materials for singing time (my favorite was bringing in a bunch of different pieces of classical music--from Mozart to Samuel Barber and Carl Orff--and then discussing what emotion the music was conveying). Even though the teaching ideas I was using were good ones, and ones I was excited about, I knew part of the reason I wanted to do them was because of the annoyance I could incite in my leadership. I also knew they would criticize my methods. Between the criticism and the knowledge my motivations were not pure, I felt uncomfortable in front of the children until I asked to be removed.

I wanted to leave the children with something, so when the opportunity came up for us to perform in sacrament meeting I decided we should work on performance. After a comment from one of the teachers shortly before the last program that "it doesn't really matter how well the kids do, everyone will think they're cute anyway" I decided it was time to focus on performance and time to raise the expectations of the kids when it came to their performances. I believe if we focus only on the gospel, and not on practicing the principles of the gospel--including magnifying our talents as far as we are able--we do those we teach a disservice. Anyway, even though we could have performed a song from the program for the theme of that month, I decided we should work on "He Sent His Son" (one of my favorite primary songs). It's got a wonderful message and the music is beautiful and reinforces the poetry very nicely, so I thought it would be a good choice for practicing performing.

We worked very hard on that one song--in fact, we neglected all the songs we're supposed to work on for the program--much to the chagrin of the president and pianist. And then, when we performed it on Easter, nothing went right. The pianist didn't start well, the kids didn't come in at the right moment twice, and we completely forgot about dynamics. I was displeased. The one thing the kids did well was sing loudly enough through the whole thing that they could be heard in the back of the room, which I will admit is an accomplishment for primary kids.

That was Sunday before last. This Sunday I was released, so it was my last week in primary. Sunday the normal pianist was not in attendance; instead, the woman who is normally the organist in sacrament meeting played for primary. She is an awesome pianist and we work together much better than I do with the regular pianist (I've never really figured out how to communicate effectively when I want songs to start, or sometimes even which songs I want to sing). Anyway, it was a wonderful day--probably the best I've had. I love going out on a high note, and I'm so grateful the Bishop left me in long enough to have this experience. The best part was that we sang "He Sent His Son" again--at the request of one of the kids, no less, and while the Bishop was in the room--and it was powerful. It may have been the best performance those kids gave and, if I were more of a crier, I probably would have been sobbing by the end of it. I wish now I had said something to that effect to the kids, but I will say it here and now--those kids are awesome, and they did an awesome job. I was so impressed!

The kicker, of course, is that the same week I was released, the primary presidency was released. I'm not sure how much of that was my doing. I wonder if they had to reorganize to find someone to put in my calling, though the woman who is replacing me didn't have another calling as far as I know. I wonder if my complaint is what led to the release of the presidency, though that seems incredibly self-centered as I write it. And then I wonder, if I'd just held on a few months longer, would I have grown into the calling? Would the president and pianist eventually accepted my slightly unconventional way of doing things? Or, would they have been released even without my complaint, leaving me in a position I love, working with people who potentially might have been more accepting?

Questions never to be answered. Eh, I'm happy.

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