In 4th grade, I had joined elementary school band. I was the cool kid on the block because I was able to go to others and say, “You see me? I have the brass thing that allows me to play the same stuff you hear on the radio.” It allowed me to be as loud and obnoxious as I possibly could be while also deceiving my teacher, saying that I was supporting the higher voices. I loved the trombone. It allowed me to blast a note loud enough for the entire band to turn around, wondering where the noise came from.
Eight years later, I gradually changed, slowly yielding into what others expected of me, less likely to blast any note. I found out there was a 4th grader named Jordan who needed help in playing the trombone. He wanted a tutor, so I offered myself to help him with his playing. When I saw him for the first time, I was excited to teach him, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." I tried to teach him all the techniques for playing a correct note: breathe from the chest and keep the lips tucked in. However, every time I told him, he kept forgetting the next time we went over it and I got frustrated.
It only got worse when his friend came in and they started messing around with each other, playing loud and obnoxious notes on the trombone. I became even more frustrated, upset that Jordan wasn’t learning what I wanted to teach him. I felt as if the only way that was correct was my way. I soon realized the bigger picture. He was only a 4th grader, simply trying to have fun. He was almost like my 4th grader self, so the last advice he would want to hear is to “stop fooling around.” I thought of trying to teach him the way I would’ve wanted to be taught. “Try playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as loud as you can,” I offered. And he went along, breathing from the chest and keeping the lips tucked in. It was then that I realized that my best teaching comes when I allow others to do what they find fun. Rather than just simply trying to mold him into what I want, I should just let him do what he wants to do. As I taught him, I couldn’t help but grin. He reminded me of myself when I was in band, a simple boy trying to have fun.
© Tai Nguyen
BIO: Tai Nguyen is constantly questioning everything around him, from Black
Mirror episodes to the moral weight of killing in GTAV. Tai will always look for a way to answer the unanswerable question, “Why?”