Near the beginning of the semester, Rebecca Cooper, slim, blonde and beautiful, stood somewhat shamefacedly before her teacher’s desk after class, self-consciously twisting an elastic band in her hands.
“I’m not very good at English,” she said. “I thought you should know. I have a sort of mental block about it. I wish I didn’t, but it’s always been there. I don’t know why.”
On the eve of his first Parents’ Night, Dave Hartley looked up at her and smiled reassuringly. He had become used to all sorts of unexpected confessions from students during his brief tenure at this school for the arts, such a change from the public schools he had taught in for decades.
“It’s probably because I am a perfectionist,” she continued. “If something doesn’t come naturally to me, I get a complex about it, and then get very nervous, and then think I can’t do it.”
“Well, if you’re right about that, you show an extraordinary degree of self-knowledge, which is a rare commodity in itself, and an enormous asset in life. If you’re wrong about it, I can help to give you confidence in your innate ability.” Dave smiled again. “But thank you for letting me know. Let’s see how you make out with your first assignment, and then we’ll talk about it. I’d better get ready for Parents’ Night. Don’t miss your bus now.”
Rebecca nodded her thanks with a sad smile as she left, and Dave prepared to meet the parents. Perhaps, he reflected, she was alerting him to her fear of the possibility of some sort of confrontation with her own parents. There were, he knew from experience, some ‘helicopter parents’ whose misplaced concern for their offspring amounted to damaging interference, but so far he had not met any at this school. In fact, he was delighted with the place. The parents he had met were supportive and encouraging; the students almost without exception articulate, polite, motivated, and talented. It helped, of course, that each one of them had won admission to the school by way of a successful audition to study music, art, drama, dance, or literary arts. In short, they wanted to be there, despite having to take a regular complement of academic courses in addition to their specialization, which made for a crowded curriculum and a heavy workload. Rebecca was, he knew, an aspiring violinist, and her parents both came from musical families.