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Ruth Kuefler

Teaching isn't just teaching

April 17, 2009 at 10:39 PM

"Ruth, my husband has terminal cancer," she says as her eyes well up and her voice wavers.


"We just found out about it last week. The doctors tried surgery but it didn't help. We haven't told Madeleine yet, but we will soon, and I just wanted you to know, so you can be prepared. The doctors have given him about six months . . ."


Thud. The studio door shuts. I turn away, catching my breath. Not Jerry. How could this happen to good old Jerry? So kind-hearted, so generous, so joyful and joking. I can't imagine how Madeleine will take the news about her grandfather. What will happen to the weekly ritual of Jerry bringing her in for violin lessons, teasing her with that twinkle in his eye as she giggles and teases right back? How will her sensitive, loving heart take this news? What if she loses her best friend?


Thoughts flood my mind, tripping over themselves. Prayers, hopes, worries, questions, that lead to a new resolve. No matter what happens, I will be something stable for this girl: a shelter if she needs it, a friend who will listen, and a voice who will comfort. I can do no less. Oh Jerry. One of the kindest, most generous souls I've ever been blessed to know. I'm praying, but bracing myself at the same time.





A slender brunette with a soft voice and gentle motions peeks around the corner. "Come on in," I smile. "You must be Sjobor." She looks at the ground, answers my questions with just a few soft but polite words. Her motions are slow and careful as she unpacks her viola. She looks younger than her mid-teenage years. A small slip, an out of tune note, and her eyebrows and forehead immediately contract in concern. Sweet, sensitive, and so shy. I coax her out, slowly, gradually. No worries. I will never force you to learn something far beyond your level, something just for show or routine's sake. Don't be afraid. Let's explore. Let's solve problems together. Let's have fun. Who is there to fear? I see myself in you. I see a girl with so much potential. I see a girl who just needs to learn that it's okay to try new things. It's okay to go after your own idea. It's okay to feel uncomfortable in the pursuit of something new and exciting. It's okay to make mistakes.




Teaching isn't just teaching. 

From Samuel Thompson
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 9:29 AM

Ruth, this is beautiful, and so true - thank you for sharing.

Posted on April 18, 2009 at 11:34 AM

Ruth, you appear to be quite a sensitive individual...just what a teacher should be

From Chidozie Elvis Chidi-Ezeama
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 12:47 PM
Ruth, How I wish I had you as my teacher!
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 18, 2009 at 9:08 PM

These are not easy issues...  They are lucky to have a comprehensive teacher like you!

Good luck!


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 19, 2009 at 12:13 AM

I have always found that a big part of teaching is counseling.  That's one of the reasons I like teaching.  It gives me opportunities to help people.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 20, 2009 at 12:28 AM

Ruth - you clearly have a great future as a teacher.  Music playing is for most people an expression of their emotions and being sensitive to the emotions and issues they have is a key to good teaching, as you are finding out.  Keep up the good work.

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