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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)

TITLE: Off Beat Teacher
By Ed VanDeMark
03/12/07


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Off Beat Teacher

“Mr. and Mrs. Williams Timmy refuses to pay attention in music class.”

Mom always the first to respond leaned forward. “I’m not sure I know what you mean by that Miss Kelly?”

“He simply won’t listen.”

“Is he disobedient?”

Taken back Miss Kelly responds. “No, not all he’s a delightful child.”

Dad looking puzzled intervened. “Then what’s the problem?”

Unfolding her hands Miss Kelly said. “I was teaching the beat in the music and he wasn’t getting it.”

Mom responded. “We aren’t a musical family.”

“You don’t understand it has nothing to do with being musical. When I played the recording and clapped my hands to the beat I noticed that he was constantly wrong. So I brought him up front for special attention.”

Some what alarmed Mom inquired. “What kind of special attention?”

“I played it again and had all the other children be quiet. I said listen closely, every time you hear the drum beat or the cymbals clap your hands. He still didn’t get it, so I told everybody to be real quiet so he could hear it.”

Mom leaned forward and asked. “Then what happened?”

“We kept trying all through the class and he still didn’t get it. He’s a bright child. If he’d tried he would have gotten it.”

Dad stood and said. “I think you embarrassed him.”

Resolutely Miss Kelly said. “Music is one of the most important things there is in life. Without it he may not excel in sports, and research shows that people that aren’t musical are unlikely to do well on academic tests. It’s the key to almost everything”

Sitting again Dad reflected. “He’s never brought home a grade less than “B” and he was the all star short stop in little league this past summer.”

“That’s just it Mr. Williams he’s bright and athletic that tells me he just isn’t paying attention.”

Intervening Mom said. “My father played semi-pro baseball and he always said music sounded like someone was beating on a tin roof with a stick.”

Flustered Miss Kelly said. “But folks the beat was as plain as the nose on your face. Nobody could possibly miss it if they were paying attention.”

Speaking softly Dad asked. “How are you at sports?”

Somewhat taken back Miss Kelly responded. “Not very good.”

Continuing Dad inquired. “Do you enjoy sports?”

“Not particularly. Why do you ask?”

“Why don’t you like sports?”

“Because I’m not good at them.”

Tenderly Dad persisted. “Did anyone ever tease you because you had trouble throwing baskets or catching a ball?”

“No, it’s just that I was always the last one chosen.”

In almost a whisper Mom said. “Miss Kelly I can see that you are a very caring and dedicated music teacher and that you want what’s best for our son. I want you to keep trying to help him hear the beat but please don’t single him out in front of his class. You know how it hurts to be singled out for the things that come hard for you.”

Reflectively Miss Kelly replied. “I never really thought of it that way.”

Gently Dad added. “I suspect you would enjoy sports if you hadn’t been embarrassed so many times. We know Timmy and we realize that he will probably never be a musician but we want him to enjoy music.”

In a supportative way Mom concluded. “And we want you to help him get there.”

Incidentally Miss Kelly is my Aunt Colleen. She married Uncle Jim four years after that parent conference. I’m proud of her. She sang the National Anthem at all my home football games. I’m in my sixties now and she’s still trying to get me to hear the beat. Every time I screw it up we laugh like a pair of old idiots.


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Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood03/15/07
I really enjoyed this story! Wonderful dialogue--it really brought all the characters to life! I could just hear the teacher's frustration and bafflement, and I could appreciate the wise parents who proved able to set her straight. Glad to know she "got" it in the end. Great message here about understanding kids!

There were a number of places in the dialogue that needed commas but didn't have them...also places with periods where commas should have been, especially after "said."

Great title--it sparked my curiosity, and I loved the clever wordplay on the meaning of "Off Beat"!

I also enjoyed the other surprise of her turning into the narrator's "Aunt Colleen"!
Julie Arduini03/16/07
I loved this. I had an experience similar when I worked (for a week) at a bank and the manager made fun of me in front of everyone for being slow. I discreetly had nearly the same conversation with her and it was a very touching experience. You put me right there, and the parents exuded grace. This was sweet, and I loved the end too!
Mo 03/16/07
Very nucely done & with a sweet ending.
Dolores Stohler03/17/07
Your story was good, teaching some excellent lessons we all need to learn. I like the way the teacher learned something as well. But I was distracted by your failure to include commas where they belong. The commas are important because they make for easier understanding of the sentences. Once the story is written, it helps to do a special check for punctuation and spelling errors.
cindy yarger03/17/07
I liked this and I'm glad that your aunt got it!
Jacquelyn Horne03/20/07
Good story. Very good pov here.
Sara Harricharan 03/21/07
Awww! What a great story. I liked how the parents stood up for Timmy and how they managed to bring Miss Kelly around to see a bit of life from a different POV. The ending was the best though. Great job! ^_^