I achieved a great victory yesterday: I got Mole Boy to speak! And he then even participated (sort of) in the choir activities instead of hiding in his corner. We were making tambourines by punching holes in the edges of small paper plates, then tying them together with pieces of pipe cleaners with little jingle bells threaded through them (this is very exciting when you're four). To start, we had the kids color their plates, and as the kids arrived, we handed them their plates and directed them over to the crayons. Mole Boy was just sitting there for a while, either not wanting to force his way through the mob of girls surrounding the crayons or using that as an excuse not to do anything. I asked him what his favorite colors were, and he actually spoke to tell me -- probably the first words he's spoken since he's been coming to choir. So I found those colors for him (aided by the mob of girls suddenly competing desperately to help me) and he then colored his tambourine and played it with the others when we were later using them. He still didn't sing, but he stayed with the group and did most of the stuff the other kids were doing.
The other teacher and I have worked out that she'll focus on leading the lessons and guiding the 80 percent of kids who participate easily and willingly, and I'll deal with the 20 percent who need extra help or encouragement. I also deal with leading the actual singing. It was interesting trying to teach a new song last night with one child in my lap and one sitting behind me, playing with my hair. I have longer hair than Barbie, so I make a great toy. I did double check my hair before going to adult choir practice because I had no idea what I'd look like after being styled by preschoolers fighting over who got to play with my hair next. I had to make the no-combing rule (I had it pulled back with combs, and they started trying to use those to comb it) because if you try to comb my hair, it just gets huge and tries to take over the world. A waist-length Afro is not a pretty sight.
It was a little terrifying to learn that I apparently get these kids at their best behavior. We only have choir once a week, so it's "special" enough that they don't get into a total comfort zone like they would at school. The mom of one of my kids sits behind me in choir, and at rehearsal she apologized for inflicting her child on me. He'd been absolutely awful all day, to the point that she felt like sticking him on the front porch with a "free to good home" sign, and she'd even wondered if she should bring him to choir at all, but she needed the break from him and then felt bad for using me for her break. I told her he's one of the good ones. He never gives me any trouble, and he's so sweet and kind to the other kids. When we still thought Mole Boy was just being afraid, this was the kid who went over to him and tried to coax him out of his corner by offering to be his friend. She gave me this look that said, "Are you sure we're talking about the same kid?"
Next week is the Halloween carnival, so I don't have to deal with choir. I'll still probably help with the carnival so I can see the kids in their costumes, but I won't be in charge. I'm guessing there will be a lot of princesses.
Speaking of choir stuff, for those in the north Texas area, my choir and people from some other choirs in the area, along with a brass ensemble, are presenting The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace on Sunday night at seven at the First United Methodist Church in Coppell. This is a really cool choral work that was originally commissioned by the Royal Armouries for the millennium and was dedicated to the victims of the tragedy in Kosovo. But then the recording was released on September 10, 2001, so it took on an additional meaning. The piece is based on a 15th century French song and contains many of the traditional mass elements, mixed in with bits of poetry by people like Kipling and Tennyson set to music. The music covers a lot of styles, including Renaissance motet and Gregorian chant. It's really fun to sing, even if the composer really likes the sopranos to stay above the staff. For a sample, here's a movement from the original recording, courtesy of the Tube of You (this is not my choir, but it gives a sense of the piece). And it's free! I tried on my black concert dress last night to make sure I could still zip it after losing some of the range of motion in my shoulder, and I'm good to go.