Last week, I went to a large psychiatric hospital, not far from where I live, to meet five autistic teenagers and their carers. I am to replace their music teacher while she goes on maternity leave. The teacher tells me not to expect too much. She has been working with them for months and there is only one girl who participates, and until very recently, the teacher felt that one of them did not accept her. The teacher says, “Do something that you enjoy doing, and they react to that.” We will teach some sessions together so that I can see what she does with them and try to give them a relatively painless transition period.
I am full of self doubt. Will they smell my fear?
I love to be on a stage. The rules are clear. I am doing something that I am good at. It is for a short intensive burst. I can be someone that I am not, another character. Extrovert, confident, clever, capable and in control. I am rewarded with applause…or not!
It is the same with teaching. The rules are clear. The student is there to learn music or English. Success or failure is easy to measure.
But this is different.
Will I be able to communicate with them?
Perhaps they won’t like me.
Perhaps my accent will be one obstacle too many.
I don’t think that success or failure will be measurable in the same way. It is not what they are able to achieve afterwards but more the relationship that I am able to build with them.
I think it likely that I will be learning more from them than they will be from me…
Will I become nice, at last?
5 days ago